Skies Above, Seas Below
Stockholm-born Axel Willner has, since 2006, braided together two full-length albums from the chromosomes of minimal techno and trance. His latest, Yesterday & Today (ANTI-/Kompakt), further captures aural atmospheric swatches interspersed with snippets of blissful chatter.
Yet regardless of this sonic sensibility and his moniker, it comes to light that the Field has never made field recordings. No parts of Yesterday & Today originated from Willner wandering around with a tape recorder in his new home of Berlin, where he moved six months ago. Rather, Willner says, while cloistered at a laptop and bouncing among Berlin, Stockholm, and Cologne, he built the songs from loops from his record collection, selected for their romantic impact.
Then he revisited his main inspirations for the album — the collected works of Giorgio Moroder, the film scores of Ennio Morricone, and the visual design of director Dario Argento's 1977 horror classic Suspiria. From these came Willner's use of gentle distortions, elongated perspectives, and moments of vivid saturation. Yesterday & Today is composed of just six tracks, most averaging eight to ten minutes in length, and all are more concerned with diffused flutter than with steam-built crescendo.
Any aura that infiltrated the record came during studio time Willner set up in the Swedish countryside to record acoustic treatments from his touring band. Battles drummer John Stanier also contributed sessions, helping add to the German-rock underpinnings most apparent in the album's title track. (Willner also cites Neu! as a percussive favorite.)
And true, Yesterday & Today displays more so-called kosmiche live-jam flares than its predecessor, From Here We Go Sublime. But it's ultimately nothing celestial that most informed the effort. Rather, Willner says, his greatest influence is something more tangible: the seas surrounding his homeland.
"I do miss something from Sweden, and it isn't wide skies or whatever people might compare to my music," he says. "The sky is always beautiful, but I don't respect and fear it the same way I do the ocean. Water is so complex, and I have always loved it. When I listen to music, I listen to the arrangements, how the chords flow into and under each other. Maybe that is because of where I'm from. Water has always spoken to me, now even when I'm not with it."
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