- 2007 was a landmark year for glassy-eyed crossover dance LPs. Kompakt itself issued two albums of their trademarked kaleidoscopic quasi-techno for the couch bound crew in Gui Boratto's Chromophobia and The Field's From Here We Go Sublime. Over on Dial, Pantha Du Prince established the cred he'd eventually cash in on last year with Black Noise with its superior predecessor, This Bliss. The year's been, rightly, lionized by home listeners. Looking back, part of that sense of what-have-we-lost wonder stems from the fact that neither Boratto's nor Axel Willner's follow-up as the Field felt quite as momentous as their debuts. Polishers of formula perhaps, with Willner's Yesterday & Today notably more organic due to joining up with bassist Dan Enqvist and drummer Andreas Soderstrom, sacrificing some of his spin-dizzy trance for looser krautrock endeavours. Still, both felt like sonic placeholders rather than year-end notables.
For his third album, Willner returns to his collaborative creative mode, with Jesper Skarin replacing Soderstrom on drums and Jorg Burger settled in to mix. Roughly drawn up by Willner in his Berlin home studio, the three grouped in Dumbo Studios in Cologne to lay down the seven tracks on the cheekily titled result, Looping State of Mind. Though at times it seems like a perfect melding of the Gas-indebted mesmerism of his debut and the more live-sounding autobahn jaunts of his second record, it's still remarkable to hear just how much more textured and nuanced those same forms sound on Looping.
This surety comes in moments.The warm loping bass of "Is This Power," for example, or the sampled piano and canyon-echo vocal samples of "Then It's White"—used here not to entrance but to luxuriate, to cool and distance—issue from a producer who's both very comfortable with his well-lauded past but also subtly, knowingly nudging himself forward. If tracks like "It's Up There" and "Arpeggiated Love" seem from the surface like retreads from his debut, there's a new sense of comfort and divergence at work that belies those first impressions; there are detours, as on the funk-fueled bass break of the former or the restrained synth washes and what I swear is a disembodied sample saying "Are you gay?", that allow Willner to refine just how he employs his brand of hypnotism. Both brief moments of head-nodding, not hedonistic but still allowing a little release, before the woozy recline settles in anew.
The title track, on the other hand, shows Willner trying his hand at Balearic disco house, squiggling his toes through sugar-rush synth drones, rumbling percussion and soft, almost velveteen guitar loops. "Burned Out," likewise, with its Ibiza-drugged vocal samples and more of those silky guitar loops—edges removed, used in slow rhythmic drift—shows that if Willner ever desired, he too could shape his efforts at audio daydrifts around the talents of Victoria Bergstrom. Taken together, they're persuasion enough that not only is Looping State of Mind Willner's most diverse and satisfying statement to date, it's an album that establishes him as one of electronic music's more subtly lateral thinkers.
01. Is This Power
02. It's Up There
03. Burned Out
04. Arpeggiated Love
05. Looping State Of Mind
06. Then It's White
07. Sweet Slow Baby