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Posted on December 2nd, 2014 (11:00 am) by Casey Bauer

If you’ve recently developed itchy feet, but don’t have the money to throw towards a spontaneous trip around the world, Peter Brewis and Paul Smith's collaborative album is the next best thing. Arranged from the fingertips of Brewis and lyrically inspired by the travel journal of Smith, Frozen By Sight was made for the ears of every adventurer with an unrelenting wanderlust tugging at their core.

Smith and Brewis both took steps away from their usual musical projects (Maximo Park and Field Music, respectively) to pursue something a tad more experimental and nostalgic. With the help of a string quartet and a bass player, the group avoids “traditional pop structures,” instead allowing “the words to guide where the music [goes].” The result is a patient, wandering, and restorative sound that can easily accompany your morning coffee, a rainy afternoon, or the end of a long day.

Every track on the album is an intimate vignette of a specific location, ranging from “Trevone” and “Budapest,” to more charmingly specific places, such as “A Town Called Letter,” and “Barcelona (At Eye Level).” It’s little flourishes like these that makes each song warm and personable. We're won over simply by reading the track listing.

A further look (or listen) shows us that the album has even more to offer. In “Santa Monica,” shakers, toms, and bells segue into a throbbing stand-up bass and a sparse piano, creating a backdrop for a visual of an elderly couple scribbling in the sand together. The image is so simple, yet painted vibrantly by the rise and fall of strings, and the soothing vocals of Smith.

“Trevone” climaxes into “a corridor opens up, side step and the whole world appears,” a moment that suggests an elevated view in the UK that is further indescribable. A playful piano, bells, and upbeat percussion accompany the lyrics that Smith sings over and over, each time with more joy, truly making it a highlight of the album.

“Perth to Branbury” is a more bizarre and experimental track, with a repetitive drum beat, but still littered with clever lyrics. Dramatizing the unforgiving tundra of Australia, Smith sings, “the tree trunks share properties with the earth they sprout from,” and “upright fossils with fertile peaks, they appear brittle in the relentless sun.” Each verse is met with the flutter of a string, or the whistle of a flute somewhere in the background, with vocals that are expressive as ever.

Most other tracks have a jazzy feel to them. Some have call-and-response segments between all the various instruments (listen closely and you can hear the gorgeous resonance of a kalimba), while others have straying vocals that hover in fermatas, bringing all the music to a gradual stop before picking back up again.

There are times when the listener craves something a little more, and the lyrics can also come across a bit awkward. They sometimes wander in topic, as if Smith is literally reading notes straight from his travel journal. However, the images he paints and the music they’re set to are so adequately paired that these flaws are easy to forgive. The lyrics serve as a humble reminder of the small moments we embrace the most when we travel, and we, as listeners, are grateful. With the pluck of every string and the stroke of every key, Frozen By Sight instills wistfulness and yearning for places we may or may not have ever visited.

Track Listing:

  1. Old Odeon
  2. Santa Monica
  3. Exiting Hyde Park Towers
  4. Barcelona (At Eye Level)
  5. L.A. Street Cleaner
  6. A Town Called Letter
  7. Mountain Wellington Rises
  8. Budapest
  9. Perth to Bunbury
  10. Philly
  11. Trevone
  12. St Peter’s
Paul Smith and Peter Brewis - Frozen By Sight Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

76 / 100
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