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Field Works – Stations Review

Recordings of deep seismic activity and the human voice collide.

What does Field Works sound like?

The sound of the deep underground mixed with the airy nature of the human voice.

The review of Field Works – Stations

“Stations” is the 10th album from the Field Works project and it’s one of the most ambitious and curious ones yet. The album asks a simple question. What does planet Earth sound like? Over the course of 20 tracks split into originals and remixes, we get to experience the sound of mother nature and the planet in unusually personal and abstract detail. It is an ethereal, technological and aural experience that delights the senses.

photo of Field Works

Field Works joined up with EarthScope, a project that between 2003 and 2018 deployed thousands of seismic instruments across North America to study the structure and evolution of the earth. Recording the noises and weirdness that the instruments captured, Field Works then paired up all the seismic noise with synths, percussion and most importantly, the human voice. What follows is a collection of sounds captured from ten different stations, each one forming a song. Then joining forces with Stuart Hyatt, Hanna Benn, Janie Cowan, Masayoshi Fujita, Qasim Naqvi and Pick a Piper, a symphony of aural and seismic sound was created.

Each song in “Stations” is fundamentally melodic, but like Bjork’s Vespertine, it has lots of musical cues pointing towards something larger than its life. Beats mumble and churn, often quietly but like a stomach growl from beneath the crust. Light guitar, tuned percussion and warped seismic growls are shaped into synths that warble and funnel around your ears. Chords and mini motifs unfurl in your ears with a sense of foreboding and beauty in equal measure. Field Works manages to create a mystique to every sound and note that keeps every track hooked into the listener.

Key to all of this is the use of the human voice. Every track of the original ten stations are scored with voice. In some like “Station 3”, the hushed oohs and hums are cosy, like nature is waking up from slumber. Elsewhere, “Station 4”, “Station 7” and “Station 8” have a more chaotic wonder to them that feel on the verge of an explosive spiral. Then there are tracks like “Station 1” and “Station 5” that are like a sonic morning dawn. Everything is tranquil, rhythmic, serene and full of beauty. There are moments that genuinely feel like an ode to the planet and respect is given throughout. Over repeated listens, you’ll start catching motifs and moments of emotional or seismic change and you connect to the album deeper. It is an odd feeling to describe but the album just hits the right spot.

Two albums for the price of one

Even better – “Stations” is two albums in one. Every track has a “review” version itself. This sees ten other artists take on a track each and remix them whilst keeping the exact same aural seismic vibe. Largely, the vocals are dialled back in favour for pillowy synths and a more aggressive beat, but you’d hardly be on the dancefloor. Instead, we veer into dreamy electronica, tingly vibraphone relaxation, abstract beats and charged noise-in-the-signal chain synths. Some do pop out immediately such as Nathan Fake’s Remix of Station 5 and Amulets synth dream remix of Station 8, but each remix is a wonderful take. Some are less beaty and more meditative such as Alva Noto’s version of Station 10 and Green-House’s remix of Station 2. They too both stand out as stonking remodels. I’m not usually one to dig deep into remixes but this album nails having viable alternatives to stunning originals.

“Stations” is a stunning album from concept to completion. I strongly recommend having a look around the Earthscope archive too. It is a fantastic project, I even discovered my BirthQuake! Field Works have caused a seismic musical quake in 2022 with one of the most unassuming but devastatingly beautiful albums I’ve come across in years. Everything feels perfectly placed to make the listener think or feel something and you get a remix album for double rewards. What’s not to love? Check this beauty out.

Recommended track: Station 5

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Field Works - Stations

10

10.0/10

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