Release Date: Oct 1, 2013
Record label: Kompakt
Genre(s): Electronic, Techno, Club/Dance, Experimental Techno, Ambient Techno
Everything changes, but Axel Willner stays the same. Since the Swedish producer's debut LP as the Field, 2007's techno-pop landmark From Here We Go Sublime, Willner has patiently augmented the project's sound with each successive release, adding subtle touches that are significant in scope and texture. He operates with a workmanlike consistency, putting out an album about every two years, each with nearly identical packaging—two lines of artfully scribbled text on a beige background.
There is a bold, immediately noticeable change for the forth album from Swedish producer Axel Willner. For his first three records, the artwork was the same – a white/cream background with two scrawled scraps of information. Firstly, his moniker “The Field” and secondly, the album’s title. This time, the white has turned to jet black.
For the past six years, whenever a new record by Axel Willner hits the streets, I usually approach it in the most reserved and skeptic way. “Oh, here we go again,” I’m thinking, “an hour of the same repeating loops. Why would these loops be any better this time, and why is it the Field that does it best?” But as I place my trust into the hands of Kompakt, the doubting cynic slowly starts to fade away.
With each release, Axel Willner approaches a blank canvas with confidence in the end result without concerning himself with the process. He lets the rational norms of creating dictate the outcome, albeit with some workmanlike precision, hoping that it eventually manifests some kind of meaning. There’s never any discussions about subject matter except for how little we can interpret from the titles of each of his full-lengths - the emotional effect of reaching the divine in From Here We Go Sublime, how the present invariably becomes the past in Yesterday and Today, and the dizzying effects of repetition in Looping State of Mind.
Fans get really nervous when a beloved artist admits to having struggled with his latest work. In press releases and interviews leading up to Cupid's Head, Swedish producer Axel Willner—known these last eight years mostly as the Field—spoke of the "awkward" difficulty of sitting down and getting to work on his fourth album. He mentioned the pressure of producing the record after the popular and critical success of his first three, and the hectic touring schedule of the previous two years.According to him, it all began to come together when he finished his first compelling loop, which would go on to form the basis of "No.
The Field‘s Axel Willner has suggested that the six mostly very long pieces on Cupid’s Head emerged from an inspirational drought that only ended when he created the loop that eventually became No. No… here. Anyone unfamiliar with the nuances behind Willner’s sometimes foreboding music might be forgiven for missing this supposedly radical change of direction, but the disembodied vocal samples and drifting, melancholy pacing do represent something of a shift for The Field.
At this point in his career, it's safe to say that Axel Willner is sticking to this "looping" thing. With three albums as the Field and one under the moniker Loops of Your Heart, Willner has exorcised transitory, hypnotic sound loops in order to create his idiosyncratic version of microhouse. After flirting with live instrumentation on 2011's Looping State of Mind, Willner wrote and recorded his latest Field recording, Cupid's Head, using only sampling hardware.
Keep the font. Keep the average song length. Keep the looping state of mind. Cue the transition from soft beige to grimace-gray. So progresses The Field. The man behind the moniker, Axel Willner, recently explained in an interview that making his music “is a bit like making a risotto. You stir ….
Swedish producer Axel Willner's combination of house beats and heavenly ambience always had a way of slipping into the background – a sound pulsing enough to dance to but sometimes more effective as a study aid. His fourth LP is darker, but, more important, it's rougher, working wrinkles and jagged edges into music that used to feel almost too smooth to grab on to. The album unfolds with patient intensity, peaking with the gorgeous "No.
Axel Willner said that when he went into the lab to make his fourth album as the Field, he felt he "had nothing." Eventually a loop materialized, and he pushed, pulled, and embellished it into an ominous and flickering nine-minute track titled "No. No…" And then, suddenly inspired, he went about knocking out another hour-long set of trance-y techno informed by dream pop and dub, albeit by himself and with nothing but hardware at his disposal. The black on black sleeve and album title, as well as some of the track titles, point toward a darker mood, but it's not as if the first three Field albums are all sunshine rays -- far from it -- and it's not as if Cupid's Head is dominated by unrelenting bleakness.
opinion byDORIAN MENDOZA For the past six years and change, Swedish electronic producer Axel Willner has been building his reputation as an electro wizard under the moniker The Field, engineering some of the best ambient pop to come out of Europe. Standout albums like Looping State of Mind and Yesterday and Today were bright external efforts with guest musicians, adapting sound from pop to shoegaze for sunny, dance flavored meditations all the while staying in sight of krautrock and classic minimalism roots. His fourth full length comes pulsing through the heavens as Cupid’s Head, a noticeably darker and more synthesized effort than anything that's come before, but it's still as accomplished in its encompassing and palpable grind though the space and time of electronic and loop experimentation.
Looping State Of Mind, Axel Wilner’s 2011 album as The Field, saw him take his moniker almost literally, his hallmark short repetitions of samples and chords around Kompakt percussion creating bright, clear, pastoral tracks. In a way, it was like early Susumu Yokota having a sit down with M83 – which is interesting because his latest album, Cupid’s Head, sounds more like Yokota’s later, often starker Laputa, combined with the thick whorls of Andy Stott. It’s a promising notion that raises questions about how The Field – a project built on certain careful notions of repetition and predictability – could now apply these to a more dramatic voice.