Narcotic Fields are a group that make trip-hop with a touch of rock (or rock with a smattering of trip-hop, depending on what side of bed you got out of in the morning). I’ve always been slightly wary of labelling anything as trip-hop, not least because some of my favourite ‘trip-hop’ groups (Portishead and Massive Attack to name but two), vehemently reject the tag. However, I soundtracked much of my life with these originators of the ‘Bristol sound’ as well as other legendary groups like Sneaker Pimps, Morcheeba, Groove Armada, The Supreme Beings of Leisure and many, many more. So, when I noticed a ‘trip-hop’ group among the swathes and swathes of generic pop-rock in the Czech Republic, I was determined to find out more. I was more than impressed by what I discovered.
Initially founded by Tomáš Bayer and Tereza Kopecká in 2007, the group eventually grew to include six members and gigged extensively, including an appearance at Colours of Ostrava in 2008. After less than a year together, they entered and won a prestigious Czech music contest called the Boom Cup (which, I have to admit, I had never heard of, but will be watching carefully from now on!) before releasing their debut album ‘Erase’ in March 2009.
The Olomouc group combines hypnotic beats, eery atmospherics and somewhat ghostly female vocals with uplifting, guitar-heavy choruses, effortlessly gliding from moments of calm to bursts of pure energy. The album is well worth listening to in its entirety as each track brings something different. However, with a gun to my head (although that’s more to do with the mountain of washing up in the sink), here are the three that I like the most.
Never Let Me Down
You can see why this was the first single and it’s probably my favourite of the lot. Kicking off with a downtempo intro of melancholic vocals and minimal percussion, the track suddenly bursts into life with a powerful chorus and it never really gives you time to take a breather from that point on. Listen to it (loudly) and you’ll hear what I mean.
Colorize is all about interesting sounds and chilled-out drums (I’m obsessed with percussion, so humour me for pointing out the perfectly introduced shakers at 28 seconds…). The vocals are particularly beautiful in this track, perhaps because they are virtually naked at some points but still manage to sound powerful and urgent. The whispering in the background is positively Massive Attack and the subtle melody holds everything together. A stunning piece of music.
I love the way this builds. A gentle start, more delicate percussion leading into a succession of choruses and spacey interludes before culminating in a final chorus that combines power with a beautiful melody and yet another example of singer Tereza Kopecká’s amazing voice.
You can buy the album here. According to the band’s Last Fm page, they are working on new material at the moment, so I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears wide open for that. I’ve no idea when and where they’ll be performing live in the Czech Republic, so if anybody knows anything about that, get in touch! You can also find them on Bandzone and Myspace.