To say that Squid transcend genres would be a major understatement. The five piece, consisting of Ollie Judge, Louis Borlase, Arthur Leadbetter, Laurie Nankivell and Anton Pearson, met in Brighton in 2015 whilst at University, connecting over a love of ambient and jazz, with some members also having been involved playing in a funk and soul outfit. Their new album, 'Bright Green Field', draws not only on this wealth of sonic influences – from feverish post-punk to cosmic-jazz – but also interweaves a library’s worth of literary influences.
Opening track 'Resolution Square' – whilst only 40 seconds long – perfectly captures the group’s boundless creativity, featuring field recordings of ringing church bells, tooting bees and the results of a microphone swinging from the ceiling orbiting a room of guitar amps.
From then on in it moves on to the infectious skip of 'G.S.K.' – as heavy on immersive texture as it is on light touch brass work – ultimately reaching the enveloping atmospheres and post-rock soundscapes of 'Global Groove' and 'Pamphlets'.
For an album that's greater than the sum of its parts, it somehow feels wrong to pick out highlights. Nonetheless, 'Narrator' is an undeniable standout, and not only for its eight-and-a-half minute running time. Ricocheting from funk strut to screeching chaos, the track showcases Ollie Judge's captivating David Byrne-esque vocals, together with an added melodic touch from guest vocalist Martha Skye Murphy.
Despite their background as multi-instrumentalists, the band brought in additional contributors for some of the tracks, adding further to the extraordinary breath of talent on display. “We contacted some orchestral and jazz musicians to play arrangements,” says Leadbetter. “That was two amazing days spent recording strings and horns.” Guests included Black Country, New Road’s Lewis Evans on saxophone and multi-instrumentalist Emma-Jean Thackray.
In the hands of a lesser band, it would be easy for such a diverse combination of contributors, influences and instrumentals to descend into chaos and cacophony. However it's evident that Squid remain in tight control of proceedings throughout the album, with every element executed with exquisite precision.
Squid’s music – be it agitated and discordant or groove-locked and flowing – has often reflected the tumultuous world we live in. “This album has created an imaginary cityscape,” says Judge, who writes the majority of the lyrics. “The tracks illustrate the places, events and architecture that exist within it. Previous projects were playful and concerned with characters, whereas this project is darker and more concerned with place – the emotional depth of the music has deepened. Although this city is not a real place and exists in the imaginary and cyber spheres, it borrows clear characteristics from the real world we live in. A kind of dystopian British cityscape.”
However, for all the innovative recording techniques, evolutionary leaps, lyrical themes, ideas and narratives that underpin the album, it’s also a joyous and emphatic record. One, that marries the uncertainties of the world with a curious sense of exploration, as it endlessly twists and turns down unpredictable avenues. 'Bright Green Field' is an album of towering scope and ambition, it is deeply considered, paced and intricately constructed, and is unquestionably Squid's best work yet.