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School of Language

Somewhere between Elf Power or Sparklehorse and the jukebox in the Mos Eisley Cantina (Star Wars: Episode IV) is an adequate reference point for Field Music's David Brewis' solo project, School of Language. If, in the production studio of your mind, you could strip away the tasteful baroque of loops and effects, you could understand these songs as of a piece with the genesis of indie pop songcraft since Teenage Fan Club.

But that doesn't seem to be the point. Brewis submerges the songs, and his glimmering tenor-to-falsetto vocals, into a mix of almost futuristic instrumentation, agglomerating artful noises into a rich tapestry of patterned lyricism. Sea From Shore's opening track, "Rockist Part 1," is one of two pairs that bookend the collection with an excursion through the range of Brewis' techniques, and across a spectrum of emotional resonance. Parts 2 and 4 are hooked to a mesmerizing chant of vowel sounds, articulated vocally, urgently in the former, and processed to a mechanical undercurrent in the latter.

Between the "Rockist" segments are the deconstructed pop of "Poor Boy" with its soaring, choir-like accents; "Keep Your Water," with echoes of pop-soul; and "Disappointment '99," in which the drums are the central focus, ranging from parade-band pounding to calliope melodicism. "This Is No Fun" features keyboard trills like a cockeyed kazoo; it's fun, but it's clearly broken.

The highlight, though, is "Ships," with its deep scoops of bass, central drum tattoo and sunny highlights effectively evoking the sound and feel of the sea.

More by Linda Ray

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