The Field - Cupid's Head
Everything changes, but Axel Willner stays the same. Since the Swedish producer's debut LP as the Field, 2007's techno-pop landmark From Here We Go Sublime, Willner has patiently augmented the project's sound with each successive release, adding subtle touches that are significant in scope and texture. He operates with a workmanlike consistency, putting out an album about every two years, each with nearly identical packaging—two lines of artfully scribbled text on a beige background. On his first three albums as the Field, this simple design reinforced the Field's overarching aesthetic congruency. Without even cracking the spine of Cupid's Head, his fourth, it's obvious change is afoot, and the visual shift feels significant. Compared to the glimmering, soft-hued soundscapes of 2011's Looping State of Mind, the new record is a moodier work, perfectly balancing sleekness and aggression.
Willner's recent solo performances have abandoned the body-moving tendencies of the Field's full-band shows, favoring drones and formlessness more associated with his Loops of Your Heart project. Cupid's Head is thick and dense, a miles-long oil slick that radiates ultraviolet hues, and it has some overlap with his other project. It also finds the Field occasionally coming full-circle, with qualities that recall Here We Go Sublime. Besides being Willner's strongest collection since that game-changing debut, Cupid's Head's six lengthy jams take cues from Sublime's centerpiece, "The Deal", an intimidating monolith of techno that swells and pulsates over its 10-minute running time. He's moved away from proper and his sense of scope is more epic than ever. Cupid's Head as a record just feels bigger, dwarfing his previous efforts.
In that sense, Cupid's Head brings to mind another texture-focused album from this year: Fuck Buttons' Slow Focus, which saw the Bristol noise duo reining in their noisy squall to focus on diamond-sharp textures and a greater attention towards small-scale detail. "20 Seconds of Affection", Cupid's Head's gauzy closer, kicks things off with a throttling torrent of digital synth slush before giving way to a mid-tempo churn that continually folds itself into three-dimensional shapes, as a wandering bassline lurks just beneath the surface, wobbling with unease. "Black Sea" also has a feeling of up-up-up propulsion—hissing drum machines, interlocking tones, a swirl of transistor-radio noise lapping at the track's feet—before dramatically changing shape in its back half, as menacing arpeggiated tones dominate. The Field project has typically projected easy warmth, a kind of synthesized benevolence, but the intensity of "Black Sea"'s closing minutes is the darkest, most straightforwardly sensual, and most evil-sounding music Willner's made.
Indeed, Cupid's Head is more intense than any other Field record. With the exception of the silvery guitar tones that open the album's epic opener, "They Won't See Me", these songs start at the top and stay there, eschewing patient build for pure relentlessness, a sonic persistence that obliterates everything around you in a comforting, head-clearing way.
There are many transcendent moments of bliss on Cupid's Head—"They Won't See Me"'s high-tension tonal axis, the squishy radiance of "A Guided Tour"—but "No. No…" is the album's greatest moment of awe, with an endlessly looped voices evocative of the Flamingos-warping abstraction of From Here We Go Sublime's title track. Each iteration of the title phrase gradually stretches it further into the void. Over a bed of stormy, amorphous rhythms and off-white static, the sampled voice changes shape—from high-pitched to low, staccato to elongated, specific to indefinable—until there's nothing left but a broken helicopter-blade beat and an unadorned vocal sample that vibrates with a menacing inflection. It's a wellspring of tension on an album that brims with paranoia.
The Field's discography is paradoxical. On the one hand, Cupid's Head demonstrates how much Willner's aesthetic has changed over the last six years. That those changes have been incremental, and that there are clear threads going back to his debut, highlight the singularity of what he does. The landscapes of dance and electronic music have shifted since the release of From Here We Go Sublime—minimal techno, as well as Willner's label home Kompakt, have become niché concerns—so the fact that he's still an innovator in an always-crowded field is a considerable feat. A few artists have taken bits and pieces of his style and applied them in their own way, but no one has been able to sound like Willner, who in turn continues to sound like no one except himself. Cupid's Head is a dark, exquisitely detailed album that rewards patience and further cements the Field's reputation as one of modern electronic music's most satisfying auteurs.
01 - They Won't See Me
02 - Black Sea
03 - Cupid's Head
04 - A Guided Tour
05 - No. No ...
06 - 20 Seconds Of Affection
Styles: Minimal techno, Microhouse, Ambient
Source : CD
Format : FLAC
Format/Info : Free Lossless Audio Codec
Bit rate mode : Variable
Bit rate : ~700-800 Kbps
Channel(s) : 2 channels
Sampling rate : 44.1 KHz
Bit depth : 16 bits