The Field – Yesterday & Today (Kompakt) 2LP + CD

November 26, 2009 at 9:00 am 5 comments

The Field - Yesterday & Today

The Field - Yesterday & Today

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.

Entry filed under: dance, electronica, MP3s, reviews. Tags: , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. fromherewegosublime  |  November 26, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Being a huge “from here we go sublime” fan (I named by blog after it), this was my most anticipated release of 2009. I had to buy it on LP when it was released. I knew it would be hard to top FHWGS but I think Y&T is still pretty great. As you said on, in theory his tracks shouldn’t work but they really do.

    I thought Stanier only did live drums for the title track.

  • 2. Biggie Samuels  |  November 26, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Maybe. It could be a different drummer on “Sequenced”. I haven’t consulted the credits that closely, to be honest. In any case, it was the title track I was really thinking of when I made that Tony Allen reference but I wanted to post “Sequenced” as an illustration of how the album deviates from the From Here… template.

  • 3. fromherewegosublime  |  November 26, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    yeah Tony Allen is an apt reference for the drumming on the title track, its allmost krautrock-ish. I wouldn’t mind if Axel actually moved further in that direction with his new album.

    Which album do you like more overall ??

  • 4. Biggie Samuels  |  November 26, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I like the new one. It feels more like a coherent album rather than a singles compilation with a couple of bonus tracks. I don’t understand people who feel slightly let down by it.

  • 5. Albums of the Year 2009 « Bubblegum Cage III  |  December 24, 2009 at 9:12 am

    […] Originally reviewed in November. […]


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