Music

The Field: Looping State of Mind

Looping State of Mind, another record of top-tier maximalist minimalism, vaults the Field's Axel Willner from burgeoning, brilliant protégé to titan in one fell swoop.


The Field

Looping State of Mind

Label: Kompakt
US Release Date: 2011-10-11
Uk Release Date: 2011-10-10
Amazon
iTunes

Another two years, another off-white slab of top-tier maximalist minimalism from Axel Willner, who began the Field in 2005 as an extroverted take on Kompakt’s ambient techno of the day. In a certain way, Looping State of Mind is a reliable repetition in Willner’s career, much like the loop itself, which has represented the Field’s most fundamental form of expression. In techno, and certainly in the Field’s case, the loop provides an illusion of unbridled continuity, which allows the listener to relax -- on the dancefloor, or on the bus ride home -- and give in to the groove. Willner understands, however, that the loops must develop to remain engaging; their progression seems to work on the part of the brain that doesn’t pay outright attention, but still notices the changes happening. Such is the case, also, for whole albums in an artist’s oeuvre, and Willner knows it.

You find these changes in the Field’s latest opus: songs slowly expanding, melodies subtly becoming more advanced, the volume growing more forceful by the minute. It’s apparent, too, that Willner has gotten defter at making his developments sound natural. Yet what strikes me is how Looping State of Mind feels so essentially like the work of the Field and no one else, even as he renders it a different animal by intention. Initially a solo flyer, Willner gained a band -- Dan Endqvist and multi-instrumentalist Andreas Söderstrom -- and moved from his native Stockholm to Berlin to record his second album, Yesterday and Today. For Looping State of Mind, he replaced Söderstrom with a drummer, Jesper Skarin, pushed vocal samples into the foreground, added acoustic instruments like double-bass, and recorded it all with the embarrassment of riches in Kompakt’s Cologne studio. To offset these switches and upgrades, Willner claims that some of the album’s core ideas date back to his debut full-length, and that sounds like the truth to me.

This three-piece seems far more comfortable than the one on Yesterday and Today, which sometimes crammed itself into the ears, and ambient heavy-hitter Jörg Burger mixes the record with sensuality and boldness as top priorities. As a result, each song is a gorgeously flowing sound field, filled with so many creative sonic gems that mere words fail laughably to describe them. Nonetheless, I’ll try. “Is This Power” rides a beefy synth-and-bass-laden groove for almost nine minutes without flagging, but the next track, “It’s Up There”, practically screams ambition. It is -- it must be said -- about as close to perfection as the Field has ever come, starting as an arousing Seefeel-esque loop over compressed kicks and pumps, and then flourishing into an anthemic dance number for the sophisticated Europhilic crowd. “Burned Out” builds its loop from a 1980s-R&B guitar pluck, somehow blended beautifully with choir “aahs” and a New Wave vocalist trying to be heard over worn-out tape. The title track, meanwhile, is a percussive delight, where Willner and drummer Skarin bring Western and non-Western drumming into a communicative dance.

Willner tips his hat to mentor -- and then admirer -- Wolfgang Voigt more than once, and not just in the kick drums. Two elements from Voigt’s Gas project reappear in “Arpeggiated Love”: the inflating trombone from “Funf” and the ringing guitar-based bell in “Pop 4”, winking at each other from within the same song. And the sultry finale, “Sweet Slow Baby”, re-imagines Gas’s starry, off-balance early recordings for the 21st century. Yet for every nod toward his obvious forebears, there’s something that points to Willner’s individual growth. “Then It’s White”, with its ghostly moans and raw acoustic piano in an emotionally naked atmosphere, takes an idea promulgated by British experimentalist Robin Storey and crafts it into the Field's own circular creation. It seems almost sacrilegious, but the ears don’t lie: From Here We Go Sublime, universally lauded as one of the 2000’s best albums, sounds thin and just a little bit empty next to Looping State of Mind. It’s the album that vaults him from burgeoning, brilliant protégé to titan in one fell swoop, and it hints at even greater things to come as he continues down the path of total artistic realization.

9


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.