15 May 2021 (released)
15 May 2021
The much-awaited debut from British indie art-rock band Squid, Bright Green Field, is out on Warp Records. From the group that’s spent the last year and a half teasing listeners and critics alike with head-scratchingly brilliant singles like “Houseplants” and “The Cleaner,” Bright Green Field predictably follows its predecessors’ esoterically-minded path. But, in this instance, the group’s approach to songwriting is so impressively unique and so uniquely free of any formal compositional restraints that the result is an album that readily immerses the listener in an experience that’s as challenging and demanding as it is dynamic.
Clocking in close to the hour-mark, Bright Green Field deftly maximizes every inch of space in each of its songs by continuously expanding, then fracturing each number into an atomized version of itself former self. This Matryoshkan approach lends the work an elastic and inflationary quality, making the album feel organic and vivid. Guided by the studio acumen of notorious producer Dan Carey, whose recent work on similarly heady and abstruse projects with London bands Goat Girl and Black Midi is quite noticeable, Squid dive headfirst into an intimate exploration of the limits and meaning of musical and physical space.
This task is accomplished through rapid and often unpredictable changes in a song’s time signature or by cramming several key changes into long and complex instrumental interludes that marvelously widen each number’s emotional bandwidth. In turn, this adds to the constantly spinning vortex of psychological tension that guides each song and informs the underlying sense of foreboding and claustrophobia that makes this such an easily relatable and timely album. Through a syncopated flurry of brass instruments that scatter glimmers of light across an otherwise rhythmic void and the harrowing atavist screams of drummer and lead vocalist Ollie Judge, the group achieves a state of catharsis and spiritual homeostasis that’s more than appealing at a time of seeming chaos and personal disconnect.
Still, despite all of its artistic merits and cultural relevance, this isn’t an album meant for the casual listener. Its almost obsessive penchant for the shadowy and the arcane bring it, even during its most accessible moments closer to the deep-track homilies of alternative-rock congregants like Cake, Beck, or Thurston Moore than to the formulaically angsty sermons of contemporary indie rock. And its wanton and post-punk-forward appetite for the freshly raw recalls such masters of the recondite as Robert Fripp and Neu, or newer and equally daring groups like The Horrors, Black Midi, and Dry Cleaning. In the end, Bright Green Field is both an act of solidarity and a token of appreciation for the modern listener. A peculiarly elaborate tip-of-the-hat to listeners and critics alike who still hold out hope in rock music’s ability to create lasting and life-affirming cultural totems.