Blood Orange & Third Coast Percussion – ‘Fields’ review: luxurious ambient sounds

Alt-pop polymath Dev Hynes has teamed up with Third Coast Percussion to create a beguiling record. This is classical music by way of midi beats

Be it under the name Lightspeed Champion, Blood Orange, or through his work with Solange Knowles, FKA Twigs, Mariah Carey and others – not to mention his wildly inventive original band Test Icicles – Dev Hynes has proved himself to be one of the most multi-faceted and multi-talented recording artists in the world today.

No genre has proven too obscure for the Ilford-born musician, and if his name is found in an album’s liner notes, there’s sure to be music of category-defying quality inside. Which makes this new release from the Grammy Award-winning, Chicago-based percussion quartet group Third Coast Percussion – for which Dev Hynes composed all the music – so intriguing.

Third Coast Percussion

“We’ve always felt that the future of classical music depends on deepening the collaborative process and removing the strict barriers between composers and performers,” Third Coast Percussion have written in the liner notes to the album, and while Hynes’ influences can be felt on ‘Fields’, this is an album best listened to on its own merits

Comprised of 13 compositions, the first 11 of which form a suite called ‘For All Its Fury’, ‘Fields’ is similar to Third Coast Percussion’s 2017 project ‘Steve Reich’, boasting angular synthesiser sounds and strong mallet percussion (the quartet are known for using very particular types of instruments when making music) to create lush soundscapes. The liner notes to ‘Fields’ also mention Dev Hynes’ love of French composer Debussy; we sense a strong enjoyment of French electronic musician and composer Jean-Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygène’ series, too.

There’s an element of tidal fury to ‘Fields’: for every high -energy moment, there is soon a lower energy pause for the listener to ruminate on things and prepare for more.  As the four-minute ‘Coil’ gives way to the 90-second piece titled ‘Wane’, the goal of ‘Fields’ becomes clear. For every action there is a necessary reaction to the album. This is classical music by way of midi beats.

The album’s final two pieces, the 11-minute ‘Perfectly Voiceless’ and the 13-minute ‘There Was Nothing’ pick up the pace as the album concludes; two percussion-less efforts combine to make a cascading march to nowhere. ‘Field’s in just a few words? Non-essential, luxury ambient sounds.