Old Fears, the second album Field Music’s David Brewis has recorded as School of Language, opens with polarity. “I spent a long time writing postcards in cafes,” he begins over the tense, nervous pulse of “A Smile Cracks,” before adding, “I spent a good while on diagrams, notation…” Precision and poetry are of equal important to Brewis, a man who understands that a good mystery needs to be tethered by a rock-solid plot and that romantic daydreams should be corseted by steely structures.
It’s the neatness and strength of the scaffolding that allows these songs to soar: The slow, meticulous groove of “So Much Time” and the terse, demanding rhythms of “Between the Suburbs” underpin subtle twists and curlicues, eerie treated vocals and twitchy guitar flourishes. There’s submerged funk — “Dress Up” is Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” buried deep in its subconscious; “Small Words” dredges up a waterlogged beat that recalls both Tortoise and Kate Bush. Old Fears constructs its own world, a series of closely-controlled meditations on love, fear and time. It’s the sound of a plan gloriously coming together.