Review Summary: Something dark, something light, something right
Intentional or otherwise, Axel Willner’s body of work as The Field has instilled the idea that change doesn’t always need to be that noticeable to be meaningful. We can see this not only in his progression as an artist, with the slow evolution of his sound in the decade since his debut LP (this even lines up with the minimal tonal shifts in album art), but even more so within each of his individual song constructions. The Field threads a hypnotic brand of long form dance tracks that take many of the basic tenets of techno – deeply repetitive rhythms, the slow drip feed of new motifs and an unwavering beat – and amplifies them to their natural limits. Willner’s formula involves a precise slicing and collaging of glistening samples to be looped for extended lengths with limited variation, suspending us between each beat until something new does eventually come – and in his best moments, the smallest of these changes can feel
monumental by simply breaking up that ingrained flow and giving us something new to lose ourselves in. On the surface, Infinite Moment
is in many ways as we’d expect: more a refinement of that formula than an overhaul – another entry in a growing series of polite middle fingers to anyone bored with his style and a warm embrace for those who can’t get enough.
That said, those who fall into the camp of the former might still be surprised with what Willner serves up with his latest offering, a decidedly nuanced album that feels steeped in the sense of duality that permeates The Field’s preceding work, right down to the contrast in the cream and charcoal hues that adorn their covers. Indeed, Infinite Moment
is another in the series of “dark” albums (and presumably the last), but Willner makes a stringent point not to limit it as such. Cupid’s Head
and The Follower
, the others in this series, were both teeming with this sense of tight, claustrophobic urgency that is much harder to find here; it’s instead as if Willner has taken a pin roller to these tracks, flattening and stretching them to give more space to breathe, explore and find their own way to the light. Even at its gloomiest, in the slow burning “Made of Steel. Made of Stone,” he spends many minutes assimilating what seems like a sort of death march, only to eventually start rolling back the threat – not by dialing down its motorized intensity, but by slowly layering in brighter sampling and instrumentation to prop it back up again. It’s quite a delicate touch – a very subtle means of shifting mood that Willner has only gotten better at over the years – and it does well here to introduce an album that, in the end, seems to have much more to do with feelings of hope than despair.
After the opener eventually finds peaceful resolve, we continue to see a recurrence of darkness being muddled up with the light – but Willner makes less of an effort to obscure which is more important to the album. This feels clearly outlined in the tangled, murky loops that initially define “Something Left, Something Right, Something Wrong” as frantic and confused, wherein those feelings eventually become nothing more than distant memories, their sense of unease quietly swept up by a wave of warm bass and soothing hi-hats. “Divide Now” immediately struck me as a sort of spiritual successor to “Is This Power” (from Looping State of Mind
), once its skittering synths eventually break apart and send what was already a total body mover of a track soaring into something wholly sublime. It certainly bears the same confidence and intensity of its precursor too, but Willner completely reverses its tone, allowing it to exude a degree of calm elegance in place of imposing threat.
When I first heard Infinite Moment
, I wasn’t anticipating the flurry of lines I’d begin to draw to The Field’s prior work, but the more I listen, the harder I find it not
to. The album is invariably linked to his past – beyond being a mere continuation his style – and it could be telling of his future as well. When From Here We Go Sublime
closed out in the final moments of its title track, an unsettling, jagged ending to an otherwise meditative experience, it foretold a future where a sense of moody psychedelia would begin to slowly inject itself into Willner’s typically crystalline sound. “Infinite Moment” is the cathartic finish line to all the developments of that sound that came in between, its aggressive sear of dizzying synth pulses capping off more than the album, but also what will perhaps be considered another era for The Field. What comes next is up to him, so we can only hope that when he does pick up the formula again to make some changes, large or small, they continue to be as meaningful as they are here.