The Field: Looping State of Mind

Clearly, The Field's Axel Wilner is concerned less with album cover design than with fashioning deeply hypnotic instrumentals powered by oft-Balearic house grooves. Whereas Looping State of Mind's cover might have taken all of five minutes to produce, its sixty-four minutes of music suggest that a considerable investment of time and energy went into its production (the new release finds Wilner joined by Jesper Skarin on drums and Jorg Burger behind the mixing desk). It's another impressive collection of chill-out entrancement from the Swedish producer, and matches strength-for-strength The Field's debut full-length, 2007's From Here We Go Sublime, and, perhaps more critically, betters the slightly less satisfying sophomore effort, 2009's Yesterday & Today. It's not so much that Wilner's radically overhauled the basic concept of The Field, as the new release once again presents us with loop-based, wall-of-sound constructions built up from washes of guitars, vocals, synths, and drums, so much as that he's refined it.

If there's one world to characterize Looping State of Mind, it's propulsion. Much of it pushes forward with relentless drive, starting with the opener, “Is This Power,” which veritably bolts from the gate as if desperately needing to release pent-up energy. The thick synthetic blanket cloaking the material can't arrest the forward momentum of the track's pulsating bass line and hi-hat-charged drum pattern, and, in a brillant move, Wilner briefly strips down that opening, giving even more prominence to a simple funk bass motif, before a headrush of ensemble sound floods back in to elevate the music to an even more ecstatic plane. The see-sawing chords and wide-screen synthetic design help give “It's Up There” a panoramic scope, but it's the gradually building intensity of its attack that most helps it achieve liftoff. Rhythmically, the tune transcends any one style, even if one hears elements of trance, house, and techno within its jacking funk pulse, but the masterstroke arrives during the track's second half when the surrounding elements drop away and the rhythm section cuts lose. It's at such moments that the album's live feel comes to the fore, and when it does Looping State of Mind strikes a deft balance between live playing and programming.

Elsewhere, The Field's psychedelic side emerges most conspicuously during “Burned Out” when indecipherable vocals extricate themselves from the gauzy mass of churning guitars and drums. Repetition and slow-build enhance the euphoric house pulse of “Arpeggiated Love,” which, bolstered by a swirl of blurry vocals (an “I love you” mantra at its core) and a tinkly piano, roars with serene effervescence for eleven minutes. In contrast to the euphoric tone of the album as a whole, “Then It's White” opts for a slower and more plaintive mood, in large put due to the soothing piano motif and near-subliminal vocal murmur Wilner places at the song's core. Whether or not Wilner's a brilliant conceptualist may be open to debate, but there's little question that moments of brilliance do definitely arise during the album. Its hypnotic quality is, of course, enhanced by the generous track lengths, with each of the seven falling within a seven- to eleven-minute running time, and if ever a recording demanded peak volume for its music to be experienced properly, Looping State of Mind is definitely it .

November 2011