British post-punk five piece Squid is a band that has made an enemy out of predictability. A survey of their current discography finds varying styles and approaches in high measure, vacillating between pounding, repetitive krautrock inspired pieces such as ‘Houseplants’, danceable, upbeat tracks such as ‘Match Bet’, and even longer form ambient work, such as ‘Savage’.
A remarkable amount of dynamism is shown in their varied discography, yet amidst such deftness, Squid have seemed unable to escape comparisons to other Brixton The Windmill alumni, such as the revered Black Midi and Black Country, New Road, who released their debut only a few months back. Similarities can indeed be found – usage of repetition, unique vocal styling and even the influence of producer Dan Carey have tied Squid to their associates, begging the question: what is Squid’s sound? Is it a patchwork of prior material, an adherence to one form, or something entirely separate?
Squid’s debut record Bright Green Field answers this question plainly, seemingly taking every piece of their work thus far and perfectly distilling their wide range of influences to create a supremely engaging, exciting, and at times, incredibly atmospheric record. It will please existing fans and entice new listeners with its fusion of frenetic energy and dense soundscapes. What Squid have created amounts to nothing less than a simultaneous continuation and progression of their sound.
Squid have certainly leaned into the atmospheric in this record, more so than any of their previous work. The album opener ‘Resolution Square’ is nothing more than an atmospheric tone setter, a dense network of alien sounding synth and fragmented vocal recordings. Passages like this are spread across the record. The initially upbeat ‘Boy Racers’ abandons the repetitive Squid style of the singles ‘Narrator’ and ‘Paddling’, dissolving into a sea of ambience and throbbing bass. The ending section of the borderline apocalyptic ‘Global Groove’ accentuates this with a prolonged morose outro accompanied by more fragmented vocal recordings. Comparisons can be drawn to the post-rock work of Mogwai and Godspeed! You Black Emperor, who also often incorporate spoken word samples to create a dense and dark atmosphere.
Bright Green Field is a guided tour through a dystopian world, a soundtrack to a film that will not and cannot exist; expressing moments of darkness and joy in equal measure in a way only Squid seem capable of doing
This atmospheric approach hardly juxtaposes with as much as it accommodates the highly groovy and danceable nature of Squid’s work. The second track, ‘G.S.K’, is as groove led and direct as ever. A repetitive, catchy rhythm gives way to lead vocalist Ollie Judge’s barking vocals, a fine interplay between Byrne of Talking Heads and Smith of the Fall, that dances between spoken word and outright shouting. The lyricism on Bright Green Field is catchy and idiosyncratic in equal measure – the single ‘Paddling’ demonstrates this style. As Judge sings “dig holes like a mole,” it is hard to not be amused, even more so by new track ‘Documentary Film Maker’, when Ollie proclaims “the eggs are always cheaper the day after Easter.” This willingness to be unconventional is part of what makes Squid’s style charming and interesting: for every comedic lyric there is a balancing dulcet moment, where the pace drops, and the vocals become darker and more sinister.
Droning passages of brass greatly add to the atmospheric aspects of the record, exploited by ‘Global Groove’ and ‘G.S.K’ to huge effect. The former uses brass to add a crushing and sinister dystopian edge to the track, very much in the post-rock tradition. ‘G.S.K’ does the same to a lesser extent, acting more as a tone setter for the journey Bright Green Field takes you on.
The album standout is ‘2010’, a Radiohead-esque track with a lopsided rhythm that descends into momentary insanity at the midsection, with crushing guitars kicking in to create a surprisingly moshable piece that shows the sheer variety Squid offers. Such moments of misdirection are what makes Bright Green Field such a deeply impressive record, one that commands attention at almost all times.
Bright Green Field is a perfect demonstration of what makes Squid a standout from their peers and the greater post-punk world in general. No other band would have been able to craft such a masterful soundscape, replete with influence and style, accommodating each aspect of what people found excellent before. Bright Green Field is a guided tour through a dystopian world, and a soundtrack to a film that will not and cannot exist, expressing moments of darkness and joy in equal measure in a way only Squid seem capable of doing. Squid truly have made an enemy out of predictability, and I am left even more excited to see what further experiments ensue.
We recommend: ‘2010’