If I’ve learned anything from living with architects for the last four years, it’s that architecture is hard. Long ago, I also came to the realization that making music is similarly hard. That’s why The Field’s latest EP Sound of Light is especially impressive. Commissioned by the Nordic Light Hotel in Stockholm, this disc is the first in a series of similar releases that aim to answer the esoteric question, “What does light sound like?”
After a brief stay at the hotel, The Field’s sole member, Axel Willner, was asked to produce something that reflected his thoughts on the way light interacted with his surroundings in the hotel – a seemingly impossible task until you’ve seen photos of the resort. To the lay community, the Nordic Light Hotel can be best described as futuristic and minimalist. Like spending an entire week in an Apple store, much of the hotel basks in the glow of virginal white with subtle curves and underspoken lines. But the real joy of the hotel appears to be the incredible light shows in individual rooms. Guest rooms are shrouded under soft purple light while orange suns explode against the walls, the faint outline of bending chandeliers hidden by the light of floor to ceiling windows.
These visuals make Sound of Light a much more manageable project. The EP’s four tracks are made to represent four parts of the day: morning, day, evening and night. Without knowing this, the disc would sound like a diverse group of thumping, glossy IDM (intellectual dance music). However, viewing the release through this lens gives you a significantly different perception of what the songs were intended to convey.
The first of the four tracks, “Morning” is a delicate, comforting cut that rings of early morning sunlight and waking up drowsily. Nearly four minutes into the song, there’s a bright choral outburst as the sun rises into your eyesight, engulfing everything in the room. From there, the song intermittently fades between this joyous catharsis and humming electronics with a continuous thumping bass.
The second track is easily the busiest. It rides a back-and-forth one-two-one-two for its entirety. Almost laughably reminiscent of Oompa-Loompas, the track invokes images of a lively bustling hotel with its patrons passing back and forth through the halls. This is the most obvious example of The Field going beyond the initial question, also relating the music specifically to the environment.
“Evening” is almost aquatic in its encapsulation. It sounds like you’re trapped in a fishtank in the middle of rave, seemingly not unlike what it would be like in the hotel itself. The glass walls and bulbous nature of the walls and hallways seem to call for this comparison anyway. As the track progresses, it only gets more and more cavernous with gentle, hushing electronics and waves of cascading keyboards.
Sound of Light’s closer, “Night,” is easily the most diverse track. It sounds like William Basinski’s now famed The Disintegration Loops – old, analog tape loops that had disintegrated over time to create a new sonic landscape – with jumpy, syncopated snyth drones. The truly impressive lighting effects must take place at night as the spinning electronics fade in and out of being. And when “Night,” and consequently the album, winds to a close, you truly feel as if you’ve spent an entire day in a world of incoherent light beams and disorienting structures.
The only real complaint that can be made against Sound of Light is the fact it seems to lack a distinct soul. As a commissioned piece, the EP was made out of necessity rather than something inside the artist – idealistic as that may sound, it’s ultimately true. By the end of the album, you have the feel of the Nordic Light Hotel, but you’ve never really connected with the album as an artistic piece. Though no one will ever be able to say this is what light sounds like, it’s a damn good estimation.
Sound of Light