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Paul Smith & Peter Brewis: Frozen By Sight

North East’s finest combine to redraw maps.

While Peter Brewis has prog previous as one half of Sunderland’s sibling structure-stretchers Field Music, Paul Smith is best known for leaping around articulating his insightful lyrics over the post-punk of Maximo Park.

The pair’s collaboration on a chamber-pop travelogue-cum-concept-album is a madcap idea that succeeds brilliantly. Languidly paced but exquisitely arranged, it revels in its evocative atmosphere. If that atmosphere isn’t always obviously fitting for the locations described, it’s all the more interesting. This collection was first performed live in early 2013 at The Sage in Gateshead. Retiring to Field Music’s studio to record (David Brewis co-produces), they’ve constructed a song suite with unorthodox instrumentation. Smith’s snapshots and recollections of Barcelona, Mount Wellington, Budapest and St. Peter’s (to name but four) take the slightly askew view of an auteur film director, while Brewis scores them with strange rhythms and seemingly infinite detail. Ranging from sparse and sorrowful to deceptively potent, these northern stars have honed a lilting and literate labour of love. It’s a brave and baroque piece of work.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.