Sea from Shore (Thrill Jockey)

By School of Language

Considering the extremely recent—and most likely temporary—break-up of his band Field Music, English songwriter David Brewis had two main avenues to go down with his new project, School of Language. It would either be the stick-with-what-works approach, or the more daring but equally common completely-new-direction strategy.

With the opening tracks of Sea From Shore, it seems, at first, like Brewis has chosen the latter. Using a layered loop of randomly pronounced vowel sounds, "Rockist, Part 1" and "Rockist, Part 2" (as well as their album-closing counterparts) have all the marks of an experimental, half-serious side project. Brewis handles variations on a theme well, taking the same vocal loop through some clever transformations in rhythm and mood. Nonetheless, it comes as quite a relief when Sea From Shore slides into something much more akin to a Field Music album.

With help from a couple of members of the similarly minded Futureheads, Brewis manages to showcase his knack for unconventional catchiness again, combining slick, New Wave pop production with a prog-ish, off-beat rhythm section. It sounds like XTC jamming with Pinback, and it works, particularly on the energetic "Poor Boy" and "This Is No Fun."