Looping State of Mind
Submerged in The Field’s ambient electronic ocean, I’m frequently reminded of a scene from Charlie Kaufman’s polarizing epic Synecdoche, New York. Protagonist Caden Cotard (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), amidst a hallucinogenic cityscape of fragmenting psyche, delivers a frantic soliloquy, possibly about discovering the meaning of life just before it evaporates: “You think only about driving—not coming from any place; not arriving any place. Just driving, counting off time.”
From Here We Go Sublime, the 2007 full-length debut from Swede Axel Willner under the moniker of The Field, sounded a lot like Cotard’s words. Willner pilfered from tracks by Kate Bush, The Four Tops, and Lionel Richie, chopping up the most delicate sonic textures (fragments of an electric guitar, flakes of a dusty snare) and driving the loops bone-dry, repeating and repeating to a heart-racing intersection of hypnosis and tedium. It never, ever arrived anywhere—but the driving, as it were, provided some amazing views.
His follow-up, 2009’s Yesterday and Today, introduced live instrumentation and almost approached songlike structures, but it felt somehow less cathartic and, even worse, almost ordinary. If you can’t tell by the horribly obvious title, Looping State of Mind is designed as a return to The Field’s roots—and in many ways, that shift is enough to make it a step up from Willner’s last effort. Despite utilizing more electronic texture than actual instruments (occasional live bass and drums do pop up), this somehow feels more organic, and tracks such as the stellar “It’s Up There” properly harness the alien ambient force that propelled his debut.
Unfortunately, not all of Looping works. The lazy, loping “Is This Power?,” with its dull bass riff and cliché techno rhythms, seems as unsure of itself as the title suggests. Elsewhere, Willner keeps on driving, counting off time, with his map blown out the window several exits in the rear-view. (www.myspace.com/thefieldsthlm)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 9/10