Yesterday And Today ups both the coldness and the warmth to reap even more rewards.
Chris Jones 2009
The Field is the nom de laptop of Swedish techno minimalist, Axel Willner. His previous album, 2007's From Here We Go Sublime was the kind of brainy electronic tour de force that appeals to the kind of people who need to know that he creates most of his work via the software Jeskola Buzz. But somewhere among the mechanised stuttering lurked both real instruments and a heart. Weirdly, and successfully, Yesterday And Today ups both the coldness and the warmth to reap even more rewards. Quite some trick.
A scant six repetitive tracks stretched over an hour may seem daunting, but they repay careful attention. Axel wins our hearts and minds (especially the latter) with his faith in an audience's ability to absorb work that nudges and breaks the ten minute barrier. But length isn't everything: it's the intricate way in which he builds his cerebral delights that boggles the gray cells. A good example is how Leave It's trance-y pulse gets subverted at around the halfway mark by its bell/chime motif suddenly, inexplicably going all wobbly. The devil's in the details here.
I Have The Moon, You Have The Internet confounds because it takes nearly five minutes to introduce the beat, making you wonder if this is some kind of nightmarish chill album you've been sold under the guise of cutting edge techno. In this Willner may be the heir to Manuel Gottsching's guitar trance classic, E2-E4. Miniscule samples of guitar, xylophone, etc. get tossed back and forth with Reichian aplomb until your head's spinning. Another masterstroke is the title track, where Battles drummer John Stanier joins the fun. His hyperactive prog/math schtick may be limited by Willner's beats but his cheeky offbeats still mesmerise.
On a couple of faint-hearted 'shorter' tracks: notably the rather pointless cover of Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime, he comes slightly unstuck. A recent cover by Baby D put paid to anyone dealing successfully with the Korgi's classic again any time soon. And leaving a big hole where the chorus should be isn't clever, just frustrating. Also The More That I Do leaves you stranded in some totalitarian techno ice field, all thumping beats and bleating vocal stabs.
As a template for future development Willner's approach may well be a blind alley, but it's a very seductive one.