Formed in 2020, mere weeks before the beginning of the global pandemic, the UK-based trio, NEON FIELDS, resonates with a highly captivating and emotionally charged aura, especially for a band that has largely forged its eponymous debut in isolation. To be released independently on August 12th, 2022, the selection of thirteen new songs weave totally relatable and familiar narratives of human nature, emotions of helplessness, discontent, and desperation – all of which have been trending maybe a bit too prominently in the world of late. What makes their debut offering even more thrilling is the way this trio are simultaneously reminiscent of the haunting electronica of artists such as BURIAL, SOHN, and IAMX as well as the alternative rock of bands such as A PERFECT CIRCLE, UNION OF KNIVES, and ASHES DIVIDE. The debut of NEON FIELDS is pure hauntology with a distinct alt.rock edge.
The album kicks off with a cinematic, instrumental, and synth-driven intro, “Paths,” conveying a feeling of being on “a pilgrimage to the neon fields,” as the band members themselves put it. The soundscapes of the introduction might make you expect something like TRENTEMÖLLER or SOHN to come – that is, something exclusively electronic and highly emotive. While the first actual track, “Rituals,” is predominantly an electronic burst of emotion, the band has something much more up its sleeves. The vocal melodies traverse somewhat similar terrain to, say, the Aussie progsters, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT and the songcraft, in general, has a subtle tint of post-prog about it. So, I would guess that the music of NEON FIELDS should go down rather nicely with prog-oriented listeners despite the fact that these rockers, strictly speaking, cannot be filed under prog. The explanation for the band’s name is hinted at in the lyrics and the band themselves claim that the whole story of the album hinders on this track. So, pay close attention to what they are singing.
The next track, “Bleak,” is about this present, weird era where our lives almost seem frozen in time, with only a faint light at the end of the tunnel. The lyrical theme is delivered with a haunting onslaught of darkly shaded indie rock that is layered thick with electronica. The synth textures resonate rather poignantly with the somewhat spooky air of soundtracks from, say, Silent Hill and Stranger Things. Judging by the way the song evolves rather dynamically towards its highly evocative finale, I guess these guys must be old dogs at this craft. Throughout the album, the song arrangements are dynamic and pristine.
The tale of unrequited love and obsession entitled “Meant To Be” gears up on the synth-driven rock aesthetic, simultaneously resonating with the air of the modern, synthesized R&B sound of, say, WEEKND and the atmospheric, synth-driven rock of artists such as IAMX and M83. The clever use of synth arpeggiator triggers also an instant flashback of SOHN‘s haunting ”Lessons” from 2013. There’s a distinct, dreamy quality to the song despite the way its emotional momentum grows rather poignantly towards the end. The song is dark, cinematic, and electronic with a subtle, proggy twist. What is there not to like?
I’m not entirely sure what the trip-hop legends, MASSIVE ATTACK, have been up to lately, but I reckon that if it’s anything like NEON FIELD‘s haunting track, “Cage Of Lions”– which pays subtle homage to the golden era of that lovely Bristol sound – everything should be in order in the land of smoky beats, slight tremors of spliff-induced paranoia, and half-whispered vocals. Yes, this track is basically trip-hop with rock-band instruments. Thus, it is only befitting that the following track, “Light Them Up,” further pronounces the mid-1990s vibes, what with the song’s main synth motif galloping forward with thick oriental vibes upon a mellow techno beat; this is exactly the vibe that one might have encountered in the chill-out lounges at some of those underground warehouse parties of the era.
The oriental vibes intensify in “Burial.” First, it is the vocal melody that makes good use of oriental modes against the atmospheric synth textures and tribal drumming. Then, the guitar harmonies revisit the oriental motif and the song dynamics gear up a notch, creating a nice, cinematic feel.
Halfway through the album, the band’s modus operandi becomes quite clear; the rest of the songs more or less follow the same template of accentuating the dark, atmospheric synth textures with highly evocative rock punches, throwing in a bit of trip-hop, post-prog, and dubby techno to spice things up. By and large, I cannot avoid thinking that this might very well be what it would sound like if TRENTEMÖLLER and THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT had a love child, or if the British prog-metal juggernaut, TESSERACT, all of a sudden decided to ditch the prog altogether and plunge headlong into mainstream rock with a hint of electronica. That is to say the debut outing by NEON FIELDS is one brilliant entrée onto the stage of electronica-infested indie rock. I can only hope that these sonic wizards become big enough to tour this neck of the woods too, one day.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Meant To Be
- Cage of Lions
- Light Them Up
- Time To Leave
- Last Light
Ed Barrett – vocals
Luke Russe – drums
Piers Ward – keyboards, guitars