As The Field, Axel Willner has always been known for his meticulously crafted music. And as a master producer of beats and electronics, he’s made sure that when one considers his music, quality should be the predominant sentiment. 2007’s From Here We Go Sublime was, arguably, that year’s best electronic album (not for me; that goes to Pantha Du Prince’s This Bliss) which featured some of the finest minimal techno and trance compositions in quite some time. And now with his new album, Yesterday and Today, Willner has executed another brilliant study on the world of electronic music.
The album’s opening moments on “I Have the Moon, You Have the Internet” are everything you’d expect from Willner: repetitive, driving loops that are clashing and striking against each other. And the music takes a good three minutes, just to simmer, gel and flow within the scope of the song before a turn of the knob here and a twist of the control there opens everything up. Thus, revealing a wide gorge of depth and substance with stamping snares, snappy hi-hats and of course, booming basses.
Just take the album’s cover art and compare it to Willner’s previous album. Backdropped by the same beige background, here the letters are a royal blue, whereas From Here We Go Sublime‘s lettering was a stark red. And in so many ways, it’s a fitting attribute to the two album’s similar aesthetics. Continuing to immerse himself in the minimalistic side of electronic music, Willner has simply altered his shade of color and has presented more of the same, outstanding music.
The songs are surely longer and as is the case, Willner is carefully patient in illuminating the small nuances hidden in every single one of these gems. Don’t be fooled by the style of music because this is everything a headphone aficionado could hope for. It be silly to dish out a song-by-song analysis, even though if any album deserves it, it would be Yesterday and Today. There is the engrossing trance of “Leave It,” which follows the same outline that the opener established, only here; there is a riveting bridge that is then entranced back in by a terrific snare fill. And the music on “The More That I Do” finds Willner facilitating the prowess of a guitar as a melody, supported by pausing vocals, star-like atmospherics and more of the same, equally captivating beats.
These aren’t elementary choices either, but rather the sounds are constructed in such a manner and technique that any kind of music fan could adore. A fine example is the gorgeous attraction of “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime.” As the voices chants, “I need your loving, like the sunshine” the music peels away, with only the hiss and fuzz left in, before the clouds open. And with swirling strings, low and deeply coated drums and an articulated melody, they all showcase some definite beauty.
And we couldn’t make the right choice if we didn’t include “Sequenced.” At nearly sixteen minutes long, it’s not only the album’s lengthiest song but the most gripping one as well. Interested in the use of live instrumentation, Willner takes to live percussion instruments to direct his music. By twist and turns, it’s a funky groove that dances right along with a hammering drum kit before the rhythmic bass guitar is introduced. It’s a steady path that Willner takes us on, as he contorts everything into one utterly spellbinding tour de force.
Even with just a different color of choice, Willner is superb at his craft. Heck, we’d even be pleased if he went from one shade of red to another. Nothing much changes from here on out, but it’s this form, absorbance and consistency that always prevails in Willner’s music.