Patrick Grant’s widely acclaimed album from 2000, Fields Amaze and Other Strange Music, has been remastered and rereleased, and it remains an avant-garde triumph with a bountiful creative spirit, especially as it relates to all things timing and rhythm.
From the beginning, it’s a haphazard, manic descent into an abstract netherworld of mechanical percussion and tense melodies with obscure approaches to harmonisation. The listener is far away from the home comforts of verses and choruses; instead, each piece is an aural journey with only vague relation to thematic crossover. Many tracks have a driven, rigid edge to them and stick to pentatonic melodies over jagged intersections of competing rhythmic instruments.
‘A Visible Track of Turbulence’ is an unnervingly evocative piece with anxious, semi-dissonant counter-play between the woodwind and piano lines. Grant’s ability to subtly weave in and out of dissonance is what makes this track so alluring. Across 16th note counter melodies, dissonance may only emerge interspersedly, leaving no pattern for the ear to catch onto and thereby never ceasing in its eerie but attractive behaviour.
‘Everything Distinct: Everything the Same’ contrasts howling, thumping shrieks of chords against dancing melodies which feature substantial interval leaps. The tempo sludges to a halt and reignites in a well-rehearsed flurry time and time again, leaving uncertainty at every turn. Clocking in at 11 minutes, this track is as emotionally wearing as it is intellectually demanding, rarely revealing a thematic face for long.
‘A Visible Track of Turbulence II’ is Zappa-esque in its quest for manic energy and uncompromising harmonic complexity. The performance of the two-voiced middle section solo is a feat in itself, let alone the compositional chops required to write it. Grant doesn’t repeat a single phrase as the two charge in unison for a solid minute and a half before atmospheric woodwind and chordal piano jerks softly lay the listener down.
The Zappa vibes continue in ‘Imaginary Horror Film Part I’ – similar to the moustachioed one’s psycho circus aesthetic in the mid to late 80s. Grant is no less dramatic and epic on this one. Rock guitars, harpsichords, strings, and synthesisers ceremoniously voice themselves during 8 minutes of dissonant bliss.
After the Everest of mind-bending oddities that precede it, Grant seems to half-ironically throw in a comparatively orthodox track in ‘If One Should Happen to Fall’. There are distinct sections this time around; vocals, dirgy 80s synths, and rock drumming, but his compositional tendencies won’t allow anything explicitly traditional to take over. The conclusion, both of this track and the album, is a series of chromatic vocal climb downs which roll into atmospheric ringing and sci-fi textures as it fades out.
Grant seems insistent on rendering the listener full of confusion and questions, not quite sure what to make of the experience. Yet there is no messing around in overly-intellectual, self-indulgent musical wanderings here; the album is remarkably original and full of personality, embodying feelings rarely acknowledged in the mainstream spectrum of music. Avant-garde splits audiences down the middle – either it resonates deeply with an individual, or it’s as obnoxious and pointless as a sizeable chunk of Yoko Ono’s solo material. If you’re in any way inclined towards dense, challenging, and starkly original art, Fields Amaze and Other Strange Music is something of a modern classic and well worth your time.