words by trevor elkin
The term ‘eclectic’ borders on being cliché when it comes to describing musical influences and it’s telling when artists use that word when they actually mean ‘not decided yet’. Electronic duo Broads however embody real eclecticism in both their name and music, and ‘Field Theory’ is the album that confidently crystallises around its solid sense of identity.
From Norwich, Broads are of course wholly associated with the wide open skies and sparkling waterways of the same name. It’s said you can see over 100 miles across its flatlands, that is when not obscured by grey, low-hanging sea mist, the hypnotic murmurations of starlings, or dense flocks of wading birds scouring the marshland. ‘Field Theory’ maps out its own points of reference, integrated into a single entity that at once feels diverse and united.
The range of styles and the seamless transition between them is evident from the first few songs. Opener ‘Toze’ stirs like an awakening machine, the brief boot-up sequence of an ancient robotic giant buried and forgotten. This is followed by the gorgeous, pulsing synth of ‘Climbs’; recalling the collaboration between Alison Goldfrapp and Orbital, it is one of the few vocal tracks on the album, featuring the mesmeric incantations of Milly Hirst. ‘Habitats’ provides a change of pace and introduces us to a different Broads, one that is at home on guitar and bass, with a gentle vignette to the days of Factory records.
‘Lund’, ‘Tiamat’ and ‘The Lecht’ are a trilogy of cinematic, ambient songs textures that infuse strings, piano, field recordings and clashing guitar drones to heighten and douse tensions. Should Boards of Canada and Mogwai ever work on a film score, it might culminate in something like ‘The Lecht’. ‘Romero’, inspired by the filmmaker’s passing, uses chilling piano to punctuate nocturnal eeriness, surrounded by howling winds (or are they animals). Pouring yet more vibrant colour into ‘Field Theory’, the duo experiments briefly with shoegaze on ‘Mixed Ability Sequencing’, a fleeting dream sequence of unfathomable proportions that trails off into the murky intro for ‘The Lecht’.
As Broads, musicians James Ferguson and Mark Jennings have found both a unifying principle and a palette that enables them to reconfigure and reimagine genre-based composition without getting lost in the complexity of it all. The beauty of listening to ‘Field Theory’ is you can explore and enjoy the detail of all its many sides, but then you get to close your eyes, hearing and feeling it once again, fascinated at how its differences work together so enduringly.
‘Field Theory’ is released on 16th February