Famous techno producer with the moon on his side – our 10 point primer to The Field.
The Field is a Swedish producer on Kompakt now living in Berlin who makes delightful, organic techno out of clipped samples. His first album, From Here Go Sublime, came out in 2007, and was totally one of the best albums released that year. His new record, Yesterday & Today, is just as essential. His music draws the dots between Eurotrance, ambient, tape music and early minimal compositional work, and, thankfully, pure, pure pop. Here is what you need to know about this extraordinary artist.
1. His time is now
The name of the new album, Yesterday and Today, seems like a spot-on definition for the sound of The Field, cutting up samples from yesterday to go along with the electronic music of today. “That’s absolutely right” says Axel, “but also the meaning of the transition of the sound from then and now, how it changed” as well as “a reflection of my own life and a homage to Yes and the song with the same title”. Conveying the idea of escapism, the act of traveling and the imagery of traveling, thus also forgetting memories and leaving things behind, Willner says “there’s a lot of things that I miss from past times, but nothing that can replace it. So I try to find other things to think about instead of thinking what could’ve been.”
2. The Field is worldwide
All it took for Stockholm-based Axel Willner was one album under his production alias The Field: From Here We Go Sublime. Ever since the release of his debut, he has been touring all over the world and is currently promoting the successor Yesterday and Today, hitting the road for a huge American tour with The Juan Maclean after successfully completing a lot of promotion dates and shows in Europe’s places to be, such as London, Madrid and, of course, Stockholm. He is looking forward to “a lot of work and that not much sleep”, being “constantly on the road” but having “good times”.
3. He loves his girlfriend
The opening track of ‘Yesterday and Today’ is called ‘I Have The Moon, You Have The Internet’ which made us assume that Axel Willner eventually got fed up with distractions from the internet and the outside world in general, so he decided it’s about time to focus on his inner self and his very own field of vision. The song itself felt like an inner journey to us, strengthening our theory but it turns out that it is all about something between him and his girlfriend: “I was on this little island outside Stockholm where we were recording and she was in Berlin. There was pretty bad reception but a beautiful sky and moon. It’s about the two of us missing each other but being glad that we could talk.”
4. Bedroom productions turn into traditional recording
When producing, Axel starts out by making loops and creating the basic song elements on his own which are then eventually rearranged and mixed down to complete tracks. Throughout the production of his first album, he mixed the tracks down live, arranging and mixing them down in one go. For the new album, Willner started out the same but eventually went to a studio to finish the album off with a couple of befriended musicians, including John Stanier from Battles on the drums. According to him “the recording and arranging is very different this time”, being “more like jamming in the studio with different musicians around the loops and then re-arranging it”, ending up with “traditional recording in a studio with all that comes with it”.
5. Live shows see The Field turn into an actual band
For his first live gigs, Axel Willner played shows on his own with nothing but a laptop on stage but eventually became tired of the limitations of laptop sets. Back in Stockholm from touring North America with !!!, he extended the line-up to a complete band, now being accompanied by his good friends multi-instrumentalist Andreas Söderstrom and percussionist Dan Enqvist. On top of that, he got himself a couple of vintage synthesizers and some more gear, so The Field is now a full-blown live band. Willner let us know that he has “some ideas” on further additions to the live appearance but when asked about adding live vocals, he said “I don’t think I will add vocals live but you never know”.
6. Berlin is a welcome change
After living in Stockholm for more or less his entire life, Axel was looking for a change and moved to Berlin where he started working on the new album. Inspired by the eventful historical past of Berlin and the surroundings of a new city, he sums the situation up as being “perfect to start the album”. By the time he gathered enough material for Yesterday and Today, he went back to the more familiar environment of Stockholm, which was “perfect to record it”. Describing the people in both cities as “very open minded” and “trend sensitive”, one might think that the busy inner city life provides a good contrast to his self-concentrated and almost reclusive production process.
7. His music just happens
Willner is not one of those producers sitting in the studio all day and trying things out, telling us “If I don’t have anything in me I won’t go there”. Asked about what it takes to get him started on a new The Field track, he said it can be everything “from thinking of a song to hearing one or just being overwhelmed” and actually, we would have been surprised if it was any different, regarding that all of his music comes across so heartfelt.
8. Indie kids dig him
In the fast-moving indie music journalism world overpopulated with eclectic multi-instrumentalist collectives, chanting folk singers, balearic kraut-rockers, uproaring garage bands and dozens of incarnations of ‘the next Kylie‘ craving for mass attention, there is little room for upcoming producers devoted to the long tradition of techno. Despite that or perhaps because of his commitment to a spaced-out deep ambient sound with underlying techno drum patterns – originally going by ‘trance’ back in the days before the term was abducted and became a synonym for ‘sensational’ uptempo rave-hymns – The Field’s every move is followed by forefront tastemakers from both traditional press and the blogs while he effortlessly sustained the attention from his debut album to the successor, receiving nothing but love and earning rave reviews all over the place. Asked if he has got any explanation why he is such a successful ‘crossover’ artist, Willner simply replied that he is “just very happy that the music is welcomed in different camps”.
9. He likes old pop music
Besides obviously being influenced from Kompakt mastermind Wolfgang Voigt’s ambient recordings as GAS and shoegazer grandmasters My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, the conscientious cover of every young at heart indie fan’s favorite love song “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” by The Korgis as well as the Cocteau Twins sampling ‘The More That I Do’ definitely hint at Willner’s preference for the music of yesterday. We double-checked with him and he clearly admitted to “listening mostly to old music all from disco to kraut and ambient”, adding that he is “not paying that much attention to what’s going on today anymore”.
10. He loves beer
Axel used to work in a liquor store belonging to the Swedish alcohol retail monopoly Systembolaget before he travelled across the world playing live with the material from From Here We Go Sublime. Naturally, his passion for good beer went along with him and he recommended a couple of starters for us that the advanced beer enthusiast must not miss out on. Belgium is in the lead with the sweet, yet sour cherry-based Timmermans Kriek and the rather strong Delirium Tremens clocking in at 8.5% alcohol, alongside the malty Californian Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and of course a German beer made it on the list as well: the slightly bitter Jever from Friesland in Northern Germany.
The Field’s new album Yesterday and Today is out on Kompakt now.
Alexander runs ‘DiscoDust’, which is a really good blog