‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ they say. But the work of Axel Willner is a musical manifesto for the kind of perfectionist who makes a habit of fixing things which appear fine to us lumpen chumps.
Willner, a Swede who now lives in Berlin, was signed by German electronic label Kompakt in 2005 on the strength of a demo. Once his 2007 debut ‘From Here We Go Sublime’ took flight, the ATP shows and patronage of bands including [a]LCD Soundsystem[/a] and [a]Battles[/a] followed. [a]The Field[/a], now operating as a trio, have at least as many fans on the indie side of the fence as among technoheads. Not that this sounds specifically like it’s catering to either.
It’s expansively, ecstatically excellent for many of the same reasons as [a]The Field[/a]’s previous two: blissful, loop-based hymns at the intersection between shoegazing, trance and minimal techno.
But these seven tracks, which average around nine minutes apiece, contain moves that were at most hinted at on previous effort ‘Yesterday And Today’. Opener ‘Is This Power’ leans on a kraut-funking bassline with a moody [a]Mogwai[/a] strum in the middle; final number ‘Sweet Slow Baby’’s thumpingly ‘real’ drums render it a heavily deconstructed cousin of [a]Talk Talk[/a]. ‘Then It’s White’, while using a familiar Field motif – an unintelligible vocal sample – takes us further away from the dancefloor than ever.
Lest you fear [a]The Field[/a] have left their hearts in Eggheadguitarville, the title track’s core is a pulsating house piano, paired with spacious, humming fuzz. Its ethos might not be so different to Andy Weatherall’s 20-year-old rerub of [a]My Bloody Valentine[/a], but Willner not only blasts it with his DNA, he makes it sound like the very definition of forward-minded music in 2011.