Swedish musician Alex Willner has been recording as the Field since 2005. The Field’s 2007 debut, From Here We Go Sublime, was built upon loops and repetition of electronic elements that burbled along pleasantly. His 2009 follow-up, Yesterday and Today, followed the same template but got a little funkier. He’s perfected his formula for his new album, Looping State of Mind.
This record works on several levels. First of all, it works as a dance record. The beats are bigger and heavier than on the previous albums, the synths louder, and the overall feel is of trance done really, really well. However, Willner’s goal is not to blow MDMA-addled ravers’ minds, but to experiment with sound.
For this reason, Looping State of Mind works as a piece of avant-garde composition. Willner obviously owes at least some debt to Steve Reich; The Field’s music is built on the same principle of repeating and slightly shifting patterns as Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. A prime example of this is “Arpeggiated Love.” It starts off with a clacking beat not unlike a train. Slowly another pattern is built on top of it, and then another, and another, until all of the patterns are interacting and intermingling with each other. The song shifts subtly with the addition or subtraction of various instrumentation and elements. What seems like the beat at one point becomes something else entirely over the course of the song’s 10 minutes. Despite the fact that it takes so long to build, the song is consistently rewarding and never boring. The beat is hypnotic, and each new pattern or shift opens the song up in a new and unexpected way. It is like viewing a painting from an extreme close-up and then slowly panning out, realizing as you do that what you thought was the image was something else entirely.
Looping State of MInd is most importantly a beautiful record. Its songs are gorgeous, and despite the head-nodding beats, this is soothing and relaxing music. I listen to it on my commute home in the evenings and it never fails to make my crowded bus ride bearable. A wall of calming sound that is as calming as it is electrifying, Looping State of Mind is the Field’s strongest record yet, and one of my favorite albums of the year.