Emerging from the Mexican border town of Tijuana, Mint Field are a duo of twenty-one year olds who bonded over their shared love of indie and shoegaze. Whilst this may sound surprising, Mexico’s cultural suffusion with all things guitar-led perhaps makes it inevitable that at least one group would take inspiration from US/UK trends of the ’80s and ’90s.
For Mint Field, though, it’s not just about the music – Amor (synths/drums) and Estrella (vocals/guitar) have admitted that “We knew we liked arts, we just never thought we’d become artists as musicians”. Following the release of debut EP, Primeras Salidas in 2015, Mint Field have toured the US and Mexico, playing Coachella, SXSW and support slots for established artists, including Suuns. It’s quite a step up from a pair who could barely play musical instruments when they met. But perhaps it’s that commitment to art that explains why – with debut album Pasar De Las Luces – the pair have crafted something exploratory, inventive, and epic.
Opener ‘El Parque Parecía No Tener Fin’ begins with white noise, before Estrella introduces the song with robot speech, leading into a bass-led, post-punk structure, with delicately-picked guitars. It’s a cinematic trick that appears on several songs across the album – the duo unafraid to let each song build gently, adding layers to their creation, before letting it fall away again.
‘Ciudad Satélite’ repeats the style, with Estrella’s crooning vocals swooping over a post-rock guitar style similar to Mogwai or God Speed You! Black Emperor. It returns again on ‘Viceversa’ – with a sunnier, slower take and Estrella’s voice light as a feather -, on ‘Nostalgia’ with its swooping crashing symbols and threaded guitars and, finally, on the spacey, explosive and yet empty contrast of ‘Boötes Void’; the cinematic style drawing the album together in the manner of a soundtrack to an unmade film.
Other parts of the album look to differing rock styles: lead single ‘Ojos En El Carro’ is a Warpaint-esque ballad that explodes into life with a hurricane of distortion in its final third. ‘Temporada De Jacarandas’ pulls back, initially, into something more synth-driven and introspective, that turns dark at its close. ‘Cambios Del Pasar’ follows in the footsteps of Yo La Tengo!, with the repetitive gloom-psych of The Black Angels hanging over it.
‘Quiero Otoño De Nuevo’ is similarly relentless, but draws more from the non-stop Krautrock of Neu!, whilst ‘Club De Chicas’ is as poppy as the album gets – a My Bloody Valentine shoegaze throwdown, perfect for staring at the floor.
‘Para Gali’ is a surprisingly cheery number, while closer ‘Párpados Morados’ finishes the album with a mournful farewell. But it’s tenth track ‘Nada Es Estático y Evoluciona’ around which the album hangs. An epic, built just out of guitar, drums and vocals, its opening verses gently carry the listener, before a key-turn takes everything swirling down and out, as its guitar riffs grow heavier and more ominous.
Recorded in Detroit with producer Christopher Koltay, Estrella and Amor say of the album: “We had a much clearer idea of what we wanted and we had the tools to make it.” With this stunning fusion of light and shade, emotion and distance, Mint Field have harnessed their ideas and tools to produce the freshest, most emphatic debut of this, or many years.
Pasar De Las Luces, the debut album from Mint Field, is out 23rd February via Innovative Leisure Records.
Photo Credit: María Fernanda Molins