Patience is a virtue, and it’s one that Axel Willner, benevolent minimalist behind Swedish techno act the Field, wants to teach us. His music exists beautifully–it’s so subtle–and that’s why he calls himself “the Field” and not “the City”; he hopes to thwart our hustle-and-bustle impulses and open our eyes and ears to life’s quiet slownesses.
His new album, Looping State of Mind, works well either as foreground or background music. Willner’s songs are careful constructions. To listen is to be captivated by his deliberate development of the music; his additions sometimes emerge gradually, sometimes pop up suddenly, but always come at exactly the right time and do exactly the right thing. Like great pop, his songs seem so natural that they disguise the amount of work that went into crafting them. Willner’s a man in control of his sound board and himself. He never caves in to immediate gratification. In opener “Is This Power,” for example, he’s okay with keeping everything on loop for 68 bars after the bass comes in–and, surprisingly, so are we.
That’s because of the strength of Willner’s melodies and rhythms. No single part calls attention to itself more than it needs to, and yet none is boring or unmemorable. When we press play for a second listen, we’re greeted by familiar sounds which only become more nuanced as we listen closer. More importantly, they work together well. Every time Willner adds a part, or we notice suddenly that he’s been slowly, slowly turning up the volume on a part for the past who-knows-how-many bars, we feel that the song is the better for it. These parts are important and interesting, but there’s nothing conspicuous about ‘em. Imagine sitting across from a field, and listening as some bugs start chirping, other bugs stop, as the wind blows and then stills, and a car passes somewhere nearby.
Perhaps it’s because of its subtlety that the music makes for unobtrusive but pleasant background listening. Musically, Willner doesn’t dabble in pathos–the closest he comes is on the serene “Then It’s White”–and the album maintains a pretty positive mood throughout. Willner wisely accepts that it isn’t settling to make music that’s great for walking to, listening to during work, or just zoning out to. But his hope is to restore some of the patience that hyperactive music, movies, TV, and the Internet have deprived us of. Things move pretty slowly in the field.