What does the music that Axel Willner makes as The Field want once it has been made? An odd question almost certainly, but one of the answers to it seems to me to be that it wants to go on forever, to become infinite. Made of so many loops, in its essence it desires to be looped and from so many snippets with beginning and ending to become without beginning or end. To become a line without endpoints, rising and falling in a direction without destination, paradoxically doing away with direction as it always ends up where it was and where it will be. It would become a world that is a trip that never concludes.
It has been and will be said that Looping State of Mind is something like a merging of the first two records by The Field – From Here We Go Sublime and Yesterday and Today – and while I find it difficult to wholly disagree with the observation, there is also a sense in which this record has moved beyond the strategies of tension and release that for the most part pervade these records and the incorporation of influences from beyond techno is much more fully realized here. As the title suggests, the loop is still paramount, but what is done with the loops and how they are situated with Dan Enqvist’s bass playing and Jesper Skarin’s drumming delineate a transformation.
The bass is especially conspicuous, setting out a different, rolling trajectory within the layers of loops. This is clear from the beginning: “Is This Power” flows and floats along the course of the thick, globular pulses of bass, seeming to move at multiple speeds that resolve in a sort of stillness, all landmarks obscured beneath the density of its humid atmospheres. Tension is not built steadily to reach toward a point of release, but accumulates and disintegrates in micro-cycles that never really register but keep you hovering on a plane of rampant imagination.
Elsewhere, old tactics appear. The tightly wound “It’s Up There” and “Arpeggiated Love” have the most in common with From Here We Go Sublime, spiralling out in ever bigger circles around their loops, pitching up the sense of being on a rollercoaster that has gone ecstatically out of control and thrown before and after out of whack, the images of the latter preceding the former and both swallowing up the present in their rapid flow. When “Arpeggiated” reaches a break, it sounds like there is someone howling, “I am gay” from out of a void. It’s odd and pleasant. But not as pleasant as the spaciousness of standouts “Burned Out” and “Looping State of Mind,” redolent of sea and sky, sand and sunlight, expanses endless to the eye. “Looping” tumbles a Balearic groove over widescreen drones, pushing toward a payoff of fizzing synthesizer lines that always remind me of the wind-down of Chromatics’ “In the City,” as if it slipped in from the room next door.
Two of the most sedate recordings released by The Field close out “Looping” in a state of repetitive melancholy euphoria, pushing toward those inner plateaus revolving through Wolfgang Voigt’s records as Gas. Though, “Then It’s White” has as its core a looped piano figure and “Sweet Slow Baby” cycles on a percussive snippet of sound, and each moves more towards a beautiful cosmic fever dream of the walls between oneself and the world breaking down. It is not a record – I doubt any record by The Field will ever be – for those not looking to go sublime and the Kosmische influences hinted at on Yesterday and Today are provided with much stronger footing here, aiding and abetting escalation.
Like the loop itself, The Field’s music circles but continues to go someplace new. I have to admit to not having expected much from this record, or not knowing it was about time for a new record from Willner, and being forcibly reminded of it from the moment I sat down with it, turned off my mind and, well, floated downstream.
Gas – Pop
Four Tet – There is Love in You
Michael Mayer – Immer
Stream: The Field – “Then It’s White”