THE FIELD: Sound Of Light (Heartbeats International)


Posted on Dec 12th 2007 10:20 pm

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The Field: Sound Of Light

Sound Of Light
Heartbeats International 2007
04 Tracks. 60mins35secs

Music and hotels make interesting bedfellows (pun not necessarily intended). Some of the world’s poshest and most modern hotels have commissioned exclusive, original works to “soundtrack” one’s stay. Rifling through these compilations, one comes across a smattering of cool – trip hop, smooth house, jazzy breaks, among others – tailor-made to stick to walls and encourage a seductively elegant atmosphere.

Entering this fray are the designed-obsessed minds behind Stockholm’s Nordic Light Hotel, who have announced the Sound Of Light series as a chance for musicians to make an aural document of their stay. First up is Swedish techno artist The Field, aka Axel Willner. As a producer of minimal, icy tracks bathed in shoegaze levels of reverberation, Willner is a natural choice to project the cool comfort of such a style-conscious and sparse establishment.

The set is divided into four 15-minute pieces, each named after a time of the day. Opener Morning hits the listener like a splash of cold water to a tired face. It’s one of Willner’s most optimistic, energetic-sounding tracks. In interviews, Willner has claimed to record his music live, rather than rely extensively on a sequencer. Morning, with its abrupt, digitally processed vocal snippets dancing over a bed of backwards-piano resonance, makes a clear example of this. There’s a level of tension and humanity in the structure of the track; the listener can feel Willner nervously triggering each stage. It’s a complementary enhancement to the feelings of excitement, anticipation, and impatience that greet a new dawn.

Next up is Day, a track which accomplishes the dubious feat of sounding like the settling of a routine. Conceptually, it’s nice – after all, the day is a time to go about one’s business, complete necessary tasks, and progress toward the less structured and more fun evening – but of all the tracks here, it least merits its length. Cut this one in half, and you have another Field classic, but as is, it becomes tempting to skip through it after a while.

The transition from Day to Evening is one from monotony to intensity. It would appear that the work is done, and now it is time to attend to more pressing matters, like a party at an upscale hotel bar. The jutting female vocal clips, juxtaposed with the arpeggiated filter sweeps on the breathy lead synth, and the eventual arrival of pitched-up counter-vocals, successfully conjures up the image and progression of meeting with friends in a nice, dimly lit bar, gradually growing looser and more conversational.

At the close of the day in the life is Night, naturally. Lacking a bass beat, with only minimal hi-hats pushed to the back of the mix for percussion, the focus of Night is a gorgeous, trance-gated synth, accentuated by yet more stuttering vocal bits. Its icy luminescence captures falling asleep in a minimalist room, surrounded by swaths of colored light, gazing at the city outside of your room, and slowly drifting off to sleep. Night is easily the most engaging piece in this set, and a new high mark for Willner.

So then, another engrossing release from The Field, if not quite up to par with the stunning From Here We Go Sublime, but the question remains – what to make of the relationship between artist and hotel? Is this the fruition of Erik Satie’s conception of “furniture music,” or has the listener just been treated to an hour-long commercial designed to attack hipper and more postmodern consumers with the same bottom line? Likely, both are at play here, and given the frequency with which artists inhabit hotel rooms, one can imagine stranger collaborations. In the meantime, perhaps it is best (and easiest) to approach this album as four more satisfying tracks by The Field.


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