The Field, "Looping State of Mind"

Saturday, 22 October 2011 21:00 Stephen Bush Reviews - Albums and Singles
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cover imageAmid a string of releases from Kompakt this fall—including Total 12 and albums from Gui Boratto and Walls—comes the label's crown jewel of 2011, Axel Willner's third full-length as the Field. Looping State of Mind holds up to Willner's impressive back catalog, and features several of his most fully realized songs to date.

Kompakt

Like many Kompakt fans riding the minimal techno label's wave of hype in the mid 2000s, I was a bit burned out by 2007. Kompakt hadn't put out a record I'd truly clung to since Superpitcher's moody mix CD, Today, in summer 2005. Total 6 passed by my ears without fanfare. It was a welcome wake-up call, then, to stumble into Axel Willner's debut as the Field in spring 2007, a slow-burning compilation of previously-released singles alongside a handful of new tracks. From Here We Go Sublime was full of trance-inducing rhythms, nodding toward house and techno as much as ambient; samples of Kate Bush, Lionel Richie and the Flamingos that were recognizable but highly reconfigured; and a rhythmic pulse that didn’t cater to the dance floor so much as the human heart.

Four years later, now on his third album, Willner's music remains as distinctive as when he made appearances on Total 6 and Pop Ambient 2007. Looping State of Mind brings Willner's sound into a state of further refinement, recalling his past work while gently pushing into new territory. For instance, "Is This Power" opens with a skipping sample that soon falls into place with the song's rhythm, which is augmented by a bouncy bass line reminiscent of New Order and imperfect, live drums. (Willner plays live with a full band, so it's refreshing to hear that incorporated into his studio work on occasion.) The album's title is a reflection of Willner's working method: Looping State of Mind is built on—you guessed it—loops, and my enjoyment of each track often lives or dies by the loop at hand, especially when each borders on 10 minutes of repetition. One track ("Then It's White") falls flat under its heavy-handed piano chords, while the rest are effortlessly listenable—not a bad batting average.

Looping State of Mind builds to its twin peaks with "Arpeggiated Love" and the title track. The former radiates with slow-building beauty as Willner patiently weaves layers of sound together: chimes, twinkles, echoing voices, and hazy drone over a relentlessly thumping beat. Not to be outdone, "Looping State of Mind" leans toward vintage shoegaze as much as techno or trance, evolving into a massive slice of blurry, smeared dance music that plays like a sedated cousin of the Chemical Brothers' "Swoon," from 2010's secretly excellent Further. These two tracks are on par with the Field's best work over the years—the angel-sigh vocals of "Kappsta," the high-BPM oscillations of "Everday" and "Over the Ice," the propulsive ecstasy of "Leave It." Listened to in full, Looping State of Mind is Kompakt's best release this year, and a fine addition to Willner's body of work.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 06 November 2011 13:49