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06Reflecting Lights

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Songs We Love: The Field, 'Reflecting Lights'

Songs We Love: The Field, 'Reflecting Lights'

06Reflecting Lights

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    Song
    Reflecting Lights
    Album
    The Follower
    Artist
    The Field
    Label
    Kompakt
    Released
    2016

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Axel Willner, also known as The Field Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Axel Willner, also known as The Field

Courtesy of the artist

The Follower (Kompakt 2016) Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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When Swedish producer Axel Willner burst onto the electronic music scene in 2005-06 under the name The Field, it was easy to understand the widespread adoration he received. Here was an artist in love with repetition — not just the rhythmic power of dance music, but also its trance-like harmonic reiterations — whose ornate loops conveyed a great romantic's melodic sense, while unfolding with maximum volume and intensity. Willner's music appealed not just to folks who enjoyed certain kinds of minimal club sounds then in-vogue, but to many rock fans as well: The Field was filed next to new electronic shoegazers, such as M83 and Ulrich Schnauss, though Willner's allegiance to Cologne's beloved techno imprint Kompakt Records made clear where he thought his bread was buttered.

A decade on, after four critically adored albums and remixes for aesthetically simpatico artists on the electronic/rock/pop divide (Thom Yorke, Junior Boys, Tame Impala and Interpol, among others), that vision has remained steadfast, and has, in turn, garnered Willner an impressively hardcore audience. The Follower, The Field's fifth full-length, retains an unwavering focus: its kick-drums are consistent, its synthesizer arpeggios are trippy, its breaks are manageable, and its melodies just sweet enough to attract a sensible ear. For the most part, The Follower is a familiar ride on an ultra-sleek bullet train, each track gracefully unfolding for seven, eight, nine minutes, hitting its stations right on time. Until the final stop.

"Reflecting Lights" is a multi-part, 14-minute piece on which something odd happens to The Field's music, something akin to relaxed contemplation, one that encompasses a playfulness many longtime listeners may have never guessed Willner had in him. It opens with the sound of forest birds and brittle percussion trying to find a motorik groove soon, before unfolding as a wonderful homage to an ambient daydream, floating along at 84 beats per minute, its lonesome keyboards harkening back to soulful kosmiche titans like Kraftwerk and Harmonia. Around the seven-minute mark the groove simmers down for a moment, and is then suddenly replaced by a percussive loop of a single, harmonic stab (think a roughly banged piano chord) around which a completely different kind of psychic terrain rises. The music's tempo and the soft melodies the synths carry remain the same — but what had been a song of introspection is now one of worry, the echoes and filters and textural cross-currents all churning turmoil.

Taken as a whole, "Reflecting Lights" seems like a literal exchange between the two sides of The Field's music, the ethereal and the dramatic. After years of piling them atop one another, Willner has placed them side-by-side. Maybe a decade into specifically interpreting his sonic reflections, he is letting his gaze and subconscious wander a bit more. It's a soft wonder to behold.

The Follower is out on April 1 on Kompakt.

Purchase Featured Music

The Follower

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
The Follower
Artist
The Field
Label
Kompakt
Released
2016

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

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