Album Review: The Field - Looping State of Mind

Looping State Of Mind feels out of touch; the sounds and techniques used on the album seem a little outdated, and as a result, fail to hold your attention.

D+ | 10.11.11 | Kompakt | Stream | Vinyl | CD

The Field - "Then It's White" (MP3)

It’s almost five minutes into the album before there is any variation. Whereas Axel Willner’s critically acclaimed debut release From Here We Go Sublime was minimalist in the sense that each track took a melodic idea, slowly but surely built upon it and created subtle variations, Looping State Of Mind, as its title suggests, refuses to progress once it has introduced a particular musical phrase.

This is no accident, however. Willner has evidently made a conscious choice to become more experimental with his new album, and he acknowledges its obsessive repetition in the title. The difficulty only arises because, if he is making a statement, he has not let us in on what that statement is. As a result, we are unable to listen to the collection of tracks as either tuneful songs or engaging ideas.

From Here We Go Sublime had a sense of propulsion, the melodies cleverly evolving while insistent beats urged them forward. On Looping State Of Mind however, Willner seems to be less concerned with creating song structures, and more focused on looping ambient noise. "Burned Out" and "Sweet Slow Baby" are perhaps the most frustrating, the latter of which does not possess either a beat or a melody. Instead, Willner successfully but uncomprehendingly emulates the sound of a skipping record. There is a welcome breath of fresh air in the form of penultimate track "Then It’s White", its chilled out, nostalgic piano melody line conjuring hypnotic images of time-lapsed cars at night.

Looping State Of Mind feels out of touch; like an obscure western film in the middle of the day, the sounds and techniques used on the album seem a little outdated, and as a result, fail to hold your attention. Each track is more than seven minutes in length, and Willner is using the same kind of synthesized hi-hat and kick drum samples that were prevalent in the 90s, favored by bands like Underworld and Leftfield. Edgier styles of music such as drum and bass, electro and dubstep have since muscled out ambient techno, setting the bar of our attention span too high. Too safe and quiet to be used in a club setting, too uneventful and disengaging to be listened to at home, the genre has been left behind. Today, we are subject to a constant sensory overload, be it in the form of twenty-four hour news, a social life that never sleeps and can always locate you, or the ability to stream any piece of music, at any time, in any place. The paradigm has shifted in the last five years, and we now have new values, new concerns and new interests. We are distracted. Our heads are filled with ambient white noise, and sometimes, if it refuses to innovate, art has a tendency to pass us by or get lost in the crowd.

The Field - Looping State of Mind