Crafting a sophomore record is always a thorny process, but if your debut was a critical and popular behemoth, add a few thistles. Along with Gui Boratto's Chromophobia, Swedish producer Axel Willner's From Here We Go Sublime was one of two high-watermark releases for Kompakt in 2007. An immersive blend of dance timbres—trance, ambient, techno, shoegaze—Sublime's brand of blurry, sample-based "techno" resembled a kind of aural detailing of the post-concussive: a sonic world of serene echoes and numbing beauty.
After lengthy tours promoting Sublime with acts like LCD Soundsystem and !!!, Willner tired of working alone on a laptop and asked a couple of friends to tour with him, tweaking Sublime's one-man material into a live-band set. So when it came time to record the follow-up, Willner set out to recapture the tour's late-stage organics and invited friends like tour-mate Dan Enqvist and Battles' drummer John Stanier in for informal jam sessions.
Though not a break with Sublime's sample-dominated mesmerism, the resulting album, Yesterday & Today, sees Willner exploring more complicated textures and sonic terrain, invoking classic krautrock and kosmische along with his Gas-sy ambient-techno. One listen to Yesterday's closer, "Sequenced," and you'll no doubt hear a thick arpeggiated synth melody right out of Deep Red before the track retreats into an almost Balearic coda. Where Willner's had a tendency to reveal his samples late in songs—as with Lionel Richie's "Hello" at the end of "A Paw in My Face"—here it's the instrumental components themselves that are unveiled in Yesterday & Today's extended outros: the hidden vocals and gleaming glockenspiel on "I Have the Moon, You Have the Internet," or the still-buzzing synths of "Leave It."
This newly organic structure to Yesterday stems from obvious roots; it's the product of several people and a bottle or two of wine, ideas given time to expand after plenty of mess-around. On the Field's deconstruction of the Korgis classic "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime," its stunted synth clips and stumbling rhythms give the vocals plenty of room to meander—sounding almost like a traditional four-piece for a moment. But The Field's drawn not by the chorus but by how he shapes the scraps; he recontours the original's sodden melancholy into languor, filtering a narcotized glockenspiel melody into his breathy trance-pop.
Serving as a sonic bridge between the Field's two records is the excellent title track, which sounds, absurdly, like Panda Bear covering Ashra at first blush. Opening with another of his fleecy samples, Willner's free to noodle away on his Roland, folding one lengthy synthesizer line into another. He allows its repetition to slowly cushion the listener 'til he pulls his coup, and it's one of the record's greatest stretches: just Stanier and Dan Enqvist in a punchy cellar-jam bass-n-drum groove. More in line with The Field's traditional compositions, "The More That I Do" smudges the Cocteau Twins "Lorelei" into another of the record's stuporous pleasures. But its live drums and guitar anchor Willner's pulsating samples, allowing him to subtly enlarge what at first seems like The Field 101.
Only six tracks long though, Yesterday & Today sometimes retreats to formula: the chugging twilight sonata of "I Have the Moon, You Have the Internet" and the clean, cool futurism of "Leave It" lack some of the instrumental nuances exhibited elsewhere. Still, these critiques seem bald when considering how deftly the Field's managed to flesh out an aesthetic that might have tired quickly, testimony that the Field ain't no one-trick pony, even if that trick's still the stuff of first-place finishes.
Buy The Field - Yesterday & Today at
Tracklist: The Field - Yesterday & Today 01. I Have The Moon, You Have The Internet
02. Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime
03. Leave It
04. Yesterday & Today
05. The More That I Do
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