LOOPING STATE OF MIND
chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb + tech•no \tek-nõ\ n
Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine.
In Axel Willner’s world, repetition is a very good thing. He started hypnotizing fans with his ambient techno meditations as the Field on 2007’s From Here We Go Sublime, which even landed in Pitchfork’s top albums of the 2000s. From then on, he’s embraced techno’s simplistic formula of a few moving parts, expertly arranged and then left to shine, relatively unaltered for marathon runs stretching well over the five-minute mark.
In that sense, nothing’s changed here. Willner’s looping bliss burns long and slow across all seven tracks on Looping State of Mind. Muted-beat pistons still chug inside a musical frame airbrushed with a synth-based pop sheen. On his previous output, this gave his tracks a vaguely trance-like drive. That model carried him through 2009’s Yesterday and Today, but with mixed results. Instead of opting for another tune-up, Willner has traded in on this latest. Now he’s cruising along with the top back, opting for breezy Balearic textures and more leisurely tempos, as he has on “Burned Out.”
Set opener “Is this Power” also reflects these years on the road, literally. A touring schedule that has seen Willner sharing the stage with acts like !!! and LCD Soundsystem has left its mark. Live bass pops and rolling drum fills provide more prominent examples of the indie cred he’s always enjoyed. It’s as if the more traditional songwriting structure of punk-funkers the Rapture were stripped down to its bare elements, sampled, looped and built back up with the Field’s expert keys and deep atmospherics.
The title track offers the most succinct example of Willner’s sonic shift. It still charges forth with his signature euphoria, but in less of a hurry. Bursts of bass repeat over the chatter of guitars and the rattle and click of a Plastikman-style techno beat. Before, it seemed as if Willner was expressly trying to find a perfect synergy of techno and indie-pop. Here, he’s no longer trying.
—Joshua P. Ferguson
DOWNLOAD: The Field "Then It's White" | 256 mp3