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The Field - From Here We Go Sublime

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Artist: The Field

Album: From Here We Go Sublime

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Apr. 12, 2007

Trance has been on the way back for a while now. In truth, it hardly disappeared: DJs like Tiesto and Sasha still pack them in to this day. Trance certainly hasn't been hip for a good many years though, as the cutting edge of 4/4 electronic music shifted to what was first termed 'microhouse' and has since evolved into 'minimal.' The word 'trance' itself has become a kind of slur for many people, conjuring up all the worst excesses of late '90s club culture which the new styles aligned themselves against. But as the clipped minimal style has now been established as a permanent fixture itself, the dialectic has cut back the other way. Remembering their teenage nights spent raving to music with huge, rush-inducing synth riffs, many among the current crop of producers are now reacting to the prevalence of the minimal sound by incorporating maximal trance elements into their tracks. As everything old becomes new again, trance has returned.

The Field (a.k.a. one Axel Willner) had a hit last year with "Over The Ice," one of the most unapologetic tracks in this vein, and he's now released his first full-length, From Here We Go Sublime. Leading off and serving as a template for the rest of the album, "Over The Ice" is a stunning track, both in the pristine production and in the seeming effortlessness of the arrangement. Cloud-like synth riffs float past a shifting sample of a woman's voice, while a simple but insistent rhythm track keeps things gliding along. This smooth, windblown quality is one of the hallmarks of The Field’s production style; the other is its unabashed emotionalism. With no lyrics and only the vaguest track titles, the feeling here is all in the arrangements and the shading of the timbres. As the tracks coalesce and dissipate in turn, emotions - which can only be designated by such broad terms as "bliss" or "melancholy" or "loss" - build and recede. That might read like a dis, but it's not intended to be: most producers can only wish they could hit these hard-to-describe feelings so directly.

For all his obvious talent, one might fear that Willner, pupils dilated, would let his attention wander permanently off into the sky at some point, resulting in a typically self-indulgent techno artist album. Thankfully, however, he keeps his focus across the album's length, balancing his heart-on-sleeve synthesizer action with understated but propulsive drum programming. And as described above, the tweaking of particular samples on tracks like “A Paw In My Face,” “Good Things End” and “Silent” is a real joy to hear, recalling the best work by musicians like Christian Fennesz. From Here We Go Sublime is fantastic all around, and it’s all the more effective for its restraint. Even those predisposed to disregard anything with 'trance' in the description (or rather, especially those people) should give it a shot: one’s unlikely to hear a better electronic full-length for a while.

By Greg Ferguson

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