New Noise :: The Field, Sound of Light

Here's the thing about music that's designed to fit a purpose: It is (or at least should be) judged against Eno's Music for Airports. Above, you'll see Stockholm's Nordic Light Hotel, the core design element of which, according to its website, is the Northern Lights. And the hotel (or at least the marketing firm the hotel employs) has asked a very strange question, at least for a hotel (or at least the marketing firm the hotel employs):

What does light sound like?

"This question," the hotel's website reads, "inspired our musical concept called 'Sound of Light.' However, the idea of creating music inspired by light was only the starting point for the project. The goal was to portray our entire hotel through music but our main idea was simply to produce a far out record that made great listening. To realize this ambition we decided to invite recording artistes to interpret our hotel experience and express it by making a record. One record for each artiste, to give them the space they need to fully develop their interpretation." The first of such artists was fellow Swede Axel Willner, known to the electronic music community as The Field. In essence, Sound of Light is Music for Hotels, and, moreover, Music for the Northern Lights.

Most, if not all, of Sound of Light falls into a fairly simple pattern, endemic of most electronic musicians: Sample-hold-repeat, with bells and whistles (literally and figuratively) orbiting around the central beat of the song. However, this is an advantage, as it makes the breaking Sound of Light down into four long tracks, each clocking in at or near 15 minutes long and delineated further into particular times of day, more palatable, as Sound of Light is designed almost narratively in structure.

"Morning" kicks off with a stuttering-yet-lock-step synth-and-drum-machine groove similar to Amnesiac-era Radiohead and explodes into what could essentially be called a chorus that recalls the reverent techno of Daft Punk. My only quibble with "Morning" is that, as a narrative element, it seems mislabeled; perhaps it's just my mornings, but "Morning" is far too upbeat and caffeinated, far too sunny. Regardless, there's a gorgeous break around the eight-minute mark where the beat reverses swims against the tide; a remarkable distraction from the relentless dance groove.

"Day," narratively, is much more fitting — another unyielding high-hat beat runs throughout the song, which is accented by clicks and clacks eerily reminiscent of computer keys. The machinic pounding found later builds like a Tinkertoy Tower, eventually crushing itself under its own weight — just like a day at the office. "Evening," then, is its antithesis — playful (with synthesized female cooing) and a loping dance beat. It starts out fairly dull, actually, like background music for "upscale" mall stores such as Express. (Uhh, not that I've ever been in there.) But it, like its three companions, unfolds spectacularly, gradually adding piece upon piece (laser beam synths, hisses of static) without losing itself, ironically maintaining a skeletal minimalism. Not surprisingly, "Evening" is also the most playful — the most fun, if you will — of the four tracks, and the most likely to be found bumping in an actual danceclub.

"Night" is the most explosive, a nearly beatless song that interlopes arrythmic synth tremors and high-hats around its vast interior. Indeed, it sounds almost hollow, like the reverbed echo of a canyon in which every sound is peripheral. Because of that, it's the one that's also the most calming, like staring into a clear night sky on a crisp night.

So is listening to Sound of Light like viewing Aurora Borealis? (Or, for that matter, even staying in the hotel?) Having never seen the lights (nor been to the hotel) myself, I can't say. But I'd imagine that it'd be a breath-taking, awe-inspiring experience. Sound of Light is neither, but it's a damn fine attempt. Each of the four tracks on the EP — and to call it an EP is almost egregious, as it's a hair over an hour long (longer, even, than Music for Airports) — unfolds gorgeously, as if guided by unseen mathematics and programmed to burst into one million tiny pieces of light on a night sky. The Verdict: 7.8/10.

1 comment:

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