Charlottefield were a band that distinguished itself from the post-rock/post-hardcore/math-rock pack of the early 2000s by having an arresting lyrical sensibility and a phenomenal drummer. The band’s Brighton based personnel included Chris Butler till 2003 and James Dennet from 2003 on bass, Adam Hansford on guitar, Thomas House on guitar and vocals and Ashley Marlowe on drums.
In their debut album “How Long Are You Staying” (2005), SVT-coloured bass lines control the music’s core like a holding midfielder, as the guitars bounce off each other and sparkle left and right, and the drummer does the fancy, impressionistic stuff all over the place to incredibly compelling effect. He plays drums with the effortless musical flair of a Johnny Marr or a John Squire, driving the songs onwards and painting the soundscape with an inexhaustible yet never superfluous arsenal of percussive stains, salvos and spills.
The songs are architectural and compact, embracing jagged repetition and tinging their mathematical precision with heartbroken and desperately explosive melodicism. The sound is light on effect pedals, the instruments are strictly defined and separated in the mix, yet the overall feel is rich and immersive.
Considering the dominance of the drumming in Charlottefield’s sound, it’s well worth listening to their four track demos from 2005, which were made with a retro sounding drum machine. Their dark atmosphere reveals a surprising echo of 1980s radicalism (like Billy Bragg or early Paul Weller fronting a combination of The Birthday Party and Coil) that seems to inform the songs in their creative infancy.
Charlottefield’s last studio album, 2008’s “What Are Friends For”, has a slightly more balanced and tighter mix. The song writing reaches farther and deeper, the sound is even more minimalist in its discordant complexity. It’s as if they have adopted the scarce and arid sound of Shellac but removed all the clenched-fistedness and one-dimensionality. The whole thing is so warm you can almost see the liquid lights of a big old mixing console flickering in a dark wooden studio with a 2-inch tape. And then all of a sudden, halfway through a song, the band almost unnoticeably kick in and go up a gear, weaving an even more intricate and powerful web of sound around their reluctant heart.