Much has already been made of Axel Wilner’s debut on Kompakt. I think it lives up to the hype. It’s anthemic, trancey, spacious, blissful, sublime, all that. It’s also really clever. Wilner manipulates his sampled material with sly humility, placing pared-down, reverbed vocal bits underneath capacious, throbbing synths. An orthodox 4/4 kick gives just the right foundation for his sundry trance-mogrified loops held in lockstep for so long that they move from maddening to hypnotic. Wilner capitalizes masterfully on the mental torpor he induces by letting the samples finally unfurl into full phrases, eschewing conventional trance maneuvers to achieve the genre’s goals through craft rather than climax. Genre purists may be annoyed by Wilner’s guile, but the approach is sure to lure neophytes (especially with the buzz he’s been getting since the record dropped).
Girl Talk and The Avalanches (and in the opposite direction, Matthew Herbert) bring the legal and artistic issues intrinsic to sampling to the fore with their forthright snatch-n-scramble production techniques. I’m a fan of them all, but it’s a real pleasure to hear music from someone whose approach to sampling is quite different. Wilner’s talent lies in revealing the abundance of music locked inside even the smallest fractions of extant recordings. His successful excision and underscoring of milliseconds of existing works makes you realize that one song can contain the splinters of a thousand others. That’s the revelatory aspect of Wilner’s work for me, what lends his gorgeous aerial tableaux an aspect of the sublime.