Release Date: Oct 11, 2011
Record label: Kompakt
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
The third Field album is front-loaded with two of Axel Willner's most entrancing and brawniest productions yet. Opener “Is This Power” coasts on a deep dubwise bassline, softly smacking percussion, and a fogged-out keyboard melody, its blissful stasis interrupted by a trap-door breakdown that makes way for patterns of black diamond gleam. The speedy “It’s Up There” is carried by sluicing ambient wash, firm-cushion thumps, and a twangy/plucked bass.
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.
Back in 2007, The Field’s debut album was a welcome escape. An emissary from the strange, chilly world of minimal techno, it broke comfortably into the mainstream, sitting pretty near the top of year-end lists, wreathed in blushing praise. An evocatively sparse record, it wrapped a warm, soothing blanket around even the most beat-averse listener. Now, after the generally well-received Yesterday and Today which flirted with both slow-burning pop and monstrous, escalating long-form techno, Axel Willner has returned with his third record, Looping State of Mind.
The title of the Field's third album, Looping State of Mind, might have you thinking that producer Axel Willner is getting back to basics. Especially after he strayed, with only intermittent success, from his instantly recognizable template on his 2009 sophomore record, Yesterday and Today. After all, at its simplest, techno is music that can be built with just a few loops.
The fact that The Field’s third effort is entitled Looping State of Mind isn’t particularly surprising. But what will catch one’s attention are the patterns Axel Willner creates within each song that push the record forward. These cinematic soundscapes not only allow one track to flow seamlessly into the next, but are also imbued with elements all their own—from the sparse vocal tones of “Burned Out” to the emotive piano on “Then It’s White.” .
‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ they say. But the work of Axel Willner is a musical manifesto for the kind of perfectionist who makes a habit of fixing things which appear fine to us lumpen chumps.Willner, a Swede who now lives in Berlin, was signed by German electronic label Kompakt in 2005 on the strength of a demo. Once his 2007 debut ‘[b]From Here We Go Sublime[/b]’ took flight, the ATP shows and patronage of bands including [a]LCD Soundsystem[/a] and [a]Battles[/a] followed.
The Field is a quite surprising critical darling of the European minimal techno scene, probably the most successful artist associated with Kompakt records. It might be difficult at first to recognise why Axel Willner above his peers has garnered so much attention among hipsters, because of the repetitive and seemingly undemanding nature of this genre of music – but The Field does so much more than the term “minimal techno” implies. You can listen to Looping State of Mind in two ways.
2007 was a landmark year for glassy-eyed crossover dance LPs. Kompakt itself issued two albums of their trademarked kaleidoscopic quasi-techno for the couch bound crew in Gui Boratto's Chromophobia and The Field's From Here We Go Sublime. Over on Dial, Pantha Du Prince established the cred he'd eventually cash in on last year with Black Noise with its superior predecessor, This Bliss.
As if to disregard the notion that the ever-inevitable debut album should represent a malleable template from which an artist can grow upon musically, there have been enough notable cases where audience and press alike have consistently and unfairly held each of the artist’s subsequent albums to the standards of the first. This oftentimes occurs when a debut is so well-received, enthusiasm for it can overwhelm any consideration for an artist’s desires to explore or experiment. Simply put, first albums can sometimes haunt an artist for the rest of their career, which may in fact be happening to Swedish minimal techno artist Axel Willner, better known to us as The Field.
The aptly titled Looping State of Mind more than sums up Axel Willner’s approach to beat making on his third outing as a minimalistic techno artist. Hoping to take his moniker The Field to another level, this recording is a return to looped form but with a much deeper sound. Where similar techno outfits lose their luster, drowning in repetition and length, Willner carefully layers each new track with more elements added on each passing moment.
Berlin-based Swede matches techno with dreampop on album three. Wyndham Wallace 2011 In 1993, a London-based quartet called Seefeel released their debut album, Quique – a hypnotic blend of ambient, minimal electronica, dub and the predominant indie sound of the day, shoegaze. It won the hearts of critics, if not the world at large. Eighteen years later, Swedish-born artist Axel Willner has concocted an album that mixes many of the same constituents, and this time – thanks to prevailing winds pushing shoegazing revivalists like M83 closer and closer to mainstream shores – it may find success beyond the media.