Pia Fraus: Field Ceremony (Seksound/Shelflife Records, 2017)
If you have been keeping up with Somewherecold as of late, you will know that I’ve been writing up all the full-lengths from Pia Fraus as retrospectives of their storied catalog. All of this was in anticipation of the first full-length release by the band in almost a decade. This new album is entitled Field Ceremony and, while the wait was long, it most certainly was worth it. The line-up, after all these years, consists of Eve Komp (vocals), Margus Voolpriit (drums), Rein Fuks (guitar, vocals, percussion), Reijo Tagapere (bass), Kärt Ojavee (synth, organ), and the band’s original lead singer, Kristel Eplik, makes a guest appearance on backing vocals. The dreampop wonders that Pia Fraus produce are ever present here, with dreamy new hits. From the addictive and powerful “Never Again Land” to the sultry innocence of “Don’t Tell Me Now”, Pia Fraus prove once again why they are one of the premiere dreampop masters.
Field Ceremony begins with “It’s Over Now” which begins with that signature slightly drunk guitar tone, dipping and swirling, alongside high-toned synths and careful percussion. Komp and Fuks’ sing together on this track, bringing me chills as I listen to them return on this fabulous first piece of music on their newest offering. The vocals are subtle and hypnotic, inviting the listener into the world of Field Ceremony. “Never Again Land” is a mid-tempo affair with a more aggressive feel. Again, the listener is treated to the duo of Komp and Fuks spinning their mesmerizing vocals. All I keep thinking is, I am so glad they are all back. The drum and bass work are also nuanced and Voolpriit and Tagapere at the top of their games. The combination of electric and acoustic guitar here is very subtle along with sci-fi spacey synths that add these wonderful textures to the mix.
“Autumn Winds” was a single that was released back in 2016. This is another head bobber, with aggressive rhythm section and floating synths. This track was a stellar return for the band and its place on the album is indeed warranted. Guitars play with a “wah” type sound alongside warbling synths giving the track a wonderfully whimsical feel. “Mountain Trip Guide” slows the pace down, pushing the vocals up front over softer, understated instrumentation. Dreamy, subtle, and just sonically pensive, “Mountain Trip Guide” is, in its fragility, a masterpiece of dreampop brilliance. “No Filters Needed” is a synth laden affair with stripped down drums. The synth choices here are lovely, singing out and leading the listener into the vocals and washed out guitars which create a slightly fuzzy and dense backdrop. The band’s experimentation returns here and the outcome is just glorious.
“Endless Clouds” has soaring synths and this wonderful piano melody that plays as a foil to them. This short piano melody really shines on this track, giving a distinctive depth to the piece. “Endless Clouds” sits as a perfectly placed centerpiece to the album. “Sugar High of the Year” almost rocks out. It’s more aggressive, with quickly strummed acoustic guitar, siren like synths, and fast-moving percussion. The title of the track really says it all. It’s like a frantic child all hopped on sugar, at least for the typical Pia Fraus style track. Of course, when the vocals come in, things peal back a bit and let them shine with a delightful pop melody. “Don’t Tell Me Now” slows down the tempo once again with an almost folksy melody drenched all in the garb of dreamy pop synths and delicate, shimmering drums. The first word that comes to my mind when I describe this track is “precious.” It’s simple yet deep and hits the emotions in all the right ways.
“Brutal Truth of the World” is the penultimate track and has that dipping, drunken guitar tone but slowed down and stretched out. There is a languish here that is evident in the title. Even the vocals are stretched out, with the cadence slowed down and syllables expressed more slowly. The drum and bass plod, giving the entire piece a somber feel throughout. Guitars erupt and roar here and there as they rise into the speakers. It’s as if the track literally weeps. It’s stunning. “That’s Not All” brings Field Ceremony to a close and it is a classic Pia Fraus song. Swirling guitars over fervent drums and bass give this an incredible finale to this album. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this band, they have no bad songs which means they don’t have to bury lesser track at the back end of an album. “That’s Not All” is single worthy indeed.
Field Ceremony is a triumphant return for this highly influential dreampop band. Moving from head-bobbing addictive pop to reflective, deeply emotive moments, Field Ceremony proves once again that Pia Fraus ought to be considered by all to be one of the giants in the genre. Field Ceremony is a journey into Pia Fraus’ frantic and sometimes edgy experimentation with moments of mature, blissed out dreampop. It is a must own album and ought to be in the top album lists of the year for many!
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