Brothers David and Peter Brewis who comprise the band built the 19 tracks around the social and cultural ramifications of World War I. The album is not an overt political statement but an ode to progress with pop synths and rock rhythms.
Telling the stories in chronological order, the album begins with when the last shots were fired and covers gender reassignment surgery, the Dada movement and war reparations.
The project got its origins as a piece for the Imperial War Museum based on a sound ranging image entitled “The End Of The War” capturing the moment World War I ended at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918 – now referred to as Armistice Day. The band then performed the album as an audio-visual experience for the IWM in January 2019 in Salford and London, England.
The sound ranging technique could be a blog or podcast by itself, but it was a program utilized by the United States War Department that implemented microphones on the battlefield to capture the vibration of artillery fire that was then used to target enemy forces.
“We imagined the lines from that image continuing across the next hundred years,” said David Brewis in a release. “And we looked for stories which tied back to specific events from the war or the immediate aftermath.”
Opening with an eerie, ambient instrumental track “Sound Ranging,” which almost mimics the sound of artillery fire, the album slowly emerges with “Silence” another instrumental track. Taken as a couplet, the two tracks represent “The End Of The War” and mark that as a starting point for the aftermath of World War I.
The album picks up the tempo the first proper song, “Coffee or Wine,” which tells puts the narrators in the boots of a returning soldier pondering the events of the treaty that was signed, bringing him home.
“Making A New World” uses lush instrumental production as a sonic bed to encapsulate these lesser-known tales that Field Music uncovers across 42 minutes.
In “Best Kept Garden,” the narrator describes the utopian garden he will maintain his newly created housing development built after the war to help soldiers find homes. Complete with indoor plumbing, the veteran is dreaming of moving from his hometown into this new city full of opportunity, even if every home is uniform.
The album is full of delicious theatrical notes. “Between Nations” is one of those songs that epically twists and turns, taking deliberate time to lay out the music that supports the short lyrics.
Of course, The Brewis brothers seized the opportunity to use the repercussions of the war to explore worldly cultural effects. On “A Change of Heir,” the song tells the story of Dr. Harold Gillies, who pioneered a skin grafting technique used for soldiers injured during World War I. This research and development led to Gillies performing the first gender reassignment surgery in the 1940s.
On “Only in a Man’s World,” the band strikes out at advertising for mensuration products, which were created is a feminist outcry against the taxation of sanitary pads, which was developed by Kimberly-Clark from wound-dressing materials.
The fun and poppy “Money Is A Memory,” nails the concept of this album. It’s turned the ending of the war, which marked by the recording of the gunfire ending, into a procedural process.
The song is told from the perspective of a government employee in the German treasury department who is making the final payment, 91 years after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
“A defining, blood-spattered element of 20th century history becomes a humdrum administrative task in a 21st century bureaucracy” the band notes in its release about the song.
With “Making A New World,” Field Music brings colorful context to oft-overlooked impacts of The Great War without boring its student-listeners. While the subject matter is firmly based in history, repeat listening only makes this album more enjoyable.