Yesterday and Today – The Field

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By Brendan McGowan

It’s a little difficult to determine just why The Field, recording alias of Swede Alex Willner, has been so readily championed by the larger indie music world, with his debut full-length, From Here We Go Sublime, being one of the best reviewed albums of 2007. I played Yesterday and Today, The Field’s second full-length release, for a carefully selected field of listeners: my roommate, a more entrenched electronica devotee than myself who regularly indulges in ketamine and ecstasy and 48-hour Russian parties, was less than enthused, commenting that it didn’t change enough. Another friend, this one more on the Hold Steady side of the fence, liked Sublime well enough, suggesting that perhaps the appeal is that it reminds people who aren’t too serious about techno of the first time minimal club music threatened to be a serious cultural force in America nearly twenty years ago.

This is certainly pleasant music: warm, and maybe you could even say sublime, but compositionally it’s barely there. There’s little in the way of hooks or even anything to remind you that you’re even listening to anything; hence that word “trance” that keeps popping up when you read about The Field. People generally mean it in a good way, but in Willner’s attempt to create a sonic crush, or embrace, or cave (at which he succeeds, admittedly), any immediacy is lost in the gauze of galactically glacial synth. Which makes “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” the more rare with its lovely vocal and hauntingly affective chord change. Still, it’s followed by “Leave It,” eleven and a half minutes of beautiful not-much, and the title track, ten minutes of glorious even-less, despite the last couple of minutes with John Stanier of Battles adding festival-ready drum bombast.

Willner has said that he’s a great fan of ambient music, and as with even the best of ambient, listening to Yesterday and Today is an exercise in patience, even if the ambience comes with a 4/4 beat.