"Making a The Field song is a bit like making a risotto."
October 3, 2013 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Kompakt records is streaming The Field's fourth album, Cupid's Head, on Soundcloud. As that stream will eventually expire, some more information is below the fold.

Axel Willner assumed the moniker of The Field in 2004 to try and make music at the intersection of pop and electronic. This has largely meant producing repetitive, airy minimal techno built around small samples of pop songs. For example, A Paw In My Face is built around a Lionel Ritchie sample, and the title track is built around a Flamingos sample. The Field's first album, 2007's From Here We Go Sublime, was critically lauded for being "formally simple yet functionally overwhelming" and "music for imagining a utopian future to." (According to MetaCritic, it was one of the two best-reviewed albums of 2007.) At the time, Willner's day job was working at a state-controlled liquor store.

On 2009's Yesteday and Today Willner worked with additional live instrumentation and attempted to create even more of a blissed-out, phase-music feel; track lengths went up, to the mild vexation of Emerson Dameron at Dusted. The album also included a fairly earnest cover of the Korgis' Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime. (And regardless of complaints about length, I Have The Moon, You Have The Internet is one of the year's great track titles.)

While Yesterday and Today seems to have met with a critical consensus of "pretty good but not great", 2011's Looping State of Mind was heralded as a return to form, or perhaps a confident synthesis. It again incorporated a full band of musicians, something that can be heard in Is This Power's drums and bass line, while also delving into foreign, ambient piano-and-sighs territory with Then It's White.

Cupid's Head has already met with some strong and medium reviews, and is being touted for sounding "darker" than before; this could be a deliberate artifact of the cover art, given the previous choices. Willner recorded the album by himself, for the first time "using only hardware, no computers", while recovering from a tour. In an interview with FACT he acknowledged the album's debt to his Loops of Your Heart side project, which strives for more of a Kosmiche sound.

All of Wilner's albums have been released by Kompakt, an electronic imprint based in Köln and run by Michael Mayer,
Wolfgang Voigt, and Jürgen Paape. While first inspired to pick up a guitar after listening to The Misfits, Willner has stated that that the reason he joined Kompakt was "entirely because of Wolfgang Voigt" and his love of Voigt's output as Gas.

Kompakt dates its founding to the establishment of the Delirium record store in 1993, and the label's history is well described in this oral history at Resident Advisor. In addition to The Field, some of the things Kompakt is known for include: the crossover success of Gui Boratto's Beautiful Life; Mayer's minimally-mixed Immer mix series, the first of which has been widely lauded; and the ongoing Pop Ambient series of albums.
posted by Going To Maine (27 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome post. Anyone who is a fan of the Field needs to check out the live set at the Pitchfork Music Festival. It's done with a live band and is really something. Ah, I see that's below the Pitchfork soundcloud thing.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:08 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

In hindsight, the link to the Beautiful Life video in the post is very low quality; this is a better one. It is also worth mentioning that the song itself is an eight-minute build. The video strikes much of the build and starts around the halfway mark.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:16 AM on October 3, 2013

The Field, Kompakt some of the things Kompakt is

Could one of the mods maybe correct the mistake here? This is a fantastic post, I'd hate to see it stick around with the flaw in it.

The Field has been a favorite of mine since his first album. That first album is really an amazing exercise in doing a lot with very, very little. I forget at the moment if he ever varies the kick and hi hat sounds used between tracks, but he basically never does anything but kick on the downbeat, hat on the upbeat drum patterns, and the chord modulations in the songs are pretty much always the same interval. And yet it's stunningly beautiful, and can be very emotional music (for me at least). It's had a big and lasting (though maybe not always immediately obvious) effect on the music I make myself.

I had the privilege of opening a show he did with the Juan Maclean (in band form, not just John DJing). The Field live setup at the time was a lot like what's in that Pitchfork video. Wilner was using different hardware at the time (this would've been 2009 or so), a bunch of samplers, and had a drummer and a bass player in tow. It was a good time.

I really love his second and third records also, but Cupid's Head is something else. It feels like a stripping back down of his music back to what he was doing on the first album, but bringing with it some of the rhythmic complexity of his second and third albums, and as the post notes, the darker emotional tone is a new thing as well.

Anyway, great post, love this dude's work.
posted by sparkletone at 10:55 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Listening to the stream now and really enjoying it. Thanks for the post.
posted by immlass at 10:57 AM on October 3, 2013

The Field is a pretty polarizing project, I've found. People either totally resonate with Willner's entrancing, repetitive, locked-loop robotik grooves or they find it utterly uninspiring and uninspired. I'm definitely of the former category; he has a formula, for sure, and none of it is terribly far from the rest, but that's what you get from The Field. I think his stuff gets better as he continues to explore a tougher and more organic sound; Looping State of Mind was one of my favorite albums of 2011, and Cupid's Head feels like another iterative but satisfying tweaking of his formula. It's already become one of my go-to staples at the gym.
posted by mykescipark at 11:02 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

(Also, Willner has been dropping his remix for Thom Yorke into his live sets, and it took me the longest time to figure out what it was. I think it's my favorite thing he's ever done.)
posted by mykescipark at 11:03 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love The Field and you've done a great job with this post!
Thank you.
posted by huguini at 12:12 PM on October 3, 2013

But you forgot the first song I ever heard from him, Love vs Distance, it's one of his best tracks.
posted by huguini at 12:17 PM on October 3, 2013

I also left out any mention of the Sound Of Light EP, which Willner recorded to document his stay at the Nordic Light Hotel in Stockholm.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:15 PM on October 3, 2013

I was just reading about From Here We Go Sublime this morning after someone else recommended it to me, and then serendipitously this post shows up. Thank you! Somehow I missed The Field but am now excited to explore. Hope it's not TOO poppy.
posted by J0 at 1:20 PM on October 3, 2013

Love, love, love The Field. Love this post and comments!

I skipped going to the ER after a nasty bike wipeout/endo to go see him back in 2007.
I think of him every time I nick the scar on my chin when shaving.

The new album is pretty great.
posted by Hutch at 1:30 PM on October 3, 2013

Between this new The Field album, the stunning Dawn of Midi album "Dysnomia" from a few months ago – an album that is amazingly good, it's shocking what they do with nothing but piano / drum / bass live-tracked – and the insanely good Melt-Banana album "Fetch" which just came out, I am convinced that this is going to be the best year in music in some time.

(Serious, though – if you like The Field, you should listen to that Dawn of Midi album. It's like they have the same sense of rhythm, of the gradual and careful and almost accidental progression of songs, and of this contemplative, emotionless cool and calm. The difference is that The Field does it with samples running through a computer, and Dawn of Midi does it with a piano trio.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:44 PM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

You are forgetting the new Darkside album. (Nicolas Jaar & Dave Harrington)
posted by Going To Maine at 2:14 PM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

the new Darkside album is good, and this Dawn of Midi is GREAT! Of course it's on Thirsty Ear :)
posted by J0 at 2:24 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Man I love The Field. The MP3 album is $2.59 on Amazon. Felt almost guilty for buying it at that price.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:05 PM on October 3, 2013

AAA there's a new Darkside album too?! Be still my credit card.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:56 PM on October 3, 2013

Oh wonderful, Amazon won't let me buy it because I'm Canadianese. Guess I'll just keep listening to the pirated leak, then. Idiots.
posted by fleetmouse at 4:33 PM on October 3, 2013

In an attempt to win your money, Google Play has priced it at $2.49. Perhaps that will work in Canada?
posted by Going To Maine at 5:10 PM on October 3, 2013

Nope, so fuck it. Going to go buy the new Oneohtrix at Bleep instead because that works.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:34 PM on October 3, 2013

I was just saw and was about to post that odd price war... It is a little queasy, thinking about how cheap that is... Still a 30-70 split between e-marketplace and label? Or do you think that Amazon, Google, etc have to give a minimum?
posted by J0 at 6:47 AM on October 4, 2013

As an odd rider to the whole lots-of-good-music-thing, Pitchfork has been going a little crazy with the best new music label lately:
October 2: The Field
October 3: Danny Brown
October 4: Oneohtrix Point Never
October 7: Darkside
posted by Going To Maine at 2:34 PM on October 7, 2013

Randomly, can I just say, one more time, that "Oneohtrix Point Never" is the dumbest name for anything ever?
posted by koeselitz at 6:43 AM on October 9, 2013

Knowing that it's a pun on the soft-rock station 106.7 makes it for me.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:09 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

(cf - here they say it's Boston's, but it's the same call number in NYC, too)
posted by en forme de poire at 11:36 AM on October 9, 2013

I totally did not know that. Now it makes sense - thanks!
posted by koeselitz at 12:23 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Putting this here and in another thread: the New York Times magazine magazine has a profile of Nicolas Jaar that includes a full stream of Psychic, the new Darkside album. (This amends my previous link to the Other People stream of Psychic, which has expired.)
posted by Going To Maine at 6:31 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I had no idea The Field made tracks based on samples of pop songs. That just makes the tracks that much more sublime. There's so much good new music out now, but sadly I'm not taken with the new Darkside just yet. As it is, I'm behind in listening to all the stuff from Other-People, the spiritual successor to Clown & Sunset.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:07 AM on October 25, 2013

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