The Field – Yesterday & Today (Kompakt) 2LP + CD
The Kompakt label seems to have a limitless supply of nominally left-field but fundamentally lightweight electronic dance music. Over the years, the label has touched upon everything from house, techno and electro to ambient and even glam rock. The vast majority of its output exists in some rose-tinted hinterland between fluffy and downright irritating. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that Kompakt was founded by Wolfgang Voigt – he of the monumental Gas project.
In many ways Axel Wilner – aka The Field – is a very typical Kompakt artist. His epic minimal techno constructions gush cascades of sugar-water samples over bouncy, up-tempo tech-house grooves. The tunes on his much-loved debut album From Here We Go Sublime are exceptionally formulaic – each track modulating insistently between two equally heady chords until pop-ambient nirvana is achieved.
So, what marks The Field out from the Kompakt pack? Why is Wilner so much more critically acclaimed, so much more popular and – frankly – so much better than most of his peers? In a word: intensity. If Wilner was not so utterly dedicated to his aesthetic and mission, his tracks would fall flat, like so many here-today-gone-tomorrow Kompakt 12″s. Instead, the effects of his music are positively ecstatic – a cynicism-destroying flood of good vibes.
Wilner doesn’t depart much from the standard Field formula on Yesterday & Today but he does renew his commitment to flirting with disaster. Each of this album’s minor innovations could have resulted in utter calamity. Instead they’ve resulted in one of 2009’s most consistently satisfying long-players.
Doing a full vocals-and-all cover of The Korgis’ soft-pop chestnut “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” is objectively a terrible idea. But Wilner’s realisation is utterly ingenious – as intense as anything he’s done but in a new slow-burning tempo. Elsewhere, he brings in (shudder) live musicians – including John Stanier, drummer with Warp-signed avant rockers Battles. On tracks like the predictably epic but surprisingly mid-tempo closer “Sequenced”, Stanier confounds expectations (or prejudices, at least), managing to build up a level of organic momentum that Tony Allen himself would be proud of.
To top it all off, Yesterday & Today come housed in a lovely matte gatefold sleeve, which includes the vinyl and CD versions of the album. You can have it all when you buy it from Insound.