Keep the font. Keep the average song length. Keep the looping state of mind. Cue the transition from soft beige to grimace-gray. So progresses The Field.
The man behind the moniker, Axel Willner, recently explained in an interview that making his music “is a bit like making a risotto. You stir, add a ladle of stock, and stir, add a ladle of stock, keep on going.” True to that analogy, most of Willner’s songs are built by dance sounds slowly thickening in layers over the span of seven or eight minutes. His most recent release as The Field, Cupid’s Head, is a sentimental, succinct collection of independent tracks, all of which are raw, honest, and scrumptiously concocted.
Cupid’s Head is introduced by an intertwining of two loops: one rhythmic, fast-paced drum-kick pattern, and one that hesitantly, carefully bounces in and out of the first. Interestingly, both can be sought out as the primary loop — one perceived as dominant, the other falling victim to attentional error. This makes the album’s first course, “They Won’t See Me”, the most outwardly puzzling track; although, when considering all of the loops amalgamated, it transcends, the epitome of microhouse and one of the record’s most rewarding pieces. Following track “Black Sea”, clocking in as the record’s longest at 12 minutes, is Cupid’s Head’s most well-journeyed, diversified dance track. The song opens as a landscape of a beautiful, blue sea, growing initially in a heavenly, synth and echo-driven manner. Then it’s rendered completely black, and voraciously so, when Willner warps the track by replacing heavenliness with characteristic thumping and harsh, fast-forwarded vocal samples.
In the same interview, Willner describes the album as “about visions of the future, tiny actions vs. consequences, love… and Cupid has a lot to do with that.” Commencing with what could easily be a cliché The Field song, the title track becomes deceptive after this preliminary formula with the sly introduction of a few aching piano chords, acting as twinges of love and the uncertainty of the future consequences — perhaps to explain what goes on inside “Cupid’s Head”. Following dance “A Guided Tour” is powerful in its raw singularity. It’s the piece of Cupid’s Head that most closely resembles Willner’s past work, somehow both aimless in its sublime dance rhythms and guided between different patterns in sound.
Willner’s From Here We Go Sublime standout, “Over the Ice”, was 2007’s hidden microhouse gem. The mesmerizing repetition of “I” atop sublime kick-drum loops has been relatively (and rightfully) inimitable – until now. Cupid’s Head’s idiosyncratic “No. No…” not only successfully replicates that syllable-repetition mesmerization, but is also complicated by an emotionally fretful pit-pattering of synths and airy atmospherics. After five minutes, the track destabilizes, is stripped of dance texture, and the explicitness of the repeated “no” is swapped for a throbbing “oh” until everything falls out of touch, out of sync, and into soundless decay. Album closer “20 Seconds of Affection” gloomily paints this decay over a ten-minute spread of overpowering static and fogginess. It’s Cupid’s Head’s monotonously faultless ballad: that sort of delicious dessert you “never should’ve eaten.”
Willner’s first three LPs were characterized by an obsession with musical transcendence, the concept of time (or lack thereof), and the classic “looping state of mind.” While still fluently attributing these elements to Cupid’s Head, Willner has also managed to integrate a fourth, sentimental layer to his microhouse sound: Meant to be consumed in a hazy darkness, each of the record’s tracks make for one emotionally-colored plate of a mouthwatering six-course (risotto-based) meal.
Essential Tracks: “Cupid’s Head”, “No. No…”, and “20 Seconds of Affection”