This seventh album from Field Music will be released ten days into the new twenties, which may have been a strategic move. They might, in ten years’ time, be able to claim it was the best concept record about war released that decade, which they wouldn’t have been able to say if it had arrived in 2019 because PJ Harvey put Let England Shake out in 2011. Making a New World emerged from a commission from the Imperial War Museum, and has blossomed into an album that the Brewis brothers themselves would be at pains to point out is not about war but rather the mundanity of its consequences.
Where Harvey’s masterpiece so intangibly evoked the quiet horror of the intrinsic link between battle and the British identity, Field Music zero-in on hyper-specifics, meaning we get tracks like ‘Money Is a Memory’, which conjures the administrative side of the fulfilment, in 2010 (!), of Germany’s final World War I reparation payment, or ‘A Change of Heir’, which reflects on show the brutality of combat effectively necessitated the invention of skin grafts. It’s a beguiling listen in that regard, and there’s a minimalism to the palette that they’re painting with that almost suggests they’re happy for the ideas to do the talking; quiet ambience defines the instrumentals of ‘A Common Language’, whilst even the barbed likes of ‘Beyond That of Courtesy’ are subtle in their spikiness. It takes a band well-versed in nuance to pull off a project of this sophistication – which is probably why the museum approached Field Music in the first place.