Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Field: Cupid's Head (2013)



Axel Willner is about texture, about bodily reactions to the most minimal of changes. Each of the six lengthy cuts on his third album (under the painfully nondescript label the Field) finds a sprawling, hypnotic groove and mangles it. Your responses are the music: that delectable key change on "They Won't See Me," the way "Black Sea" fades in and out of consciousness and druggily alter's one relationship to time (no, really) for twelve minutes, and the brilliance of the carefully treated "nononono" sample on "No. No..." that takes on multiple identities based on what noise Willner puts around it until he finally takes the rug out from under us in the last couple of minutes.

Willner's first two albums had no quarrel with moodiness and boredom, nor does this one; boredom, in some ways, is the point. This isn't really proper dance music -- it gets too much of a kick out of its own carefully cultivated weirdness. Plus it fades until you concentrate, then it's suddenly demanding. He has a giddy, mad-scientist sensibility about his knob-twiddling, which translates also to a studied distance from his material. That isn't necessarily a criticism of any of the Field's music, but it's in greater evidence here, with an established formula that has only deviated from his earlier work in the sense that he no longer seems so worried about being accessible.

You can't fault him for his focus or command, although Cupid's Head is noticeably less precise and impeccable than Looping State of Mind; it's a set of individually impressive tracks that don't necessarily complement one another. At its best, however, it is thoroughly enveloping and charged dance music. Just a little cold around the heart.

Looping State of Mind (2011)

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