Squid: Bright Green Field (Warp) – Review
Light green field
May 5, 2021
Issue 68 – Japanese Breakfast and HAIM (The Protest Issue)
During the second half of the 2010s, Britain gained its place as a hotbed of edgy post-punk theaters. 2021 has been no exception so far, with new records from Goat Girl, Shame and other Black Country newcomers, New Road. Finally, Brighton’s Squid released their long awaited debut album. But even putting the band in that scene locks them in a bit. The origins of Squid are in fact in jazz; the improvisational spirit of jazz and the free song structures are the biggest animus behind the band’s full debut, Light green field.
So far, the history of the group has been one of constant progression and experimentalism. While listeners may point to genre signifiers such as angular post-punk guitars, jazzy sax lines, hypnotic Krautrock beats, or textured post-rock soundscapes, none understand the ambitions behind. Light green field. Songs twist and twist into unfamiliar forms, sometimes in barely controlled frenzy, sometimes descending into minimal ambient passages or spoken word interludes.
Still, the band does a remarkable job of maintaining a cohesive sound and ensemble of aesthetics across the album, even as it takes paths hitherto unexplored. A multiphase centerpiece like “Narrator” or “Pamphlets” could easily end up in monotonous repetition or aimless chaos. Yet Squid moves forward with a unique focus and intensity. When “Narrator” oscillates between a strutting groove and mazes of screaming instruments, the elements blend beautifully over its eight minutes, the product of carefully thought-out writing behind the freewheeling instrumental approach.
Not all songs work in this sprawling mode, but those that take more strict approaches are no less anarchic or exploratory. The band does not remain limited to standard post-punk instrumentation or genre forms. “Global Groove” deploys a post-rock atmosphere on jazzy sax lines straight out of film noir. Meanwhile, the tight grooves of “Documentary Filmmaker” become blurry, desynchronizing until the track transforms into an amorphous ambient section, ending on a synth drone and a melody of twinkling keys. While these songs tend towards more concise statements, the band’s influences are no less eclectic or experimental than on a multi-stage epic such as “Boy Racers”.
Like the music, the group’s lyrical visions are often dense, abstract and impressionistic. “GSK” revel in the contradictions between natural and urban imagery, with illuminated neon bikes side by side with mosquito nets on the hillside on a concrete island. Meanwhile, the manic tension of “Paddling” is paired with equally insane imagery. Drummer / singer Oliver Judge seems wired and anxious as he shouts, “There are people inside / They are changing shape and size / Where are you going?” / You don’t want to go / You comb your hair and tighten your muscles. “
The group delves deep into hard concrete dystopias, finding dark and surreal corners in mundane life. The characters within their oppressive cityscape often seem on the verge of being overwhelmed by everyday horrors. The jazzy brass vents of “Global Groove” most directly address the present dystopian as they invite the listener to go numb to get through the day – “Watch your favorite war on TV / Just before you go to bed. / And then your favorite sitcom / Watch the tears roll down your cheeks / Global Groove / Global Groove / I’m so sick of dancing / I’m so sick of dancing. Yet this numbness can become a strange comfort. On “Pamphlets”, the island world finds itself on the safest path – “Pale teeth and white smiles / They don’t care and I don’t care / Pale bricks and big smiles / That’s why I don’t go out . ” Squid’s concrete visions are depressingly faithful to reality, adding a dark element of commentary to the group’s neurotic instrumentals.
Squid achieves an impressive feat of ambition with Light green field, pushing the boundaries of the genre to create something unique, thoughtful and captivating. While the commitment to reinvention results in an album less instantly accessible than the band’s first singles, the record remains surprisingly cohesive as the band dives deep into their decaying cityscapes and experimenting with their more eccentric urges. Squid’s relentless pushing to the limits brings a sense of exploration and collaboration, a wild joy as if the group are mad scientists bringing a bizarre new creation to life. And this is only the beginnings of the group. In a field crowded with contemporaries, Light green field puts Squid among the best. (www.squidband.uk)
Author’s Note: 9/ten
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Average reader rating: 9/ten