Published Jun 30, 2017Fieldhead is the minimalist electronic project of composer Paul Elam, and his new album, We've All Been Swimming, seems to open up his usually "detached" approach for others to find themselves in.
One recurring technique of Elam's involves synth lines (likely programmed) that arpeggiate in odd rhythmic patterns (five notes here, three notes there), over a steady four-on-the-floor bass drum pulse. This happens in "Meet Me Somewhere Central" and the title track, "We've All Been Swimming," and with a more muted, background synth sound in "Slowly Singing Your Name." This technique creates a feeling of being lost in a crowded place — there are a lot of notes moving quickly, and they're difficult to grab a hold of.
With little development in these loop-based (or loop-like) compositions, they seem to skew a little closer to ambient music, in terms of allowing your focus to waver. A notable exception is "Accents," which builds a hemiola rhythm into a calm, open breakdown in its last half, during which a few violin notes from Elaine Reynolds add a lot of feeling.
Across this record, Elam favours relatively mellow melodies, nothing too dissonant and no key changes, though sometimes his beats will edge into more tense territory. The juxtaposition of relatively friendly elements with slightly chaotic touches might be an effort to console without being boring, but it's still a little too relaxed to leave much of an impact. If you're open to it, this music might move you, but it just might not stick with you very long. (Home Assembly)