The Field – From Here We Go Sublime

The Field
From Here We Go Sublime

If there is a strong connection between the minimal techno of The Field (aka Axel Willner) and that of Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas it should come as no surprise. Voigt is the head of the German Kompakt label which released From Here We Go Sublime and a great deal of other modern techno albums including the much-acclaimed Pop Ambient series. There is a striking resemblance between Willner’s record and Gas albums such as Pop and Konigsforst, mostly in the repetitive, waterlogged underlying pulses that pass for beats and the warm ambience that is a hallmark of both. Where Voigt succeeded wildly in establishing a template that many modern electronic acts have been aping in his absence, there seems to be something missing in From Here We Go Sublime.

If Voigt was able to distract listeners from focusing on the 4/4 time-signatures on his records, Willner slightly foregrounds his to the point that it is nearly impossible to ignore. Track for track, From Here We Go Sublime is mired in some of the simplest beats in modern electronic music. One can only hear that specific pulsing beat for so long without inevitably drawing comparisons to the kind of soporific dance music used as a backdrop for 90’s clubs. I don’t think mixing it up with a few different beats is too much to ask for, considering that the majority of modern IDM has become increasingly dense over the last five years. If there was one complaint I had with those Gas records it would be the beats, and Willner has had at least half a decade to improve on Voigt’s blueprint. The highlights of From Here We Go Sublime are the false conclusion to “Sun & Ice” where the beat suddenly drops out amidst a block of distortion only to kick-start itself seconds later and the “shoo-bop shoo-bop” sample that reveals itself as the heart of the final track. Both of these come near the end of the album, but are a perfect foil to the album-length pulsing that dominates Willner’s work.

I’m not trying to completely dismiss Willner’s work. There is plenty of good to be found here and it is arguable that the point of music like this, is that it’s mainly built for dancefloors with home-listening secondary. While some comparisons to shoegaze and noisy electro-acoustic juggernauts is highly suspect, there is no doubt a distinctive ambience to From Here We Go Sublime even if it doesn’t pack the distended-drone wallop of Voigt’s work. Despite all of my problems with the album, there is no doubt that a considerable amount of determination and ingenuity has gone into Axel Willner’s work. It makes for a very good record that barely misses becoming exceptional.