Words: Doug Wallen
Banner image: Adam Thomas

Cracked Actor frontman Sebastian Field foreshadows his first solo album with a piano-centred meditation on moving forward after love has ceased.

Even when striking out on his own, Sebastian Field can’t help but collaborate. The leader of Canberra art-pop ensemble Cracked Actor hangs his new solo single around the subdued piano work of Sydney composer Luke Sweeting. To be fair, Field initially wrote ‘Liberty Bell’ on guitar, but the song’s creative evolution took it somewhere else entirely.

Though named after a Bowie song, Cracked Actor have most often been compared to Radiohead, courting as they do warm shades of classical and ambient influence. And ‘Liberty Bell’ does indeed play like spiritual kin to something like Radiohead’s classic ‘Pyramid Song’, thanks to that sleepy piano and Field’s delicate, floaty falsetto. But it soon comes right into its own, adding gradual tiers of fluttering, overlapping melody while doubling and tripling the vocals. A pair of accompanying remixes further the song’s gentle growth, with Reuben Ingall turning it more concentrated and lyrically defined while Arrom besets it with even more crystalline flourishes and low-key wobbles.

‘Liberty Bell’ is the second single from Field’s upcoming solo debut, Picture Stone. The first was a similarly unmoored rendition of Bjork’s Homogenic ballad ‘Unravel’. Both tracks are as romantic as they are melancholy, and Field made a point of recording the album in a trio of locations around Canberra – The Fitter’s Workshop, Ainslie Primary School and Merloc Recordings – that would yield subtly distinct qualities to the finished product.

Field is launching ‘Liberty Bell’ this month and next with a four-stop East Coast tour (dates below), playing alongside fellow pop-minded experimentalists like Arrom, Happy Axe and Julia Johnson. While you wait for Picture Stone to arrive, dive at will into some of Cracked Actor’s recent work, such as 2015’s swirling Iconoclast and 2016’s appropriately pared-back Duo. For all their generous layers and effects, their songs never lose the tantalising softness of the human touch.

Thursday April 18 at Some Velvet Morning, Melbourne w/ Arrom
Saturday April 27 at Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney w/ Happy Axe and Julia Johnson
Sunday April 28 at Franks Wild Years, Thirroul w/ Happy Axe and Julia Johnson
Friday May 3 at Street Theatre, Canberra w/ Happy Axe