Axel Willner could not have picked a more apt title for this record. An up-and-coming Swedish artist, he won universal acclaim on his first album “From Here We Go Sublime.” He is a master at producing densely layered music, forming intricate melodic patterns, and creating complex rhythms with an impressive variety of music samples. His newest album, “Looping State of Mind,” once again demonstrates his keen ability to compile seemingly unrelated bits of music into a mind-warping, dreamy masterpiece.
“Looping State of Mind” can only be described through contradictions. It is at once minimalist and complex. All of the songs are built on a basic 4/4 meter, and at any given point, the most prominent melody is only composed of two or three notes. “Burned Out,” for example, combines a simple melody of three tones with a slowly developing rhythm that carries the song beautifully through a steady evolution. Despite the repetition, the songs are dynamic and the beats are complex. Due to Willner’s impeccable musical control, the instrumental parts continue to change. They form an extraordinary repertoire of timbres in every song, made only more distinct through their juxtaposition with such consistent repetition. With every loop, a new layer of music is introduced; by the very end of the segment, the music is a compilation of many individual and self-sustaining yet gloriously interlocking components.
Though the loops are crafted through heavy production and extensive use of electronic instruments, the album defies strict classification. “Looping State of Mind” certainly has characteristics of house music in its focus primarily on the bass and the beat, yet the album is not particularly danceable because its multiple layers contribute to an echoic effect—especially prominent in the midsection of “Then It’s White.” This ambient aspect makes it closer to experimental than to dance music. All the same, compared to ambient artists such as The American Dollar, The Field is distinctly more catchy thanks to its emphasis on the drum samples and its rhythmic creativity.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of The Field’s music is its understanding of the power of musical context. Each track begins with disconnected bits and that are subtly pulled into coherence through the inclusion of counterpoints. “Is This Power,” for example, begins with two notes and an off-kilter drum part, with disconcerting imbalance. Half a minute in, however, the music suddenly shifts into focus. The subtle introduction of another percussion part ties the song together. After a minute, the music is fully developed, complete with a ghostly bass melody. Toward the end, even when the music seems fully developed, it undergoes a marked tonal shift with the introduction of a guitar, and the entire cycle of development begins anew.
However, the album has its faults. While the repetitiveness of the songs often produces a strong sense movement, the overuse of this developmental structure becomes tired. Additionally, the profusion of short melodic phrases easily leads to disinterest. The titular track may be considered the weakest of the album due to its excessive repetition, little of which justifies its hefty 10 and a half–minute length. Finale “Sweet Slow Baby,” is likewise a disappointment. While it succeeds in integrating atmospheric, unintelligible voices to reach an almost disembodied, euphoric effect, it seems to promise a climax that never comes—the track builds up to a very heavy, noisy height and ends without resolution.
While the album creatively manipulates its drum beats and exhibits well-developed layers, its lack of melodies and the excessive use of repetitions, skilfully rendered as they are, prevent it from becoming truly engaging. “Looping State of Mind” provides beautiful background music but doesn’t carry enough distinguishing factors to command a listener’s entire consideration. Ultimately, the album does enough to satiate a music lover’s appetite for harmony and strongly controlled development, but leaves the mind craving more than just loops.