Thursday, February 22, 2007

The little heart beats so fast.

After an interesting start to the year in rock, with fantastic records thus far from Nick Cave’s new project, Grinderman, Animal Collective’s Panda Bear (inasmuch as you can call Person Pitch a rock record) and Of Montreal, I was looking for something from the world of dance music to knock me on my skinny white arse. I thought that maybe something meaty, beaty, big and bouncy might have come into my world and shaken me and my dancing feet to the very core, but that part of the musical landscape has been pretty quiet as of late.

There has been a few very good 12s hitting the shops as of late, most notably from Manchester’s Trusme (‘Brown’s’ on Still Love Music) and the hook-up between Steve Kotey and the Blockheads’ Chas Jankel on a sterling, discocentric cover of Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Sooner Or Later’ (every home should have one of these, seriously), but nothing much happening on the album front. Then, something happened.

Something happened that I’d had a nagging feeling would never happen again, at least not for a while and left me slapping my forehead thinking, “Of course! Why didn’t I see this coming?!”. A new, upcoming Kompakt release landed in my lap that wasn’t completely and utterly boring. A Kompakt release, very much in the realm of minimal techno, might I add, that didn’t totally suck arse (or for that matter, disappear up its own within the first few minutes) and wasn’t one of its many, admittedly pretty fine compilation albums. A Kompakt release of heart-stopping exquisiteness that should make everyone remember why they fell in love with the increasingly staid (despite that curveball from Partial Arts last month) German label. That’s right, The Field are releasing an album that is a serious early contender for the best album of 2007.

The Field are an act whose virtues I have extolled at length on these very pages in the past, which is why I shouldn’t have been surprised, but there was always a doubt in my mind that The Field’s love of repetition would bore over the course of a full-length. All misgivings, however, were assuaged within the first listen to From Here We Go Sublime (an apposite title, if ever there was one), as The Field’s intrinsic flair for the surprising and unforeseen.

Essentially, The Field pull the same trick ten times over on their debut album, but, as always with their work, the devil is in the details. Rather than taking the Villalobos tack of stretching the track out to the point where the rhythm and the melody become almost ingrained, as if you’re breathing them, The Field choose to lull the listener into a false sense of security before pulling the rug at the precise point where the listener feels comfortable and it’s a ploy that always works by virtue of their adroitness in this technique. The coup de grace is often something as simple as pitching the track up or adding another, as yet unheard layer, but it always, without fail, induces a sense of euphoria that’s sorely lacking in most minimal techno recently.

For instance, the gorgeous ‘Sun And Ice’, from last year’s EP of the same name and also present here, flies ever upwards into the ether, its spinning, cyclical rhythm whooshing around your head. Then, right when you’re soaring along with the track, at the 4:46 mark, you hit an air pocket. There’s a crunch of static for a couple of seconds and a tangible sense of panic hits you square in the face before the track kicks back in, only it’s not quite the same as it was before. It sounds wounded and shaken up and the micro-bass thud is more timid than it was previously, as if your heartbeat has slowed. It’s extraordinary.

Similarly, there’s a surprise towards the end of the longest, most gratifyingly drawn-out track here, ‘The Deal’, which I don’t want to enlighten you on, in case I spoil it for you, but it will tingle your spine, each and every time. Also, as anyone who already has the Sun And Ice EP will know, ‘Over The Ice’ doesn’t even need to do that much to take you aback other than gently shift tone and pitch as it flits across the tundra.

I won’t say much more, as it will just descend into gushing hyperbole (as if it hasn’t already), but it is seriously refreshing to hear an artist on Kompakt intent on making delightful, soulful, beautiful music from the tiniest of elements, like blowing glass from grains of sand again, rather than just making everything so small and insignificant that even they lose sight of it, never mind the listener. From Here We Go Sublime is a triumph of widescreen proportions.


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