Two eyes on the cover of Mint Field‘s debut album, Pasar de Las Luces, are telling — and not because they belong to the Tijuana duo. It’s because in this instrumental soundscape, where mostly sparse and indiscernible vocals are intrinsically textural, perception is everything. In Estrella Sánchez and Amor Amezcua’s plaited shoegaze experimentations, listening is effortlessly visual, and what your mind’s eye sees, of course, is inherently subjective.
Opening track “El Parque Parecía No Tener Fin” sets the tone for aural-visual twinning — by the name alone, imagining an endless park, sunlit and lush with greenery, is a natural reaction. But it could be frightening, too: Is there a way out of this metaphorical place? Without limits, that serene setting can become an indefinite maze, a disorienting experience where feeling lost is permanent. Moments of quiet calm aren’t soothing, but instead eerie, and when minimalist but bright guitar tones roll in, they ring like a low din of desolation. But maybe you’re still basking in the tranquility of the peaceful version of this park.
Mint Field has been laboring toward this pointed sound since Primeras Salidas, the duo’s inaugural 2015 EP, which, as of today, is no longer available to stream. The years in between spent shaping and structuring a sonic mission through daily jam sessions may have permanently stretched the distance between then and now; Sánchez and Amezcua seem to want listeners to know this Mint Field, and only this Mint Field. The past “shoegaze you’ve already heard, but a more pleasant version” was pretty snug in the genre; what they’ve achieved here isn’t so easily categorizable, and they’ve got a right to leave former incarnations behind. They’re in full control of how the project is presented — but in songs with multiple twists and intentional dualities, they encourage agency in the listener’s interpretation.
Discerning haunting sounds from delicately ethereal ones on “Ojos en el Carro” isn’t clear-cut, but personal. The vocals are otherworldly tactile, like a fog to you’re compelled to open with your own hands — but crushing, rugged guitar cuts through first. The haze is still there, but dispersed; what lies behind it?
Everything is slow motion in Pasar de Las Luces. Life nearly stops in listening. Reflecting is an automatic reaction if you’re truly hearing, genuinely absorbing. Where does your mind go? “Temporada de Jacarandas,” with its simple drum machine beat, leaves so much space for thinking, but directs you into anxiety with the airy repetition of “no sé, no sé, no sé.” Pondering turns hauntingly dismal when you realize the benign, elementary response can also mirror hopelessness and futility.
A pick-me-up is offered in “Quiero Otoño de Nuevo,” the single unveiled a month ahead of the album release. But even here, where the pace is brisk and the mood peppy, proceed with caution: They explained that the song is “about the horizon, shadows, and how infinite they are.” There’s at least two sides here — is that endlessness beautiful and inspiring, or does it make you feel small? In choosing, you get insight into your own mood, or possibly your greater worldview.
“Viceversa,” at times, feels like it emphasizes the former. Its rushing crescendo feels momentous, like seeing a promising future through a wide scope, where no fine details of inevitable mishaps, hurdles, and heartbreaks are visible; there’s nothing to interrupt that heartening potential for greatness. “Nostalgia” is inarguably grim, then shifts to subtle sweetness, with waves of cymbals gently cresting. The static on exit, however, doesn’t bode well for the retention of the reminiscing it triggers. It feels like mental storage cached.
Mint Field may very well know that Pasar de las Luces is tinder for the darkest depths of the imagination, for hearing visually in a way that isn’t wildly colorful and can be unsettling, but is nevertheless persistent. That it’ll scoop out memories from the locked-up nooks of our brains and slop them down on a plate without utensils, much less a pacifying garnish, may be a burden — or a blessing.
Be prepared before you listen — you could unpack it all, dissecting emotions and recollections and all the baggage track by track. That process could be a cleansing you need. But if you’re not ready for it, you may never escape that endless, limitless park — and it’s not the sunny one.