The Field - "Is This Power" (Looping State of Mind)
Axel Willner has always been keen to look beyond the constraints of techno music. When he released his debut album as The Field, From Here We Go Sublime, four years ago, it attracted fans from outside electronic music’s usual audience with its elegiac melodies, hints of shoegaze and hook-laden beats. On Looping State of Mind, Willner brings his fascination with rock into sharper focus, arguably with sharper results.
Opener “Is This Power” is more muscular than just about anything in The Field canon, bouncing forward on a funky, rocket-powered bass line that’s straight out of Metal Box-era Public Image Limited. Where Willner normally favors typical sequencer beats, “Is This Power” features brittle drum rhythms, building up to a positively rocking finale, underscored by drifting synths and those omnipresent, bouncy bass lines (think the final “oomph” of fellow Swede Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own”). The rhythmic blend is expertly handled, making “Is This Power” as thrilling a groove as I’ve heard in recent years.
The album’s centerpieces are “Arpeggiated Love” and the title track, each more than 10 minutes in length. The former starts off with a minimalist drum beat that folds over and repeats itself hypnotically as synth lines drift in an out of perception, like Cluster jamming with The Chemical Brothers on downers. After five minutes, the piece collapses in on itself, jarring the listener out of any sense of familiarity before reassembling itself with edgy sequencers and spectral waves of distortion, a noise-rock climax submerged in trance and disco. “Looping State of Mind,” meanwhile, lives up to its name, as Willner loops fussy polyrhythms, à la A Certain Ratio, and hesitant keyboard notes that push against a soaring synth lead. I immediately thought of The Knife, minus the vocals. There is a tension to both of these tracks, and indeed, across the entire album, that was only hinted at on From Here We Go Sublime. In many ways, Looping State of Mind is a superior record, more diverse yet containing enough of its predecessors’ melodic strength.
And, crucially, it actually rocks. Not like Black Sabbath or The Clash, but rather in a more elusive, hypnotic sense, where looped pressure is alleviated by a sudden swirl of haunting melody or the intrusion of a seductive beat. Looping State of Mind is a bold attempt at fusing The Field’s emotive tendencies with something more aggressive, and for the most part, Willner strikes the perfect balance.