Hypnotic, mesmerizing, entrancing, spell-binding... All words wildly growing in popularity to describe a large number of buzz-addled genres and artists as of late. It would seem that the loop is finally having its day in the sun; tastemakers across the board, as well as an increasing portion of the music-hungry public, have learned to accept and enjoy artful repetition and the musical styles that utilize its power. Longtime lovers of dance and electronic music may very well be skeptical of this potentially dubious trend, but DJs and producers around the world are no doubt pleased that their work is finally reaching a wider and more welcoming audience than ever before. So, what better time than now for one of this generation's foremost authorities on the art of the loop, Swedish-born producer Axel Willner (a.k.a. The Field), to release a new record built around the transportive nature of micro-samples, techno, and ambient music—and call it Looping State of Mind, no less.
After a number of less-than-lovable moments populated 2009's Yesterday and Today, some may view Willner's latest LP as a return to form, as he makes deft use of enveloping soundscapes and overpowering grooves similar to those that made his debut record, From Here We Go Sublime, so, well, sublime. The notion isn't exactly incorrect, but, to put it more accurately, Looping State of Mind is both an homage to The Field's early work as well as a leap forward for his sound. The live instrumentation—comprised of mostly bass and drums—that was first experimented with in 2009 has been honed to a point of near perfection on cuts like "It's Up There," "Burned Out," and the centerpiece title track. Basslines jump, skip, and repeat to no end underneath the swirling milieu of audio fragments, tethering each of the tunes' subtle nuances to a melodic anchor, albeit an anchor that shifts ever so slightly with the flow of the music. And the drums? Well, their driving rhythms seem to exist as yet another layer in the dense orchestration of these compositions. The beats are certainly locomotive, but more often than not sound like a tool used to accent the qualities of the main attraction, Willner's handcrafted loops.
Despite the wealth of propulsive power and, yes, hypnotic energy available on Looping State of Mind, it's the relatively drifty and deeply emotional "Then It's White" that ultimately steals the show. On it, The Field masterfully harnesses his ability to apply 10 seconds of sound—in this case, a gorgeous piano melody wrapped in disembodied vocal coos—across lengthy songs, resulting in transformative effects far greater than the sum of their parts. It's music like this that speaks volumes for the power of the loop. Somewhere within these selected clips of audio lie musical and maybe even spiritual qualities that can be extracted through proper applications by knowledgeable hands. Two of those hands definitely belong to The Field, and Looping State of Mind might just be the finest document of his craft yet.