Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Thursday, May 10, 2007 

This debut release by Swedish electro-artist Axel Willner is a glorious offering of primarily minimalist techno which occasionally broaches into trance territory. While usually a field of music not much analysed given it's preoccupation with eliciting a spiritual dancefloor experience in conjunction with psychotropic drugs, The Field is compelling for many reasons.

To begin with, Willner sets his sights far higher than producing trance fodder, indeed there is more in common with early 90s shoegaze bands such as My Bloody Valentine or Ride than Carl Craig. Song titles and the overall feel of the album concern geography and movement, alluded to by many of the songs heavily compressed pulses of bass beats being just faster than a human heartbeat. Over these Willner completely shirks any sense of build/hold tension/release, preferring to live in the latter state. He drags the sensation of insistance back with washes of reverbed synths or simple samplescapes making it at once perfect music to play while travelling, or crashing on the couch chill-out style.

With a penchant for deft and incredibly minimal samples there is an undeniable human warmth about this record, though not a word is spoken nor an acoustic instrument played. Opening track Over The Ice features unrecognisibly brief snippets of Kate Bush's song Under The Ice to create a hypnotic texture, while following track A Paw In My Face again fuses stuttering samples, this time of Lionel Richie's ultra-cheesy Hello which only resolve in the dying seconds making you re-appraise all you've just heard, a trick he does again on the closing title track. These are deft yet simple devices that help the tracks cohease in a way almost unbelivable for an album partly made up of previously released singles. Willner's way with looping clipped signals and preoccupation with Arctic wilderness is nowhere near as clincal and cold as it sounds like it is; you may be in the Arctic but there is such an intent of purpose and attention to detail you know you're with a sound guide.

Ten-minute centrepiece The Deal is an exercise in how to make a minimalist techno endlessly fascinating in a way that doesn't rely on any hallmarks of the genre, looking more to Phillip Glass or Steve Reich as shapers of the song. Shivering bursts of icy operatic vocal, insistant bass and chugging, sparklingly synth gurgles. Sun And Ice, Everyday and Mobilia are highlights on an album which does the job of taking minimalist techno from the realm of the 12-inch single to a crystalline-coherant CD.

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