Iowa-based duo Field Division have had the sort of career trajectory that would have sunk many lesser bands. What eventually became their debut album should have realistically been out a couple of years ago, but Evelyn Taylor and Nicholas Frampton chose to get it done the way they wanted, rather than just get it done. Working with what they call ‘the wrong people’ in the early stages of the record’s gestation resulted in dampened spirits and lightened wallets – and that wasn’t the end of it. On top of this, the duo had to deal with increasing turbulence in their personal lives, but by then a renewed sense of energy was coursing through them, and all of this background activity was rendered insignificant.
‘Dark Matter Dreams’ is the full-length follow-up to 2014’s ‘Reverie State’ EP, and due to the fact that four years have passed since their last recorded output, the weight of expectation rests upon Field Division’s shoulders. It has quite a lot of work to do to compensate for its drawn-out gestation period; but that wait seems to have pushed them onward to greater efforts, as this is a much fuller-sounding record than previous work, and was brought to life by several extra pairs of hands, as they expanded to a six-piece in the studio, roping in members of Midlake and Green Hour Residency as their backing band.
The resulting eleven-track collection expertly balances moments of light and shade, yet even in the more sombre moments there is an easy-going vibe, with shimmering production and feather-light dream-pop and shoegaze elements combining to create a blissful mood across many of the album's eleven tracks, with lead-in singles 'River in Reverse' and 'Farthest Moon' serving as high-tempo examples of the pair's sunnier side.
In contrast, there's a notably melancholic tone present on the likes of ‘Lately’, ‘Lay Cursed’ and the brief title track that will appeal to listeners in search of something slightly more subdued, while the instrumental ‘Siddartha’ acts as a bridge between the five tracks either side of it, a lush two minutes that offers a cleansing of the palate before normal service resumes with ‘Stay’. Here is an album that makes the most of the tension between its two prevailing moods, creating a wide-ranging spectrum of emotions that exist between the two extremes of carefree joy and introspective brooding.
Taken as a whole, there’s a sense of optimism shot through even its darkest moments: album highlight 'Innisfree (Let’s Be the Peace Now)’ – a spiritual sequel to their EP’s closing track ‘To Innisfree Land’ – and 'It's Gonna Be Alright', are songs that express the sort of resilience and steely determination required to go through the sort of stuff Field Division have and come out the other side smiling. While we may never know what the original album was meant to be, the finished product is a brave leap forward from a band who seem to have their best years in front of them, ready to make their mark with a summery album that's still worth treasuring in darker times. Keep ‘Dark Matter Dreams’ on hand for the autumn months, if you haven’t worn it out by then.
Words: Gareth O’Malley
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