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The best kept secret in music


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* Song For The Fields Single (2006), Black Lab Records
* 8 From The Village EP (2006), Warner Music
* 4 From The Village EP (2006), Black Lab Records
* 7 From The Village EP (2006), Atlantic Records
* Heretic Single (2006), Black Lab Records
* If You Fail We All Fail Single (20/11/2006), Atlantic Records
* Feathers EP (2007), Atlantic Records
* Charming The Flames Single (26/03/2007), Atlantic Records


* Everything Last Winter (02/04/2007), Atlantic Records, Black Lab Records



In what just might be 2007's most captivating debut album, London-based five piece Fields perform some very heady musical concocting. Everything Last Winter, itself a beautifully evocative title suggestive of things lost and gone and spent, is a hypnotic brew of psychedelically tinged guitars with little-girl-lost vocals and occasional bursts of glorious white noise. For the sake of reference, let's say it brings to mind My Bloody Valentine at their creative peak and the more pastoral elements of early 1970s folk. It is black and white and full of colour at once, and it is quite a trip.

"Ever since we started," says singer Nick Peill, "we've been drawn to dark, almost pagan qualities, to baroque, medieval melodies, and a general air of melancholy. I think it's fair to say that our songs are not necessarily sunny creations..."

"But that's definitely a good thing," adds guitarist Jamie Puttnam, sitting beside him. "We do deal in darker subjects, and I think bittersweet emotion is often so much more affecting than anything else, don't you?"

The pair of them nod their heads in mutual agreement, their fraternal bonhomie juxtaposed with a brooding gravitas that clearly informs so much of who they are. It suits them rather nicely, for this is a band that is unusually captivating. The more you play their debut album, the more irresistible it becomes.

Fields have history. A quintet comprising Nick on vocals and Jamie on guitars, alongside Matty Derham on bass, Henry Spenner on drums and Icelandic-born Thorunn Antonia on vocals and keyboards, they came together in the autumn of 2005 from very disparate corners of their respective - well, fields. Nick had been in various bands over the previous decade, but more recently had trained as a primary school teacher.

"It was a vocation, I suppose," he agrees, "and one that would have provided career stability. But then music, my other prevailing vocation, was reignited when Jamie and I began seriously considering collaborating together." He smiles. "So I ditched the kids, and started writing songs again."

Jamie had also served time in various groups throughout the 1990s.

When they first came together 18 months ago, they had only a vague idea what Fields would go on to sound like, and that's because the band was to be a true democracy, all ideas taken on board.

"Between us, we like everything from minimal electronic ambience to folk acts like Pentangle," says Nick.

"...And Elliott Smith, The Cure," adds Jamie. "We wanted to become an unconscious melting pot of all kinds of styles."

Which, duly, they did, forming their increasingly impressive sound throughout a 2006 spent on the live circuit, not just here in the UK, but also America and Japan, where they began to rely increasingly on the visual element of the band.

"We'd fill the stage with plastic crows and foam deer," Nick says, "to add more dimensions. We have plans now to develop our lighting further, and maybe project films while we play."

Deeply unsettling, horror-based films, presumably?

"Possibly," he smiles. "Yes."

If atmosphere and mood is everything for Fields, then the chosen location for the recording of Everything Last Winter couldn't have worked out better, adding a depth to the album no one could quite have expected. It also saddled then with something of a curse, but we'll come to that later.

"We recorded it in Dublin, in a studio underneath Temple Bar," Jamie says. "It was in this ancient cellar that was once used by [former Irish revolutionary] Michael Collins, with tunnels connecting it to his castle. The whole place was steeped with history, but it was very dark, very atmospheric and oppressive. Oh, and always damp."

The lack of natural lights may well have prompted cabin fever among the members, but this just made them play with even more intensity. It's a fully three-dimensional thing, Everything Last Winter, its songs both subtle and sparse and full of sonic crescendo. The opening Song For The Fields begins with a whisper, a gentle folk rhythm that rises exponentially in volume until, two minutes in, it gets thrown into a spin cycle of guitar aggression and conflicting boy/girl vocals, and ending after six minutes in an exhausted, magnificent heap. Feathers is also the perfect coalition of gentle folk and indie malevolence, Thorunn's voice a thing of gentle timidity that gets caught up in a nightmare of noise. They do this kind of thing very well, only to then confound expectations with the closing Parasite, a song far prettier in tone than its title suggests, but with a lyric about the slow death of a relationship that pulls no punches, and is all the more startling for it.

And what of the curse that befell the band during its creation? It appears that they came across a discarded copy of the American trash rag National Inquirer on the floor of the studio one night, and were taken by an article about the purported powers of the cut-out-an