The Field: From Here We Go Sublime

The trance-techno Swedish artist Axel Willner (aka Lars Blek, porte, Cordouan, and James Larsson) issues under his The Field alias is so blinding and its repetitions so relentless, the material verges on dizzying; pushed along by galloping syncopated rhythms, Willner's tracks perpetually race to reach some unknown destination. For example, the hypnotic opener “Over The Ice” swings with a breezy syncopation that ultimately proves mesmerizing, especially when an ‘eeeeeee' micro-voice sample spirals and stretches vertiginously alongside the tune's light-footed skip. In “God Things End,” cycling rhythms push forward with an almost palpable thrust, their tension increasing as the whirring repetitions accumulate into a dizzying blur. “Silent” starts like a whirligig, with accordion-like tones melting together in almost polka-like manner, but, like so much of Willner's material, incrementally morphs over the tune's almost eight-minute span while “The Deal,” enhanced by a female singer embellishing its pulsating groove and ambient washes with ecstatic flourishes, churns at light-speed for ten glorious minutes that almost subliminally build to ever-majestic heights.

His handling of samples is striking throughout. Rather than merely looping a fragment as others might, Willner morphs the micro-sample itself over the course of a song—extending, clipping, or shifting the amount used, much like a digital photograph might be edited, cropped, and reframed—so that the loops generated from them also transform and shift. This gives his music a subtly mercurial and slippery character that keeps it engrossing from start to finish. Willner sometimes plays hide-and-seek with the listener too; in the magnificent “Everyday,” a vocal cell momentarily struggles to disclose its identity before getting sucked back into the surging vortex and camouflaged as a shimmering staccato stutter. Some of the best moments arise when Willner pulls back the green curtain and allows listeners glimpses of the tracks' inner workings. Who would have thought, for example, that the title track, which initially huffs and puffs like a thunderous homage to Einstein On the Beach-era Philip Glass, would ultimately reveal its sample source to be a ‘doo-wop' background vocal from an early classic like “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Likewise, after surging relentlessly for five minutes, a brief guitar sample appears at the closing moments of “A Paw in My Face” and one suddenly realizes that Willner sourced it from none other than Lionel Richie's cringe-inducing ballad “Hello.”

April 2007