The Field: Yesterday and Today

The obvious downside to releasing one of the most acclaimed releases of 2007 is that one must follow it up with an equally-strong sequel. That's the challenge facing Stockholm, Sweden 's Axel Willner whose From Here We Go Sublime was met with rapturous acclaim upon its release two years ago. Not surprisingly, Yesterday & Today doesn't deviate so much from the first album's whirlwind trance-techno style as it develops it organically, subtly extending the style without radically advancing upon it—in short, a safe but not unsatisfying step that adds a couple of new twists to The Field template.

Setting the album's tone, “I Have the Moon, You Have the Internet” gradually builds from its initial whoosh and plinkety rhythms into a surging, two-toned behemoth of thunderous force; though the track's relatively simple in construction and design, its impact is nevertheless powerful due to the relentless intensity of its attack. Willner throws in a delicious curve ball at the track's end by shutting the rhythms down and replacing them with a pretty music box melody of tinkling bell tones (a move repeated at the close of other tracks). Surprising too is the cover of The Korgis' “Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime” that follows, even if Willner's relatively straight-faced handling of the vocal-based tune isn't terribly arresting. The twelve-minute “Leave It” charges out of the gate and gradually takes flight when its pulsating bass line asserts itself more audibly at the three-minute mark, and from that moment on the track's trance-techno drive spins as dizzyingly as a whirling dervish, and with such density the shimmering bell tones pinging at its center are almost buried under the song's galloping rhythms. “The More That I Do” is nine minutes of quintessential Field music, a roaring trance- schaffel tornado with vocal fragments exploding at its center. Less successful by comparison is Willner's krautrock homage, “Sequenced,” which isn't interesting enough to sustain the fifteen minutes allotted to it. Too unvarying overall, the electro-driven cut rolls along in a lazy, mid-tempo lope that ultimately makes the track feel more like a meandering jam than a taut construction.

The title track is the album's most ear-catching, and not just because it includes Battles drummer John Stanier but more because his catalyzing presence induces Willner to leave the safety net behind and allow the music's ecstatic character free reign. After spending the first seven of its ten minutes in familiar Field mode with synth loops and percussion arranged into a Dionysian storm, Willner strips the layers back to hand Stanier's fiery attack the spotlight before eventually ending the track with a funky bass-and-drum workout.

If Yesterday & Today includes nothing as audacious as the earlier album's “A Paw in My Face,” which at its close revealed itself to be sourced in part from nothing less than Lionel Ritchie's “Hello,” it's certainly a credible follow-up. On both albums, The Field's music is less a panoramic and more a magnetic field that pulls you in, a non-stop adrenaline rush that's like a roller-coaster car's first plunge stretched out for minutes at a time.

August 2009