The Field Electric Owl, Vancouver, BC November 5
Published Nov 06, 2011The sold-out show for the Field's return to Vancouver made for cramped quarters and high expectations at the Electric Owl Saturday night. The new venue, recently renovated from the decaying American Hotel, provided a great backdrop for the minimal techno of the night, including exposed brick and a sleek, clean layout that lent the venue an underground warehouse feel.
Though the Field's albums are mostly the solo work of Sweden's Axel Willner, he's always tried to incorporate live instrumentation into his live show to help flesh out the performance. Tonight, he was flanked by a drummer and bass player, while Willner mainly stuck with his sampler and a synth.
What makes the Field's records so great to listen to at home, despite how dance floor orientated they seem to be, are the slowly unfurling layers of samples that build into a transcendent ecstasy, making for some great headphone music. Sadly, those subtle nuances in the music were almost entirely washed out by the intensity of the drummer, whose over-the-top drumming took centrestage. While the crowd closest to the stage took to the rhythmic, cymbal-heavy drumming and didn't seem bothered by the lack of definition in the music, the fans near the back struggled to get into it.
But the overbearing mix of the drums was only part of the problem, with the other half belonging to the extended pacing of the tracks, many of which were culled from the Field's debut, From Here We Go Sublime. The build towards crescendos that Willner has become synonymous with were tediously drawn out, resulting in half the crowd expectedly checking their phones or carrying on conversations with little more than polite head nodding.
While the Field has always appealed to both kinds of fans of electronic music, those there to absorb and those there to dance, the former were let down with the lack of texture that make his albums so much more than mere dance music. A live mix catering to both fans would've resulted in a better show for both audiences.