Estonia's Pia Fraus have been one of shoegaze's best-kept secrets since they made their debut in 2001 with the elegant full-length Wonder What It's Like. Their music has always been catchy, melodic, and chiming, and they've always hit the sweet spot between melancholy and upbeat. In addition to having a deliciously fuzzy guitar sound, they've always been keen with electronic elements, and have frequently been remixed by Ulrich Schnauss, Galaktlan, and other producers in the indie electronic realm. Field Ceremony is the group's fifth proper album, following 2008's After Summer by nearly a decade, with the retrospective Silmi Island and a few singles arriving in between. Right off the bat, the group hits a familiar stride with the cruising midtempo opener, "It's Over Now," which drowns gloomy yet content vocals in a wash of synths and corroded guitars. Even though most of the group's members are credited with playing synthesizers or electronics of some sort, they enhance the guitars rather than overpower them, and the album ends up sounding a little less electronic overall than some of the band's past releases (particularly the ones that contain remixes). The group's music feels so autumnal that it almost seems necessary to be wearing a nice comfy jacket and walking among the fallen leaves while listening. In addition to sad new wave numbers like "Autumn Winds" and the splendid "Endless Clouds," Pia Fraus indulge in their sticky-sweet side with the noise-pop bubblegum of "Sugar High of the Year." Following this song, though, things quickly grow cold and somber, particularly with the bitter breakup lament "Brutal Truth of the World" (which nevertheless manages to find room for some handclaps). Field Ceremony isn't a grand departure from what Pia Fraus have been doing all along, but there isn't really any reason for them to do anything different -- they've already proven themselves to be masters at updating the classic shoegaze sound without sounding trendy. At this point, they're just waiting for the rest of the shoegaze world to discover them.
Field Ceremony Review
by Paul Simpson