The seemingly sporadic existence of Crescent came to notice again in the 21st century with By the Roads and the Fields, the band's first effort in four years following Collected Songs and only the full group's second proper album as such. It's not a pace or a model to maintain anything more than a cult appreciation, perhaps, but there's a further intrigue to By the Roads and the Fields as well in that the group's sound has refocused in the interim. The overall feeling of shadowy restraint and moody compositions remain, but the feeling throughout is clearer, less swathed in feedback and echo and placing stronger emphasis on the percussion and audible and intelligible lyrics from Matt Jones than before. In a way it's a parallel to how the related group Movietone similarly went from overdrive to sparseness, with the hint of Crescent's earlier loud sound hovering in the background while never fully returning, while in turn the calmer songs such as "New Sun" now serve as the general role models. "Spring" begins with Jones demonstrating his new singing approach, softly and nervously sung perhaps but still clear. "New Leaves" almost builds to the fuzz-heavy blowout of earlier efforts, while the hints of dub that Jones has often employed come forward more fully on "Mimosa," even down to the use of a melodica. There are also touches such as the woozy woodwinds on "Fountains" and the use of chimes, bells, and tones to create the complex rhythm of "Mica." If there's an emblematic song on By the Roads and the Fields, it might be "Straight Line," with the sound of (apparently) vibes and occasional piano meshing with the gently loping rhythm while Jones repeats the chorus like a low-key mantra.
By the Roads and the Fields Review
by Ned Raggett