I initially thought The Stranger may have overdone it with our coverage of this show (see this, that, and the other). But after witnessing it, I think we gave it exactly the amount of ink/webspace it merited.
On the way to Nectar, I heard the Field’s “Yesterday and Today” on KEXP—an auspicious omen. I arrived at the club while DJ Nordic Soul was airing out a cluster of Modeselektor and Moderat cuts and the place was, uh, moderately full. When the stoic Swedes in the Field took the stage, Nectar’s patio emptied and the floor became surprisingly packed for a non-rock show on a Monday night.
The Field began with several minutes of muffled, implied beats and increasingly billowing tension, which never quite reached the release I was hoping for (I think it may have been “Yesterday and Today” sans Stanier’s drumming or something from one of the Pop Ambient comps; anybody?). They followed that with a hypnotic, Chain Reactionary dub-techno spangle of “Leave It.” So far, so understated. Then the Field bust into lubricious disco throb of “The Little Heart Beats So Fast,” with its artfully arrayed stuttered “uh”s, and even the bartenders started to dance—and not facetiously, either. The track struck a perfect balance between exertion and exultation. From that refreshing blast, they segued into “The More That I Do,” whose brash, buoyant cascading guitars and synths induced waves of joy. The bliss just kept on coming with “Over the Ice,” in which Field general Axel Willner morphed human phonemes into gull cries. When the track broke down into just the bass line, it elicited ecstatic cheers from the crowd, which seemed near capacity by this point.
The Field ended their set, cleverly enough, with “Good Things End.” Ascending gray synth spirals and rippling bass tones lent industrial texture to the rhythm while Willner looped murmurs into a susurrant mantra. My only complaint: The Field’s set needed to be louder. This music should totally envelop the house. I’m not asking for My Bloody Valentine-esque volume levels, but the sound man wasn’t doing justice to the Field’s swarming shoegazetronica (sorry). We were merely buffeted when complete immersion was called for.
I have no volume quibbles with the Juan Maclean’s performance. They sounded damned potent. Bolstered by Nancy Whang on vocals, Jerry Fuchs on drums, and Nicholas Milhiser on keyboards, John Maclean multi-tasked with panache on synth, Theremin, cowbell, and other percussion toys. They charged out of the gate with the hugely impressive prog disco of “The Simple Life,” its curvaceous Theremin motif and eerily bleeping keyboards seductive as a motherfucker. The Juan Maclean also sashayed through the glossy electro funk of “The Station,” strutted through the sternly hedonistic “Give Me Every Little Thing,” shimmied through “One Day,” and bang-bang-boogied through the emphatic disco of “No Time” (Human League “Being Boiled” homage acknowledged). We were saddened by robotic wiggler “The Future Will Come”’s absence, but, honestly, that was negated by “Happy House,” whose climax was no less shattering just because it was expected. Extended to 22 minutes (up from the LP's 12:26), “Happy House” (the Juan Maclean’s best song) built from peak to peak, downshifted for a minute, and then climbed to yet higher and higher peaks. For one stretch, it seemed as if the group members were channeling the relentless, acidic 303 fibrillations as heard on many a ’90s trance-techno release by the German label Harthouse. The entire 22 minutes of it were fucking incredible, an epic display of dance-music dynamics that even ADHD sufferers probably hated to see end.
The show should’ve finished there, so we could've all floated home powered by the euphoria “Happy House” had instilled. But in the rapturous afterglow, Stranger tech guru Briango griped about the Juan Maclean not doing “Tonight,” his favorite cut off The Future Will Come. Somehow, from backstage, the band heard him and returned to perform that romance-infused disco number. Never underestimate the persuasive powers of Briango.