Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Album review: The Field, "Yesterday and Today"

With the release of his 2006 single “Over the Ice,” Kompakt recording artist Axel Willner (AKA the Field) galvanized the global techno community. Combining minimal aesthetics with a crafty sample of Kate Bush song “Under the Ice”) into a lush, hypnotic groove, the song signaled a genuine and inspired new voice in electronic music, landing on many influential year-end ‘best of’ lists.

Willmer expounded on his trance-inducing template with the 2007 full-length “From Here We Go Sublime,” crafting dreamy, propulsive instrumentals out of even more unassuming sample sources, rendering the likes of Lionel Richie, Coldplay and Fleetwood Mac into his tactile, emotionally-charged tracks.

For his second LP outing, Willmer continues to mine unlikely sources to create mesmerizing tracks while expanding his palate to include live instrumentation. In this case, it’s the ten-minute-plus title track, a sprawling collaboration with Battles drummer John Stanier, whose muscular trap work ignites the last half of the song. For first single “The More That I Do,” Willner chops up obscure Cocteau Twins tune “Lorelei” into a thick, almost cacophonous cluster of percussive bliss.

Like an electronic Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, Axel Willner’s music as the Field uses rhythm, repetition and unexpected melodies to make a captivating sound that can be too much for some listeners. But to fans of top-flight techno craftsmanship, it’s nothing less than spellbinding.

--Scott T. Sterling

The Field
“Yesterday and Today”
4/5 stars