In what is sure to be marked as one of the most significant releases of 2014, we have the unlikely pairing of 2 blokes from 2 great bands. Paul Smith from Maximo Park and Peter Brewis from Field Music have teamed up to produce the singularly beautiful Frozen by Sight, out early next week via Memphis Industries.
The 2 musicians convened to set Paul's travel writings to music. The result is something unlike most of the records you've heard in 2014. It's an odd mix of classical figures and rock sensibilities. Aiming high without being pretentious about it, these two musicians have crafted something at once delicate and beautiful as well as bold and direct.
The arrangements favor strings and heavy bass which suits these cuts. Opener "Old Odeon" has chords that recall the best stuff from Field Music but a track like "Exiting Hyde Park Towers", for example, echoes Van Dyke Parks and even The Blue Nile.
"Barcelona (At Eye Level)" made me think of Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones in those moments when they sacrificed their jazz tendencies for their more lyrical ones, while "Perty to Bunbury" brought to mind a hint of the more experimental moments of The Associates even if these guys are using strings to get the music across and not synthesizers.
Brewis and Smith have made something magical here. It's not entirely an easy listen but nor is it an abrasive one. The closest cousin I could find to this record would be 1990's Songs for Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale. But while those VU guys made something punchy out of chamber music elements, Brewis and Smith are using the same implements of chamber pop to push the boundaries of indie rock. Frozen by Sight is at once aiming for something higher but it's also, thanks to the lyrics based on Smith's own writing, presenting something entirely personal.
Peter Brewis and Paul Smith have accomplished the unlikeliest of successes here. I will confess that I never imagined that the guy behind something as raucous and wonderful as "Going Missing" could be part of something so sublime and affecting.
I urge you to get Frozen by Sight when it's released next week.