The music of Axel Willner, usually D/B/A The Field, owes as much to Terry Riley and Manuel Göttsching as it does Oval and Villalobos. His uniquely entrancing exploration of loops and highly repetitive structures often based around three or less chords per (6 minute plus) track pushes the limits of both the listener’s tolerance and the definition of his genre, to satisfying, though sometimes mixed, results. His proper debut From Here We Go Sublime was excellent, deftly balancing changes and additions with pacing to the point where a ten minute loop was apt to become a new favourite for repeated listens instead of a groan-inducing act of self gratification. Yesterday & Today continued the trends as stated in Sublime, but expanded Willner’s sonic palette, showing growth but ending up as a less satisfying disc in some regards. Now back with his third LP under the Field moniker, Looping State Of Mind (he should have named all of his albums this – Peter Gabriel style), the project is once again rewritten using previous iterations as the template, springing to new takes on old structural concepts.

It would seem too easy to simply make a lame pun on the nature of the music and title of the album, despite my insistence on toeing that line already. It would seem too easy to simply make a lame pun on the nature of the music and title of the album, despite my insistence on toeing that line already. There. Now with tongue removed from its barnacle-like grasp on my cheek, the focus on the evolution of Willner’s music can take hold, as Looping seems to be more fixated on the expansion of the limited range used in each track more than the end result of the experimentation and arguably generative process used. Yes, the man chooses to use a freeware version of what could be approximated to Max/MSP and (freeware brethren) PureData and SuperCollider, and that self-imposed limit is now palpable. While Sublime seemed more like the nascent post-Reich doodles of a skilled producer and Yesterday a distillation of rock sensibilities in the prior’s clothing, this offering comes off as a new direction drawing equally from both those idea(l)s. It seems that after a one-off collaboration with Battles, Helmet, and Tomahawk drummer John Stanier and nine remixes for artists ranging from DeVotchka to Bear In Heaven, The Field has found the latest fount of inspiration. Drawing his source material from indeterminate sources yet again, the microsamples sometimes sound culled from experimental instrumental group Drums & Tuba (‘Then It’s White’), Tomboy (‘Sweet Slow Baby’), and classic Italo disco (opener ‘Is This Power?’), showing a newly acquired predilection for slightly more warped rhythmic sources than before, placing Looping State Of Mind in a position as the first disc by Willner to actually feature real distortion and not white noise. Axel has discovered indie rock.

Given the relationship between The Field and Battles, the cultural exchange lingering in the music of both Looping and Gloss Drop should come as no surprise – especially since both acts favour repetition and small change, albeit in different degrees. But while Battles have focused on math rock and now tropicalia-infused dance-punk (what an awful clusterfuck in text form), Willner has always been rooted in minimal house and the act of rendering the listener helpless to the wall of sounds that approach as slow as the Molasses Disaster of 1919. That’s always been the reason behind the project, as the exploitation of repetition has reached an apex arguably since 1964 with Young’s Drift Studies for little more than one partial chord held for “a very long time.” At this point, the loop serves as the new rhythmic lingua franca; the origin of melody from the ether of indeterminate time holds more than the parts dictate or even mandate. ‘Burned Out’ takes almost five minutes before dropping a deceptively simple vocal line obscured by more reverb than the average witch house project, then tosses in a guitar loop to stop stagnation before continuing on for another 90 seconds in that vein. It’s another deft act of layering as expected from Willner, but comes off as the motions yet again.

That’s the issue with this album – the feeling that The Field only has one song template that is then modified in one to three ways (key, tempo, sonics). If it works for noise and drone, then the pleasure of listening to an act like The Field or even D Yellow Swans comes from the pushing of what their boundaries defines, reconnecting the dots in a new image or with a differently coloured pen. The sewing up of an old wound with new thread or a differently sized needle, sometimes as vague and unnoticeable as a bone needle in place of steel. Comfort is found but is always obscured and reconstituted from elements and signifiers of the mapped out whole, and the end result of Looping State Of Mind is rendered as the push-pull dynamic of falling into old habits while actively trying to rebel against them. It’s a clichéd mannerism of the musical artist, especially with today’s constant struggle for legitimacy and actual uniqueness, but can lead to lopsidedly one-shade efforts. That’s not to be taken as “this album is bad,” but rather that the album feels, as a whole, more like an EP’s worth of ideas plus some one-offs for the sake of experimentation. If nothing else, it has now been revealed that The Field works best in one of two flavours, and that the combination of the two can be a proverbial hard pill. Give the man another two years for his next release as has been his habit and chances are the next synthesis will be the a hit.