Fields – 7 From the Village EP

As an alternative to the regular flowery machinations that bleed from the pens of eager, trigger-happy publicists who are more than content to name-check every pertinent and impertinent musical touchstone they can wrap their minds around, the kids in Warwickshire, England-based Fields decided to take things one step further and put their money where their mouth is.

(With all due respect to Jet … or more reasonably, the person who coined the phrase that has been uttered at the juncture of countless regrettable decisions in the history of man.)

The group made a compilation disc available at their shows that placed their own songs among those from their influences and peers, highlighted by the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, and Pentangle, the seminal British folk-rock group of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Pentangle’s bassist, Danny Thompson, played on both of Nick Drake’s full-group records, Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter, providing one logical connection; Stevens is a plausible choice when you take Fields’ eclectic and often reckless amalgamation of styles into consideration, and Moore’s influence becomes apparent when one notices the group’s employment of bracing guitar squalls.

At the same time, with such disparate touchstones, Fields retains a modern accessibility on 7 From The Village that sinks in between the cracks of the freewheeling din. Rather than just throwing names at the wall to see what sticks, it’s easy to see where the present connects to the past, and pick up the wisps of Brian Eno, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Nick Drake lurking about. The melodies are strong and the hooks resonate, swelling to an anthemic zenith on the buzzing opener “Song for the Fields,” which draws the listener in with its anodyne acoustic intro and Nick Peill’s high, warbling tenor, before breaking loose at the two-minute mark and crashing across the finish line.

“Isabel” is a sweetly percolating mid-tempo stroll, set behind a drum machine that shifts seamlessly into live percussion, and a three-guitar show akin to early Radiohead records. 7 From The Village‘s vibe vacillates between a centered, soothing mellifluousness and a slightly brooding, asymmetrical sense of uncertainty that underscores nervy, jittery jaunts like “Heretic.” The parallels are drawn quickly, and they are drawn well. Fields’ earthy, rural sound seems to be predicated in major part on their ability to shift dynamics rapidly to create a natural tension and build within their songs, and they pull these tight shifts off with relative ease.

7 From The Village shows off the skills of a band with an unmistakable youthful exuberance, but the wariness and chops to keep the proceedings under control while not strangling the zeal of their music. It’s a curious, sometimes hypnotic, mostly compelling electro-folk equation that is full of life, and full of plenty of moments that will have you reaching for the repeat button. It’s rare to see a case where the vision and purpose of a young group is so sharp and well defined; they sound like wizened old veterans. It’s music appropriate to soundtrack the fragile dichotomy of life, life that might have you crushed at one moment and elated at the next. Or both at once.

(Black Lab / Atlantic Records)