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The Field: Cupid’s Head (Kompakt)

From the opening bars of “They Won’t See Me,” Cupid’s Head is undeniably Axel Willner’s handiwork. His looping technique isn’t wholly original, but it’s certainly distinct. This fourth full-length for the project is leagues and bounds better than its predecessor (2011’s Looping State of Mind). It’s perhaps splitting hairs to prefer one of these albums over the next, since they are so heavily focused around the same techniques, but I find the tone of Cupid’s Head to be obliquely darker, a little more spry with a shadowy glimmer. Consisting of six substantial tracks, the general framework has much in common with all of his other material to date. Many of its musical motifs are manipulated loops of previously recorded music, often with the underpinnings of traditional minimal techno. Cupid’s Head’s techno arrangements fall more in line with his earlier releases than the slower, more Balearic touch of some of his last album. But there’s a slight paradigm shift here, as well — “Black Sea” is the most prime evidence. Over eleven and a half minutes long, it begins with a rather buoyant, looping sample and kick combo, growing steadily more layered and lush before dissipating into a more sinister rolling bassline that owes as much to EBM as it does to techno. Next to the opener, the title track is my favorite. It has a majesty to it that just feels… perfect. It’s been a while since I’ve been moved in that way by his music (which is otherwise perfectly good, just lacking that magic). It’s backed up against “A Guided Tour,” which also has a rather elegant poise, to form the album’s gorgeous center. “No. No…” is also oddly compelling, the least dancefloor-friendly track, and the most curious one in terms of toying with time signatures, patterns, and layers, while “20 Seconds of Affection” rounds things out, perhaps working best as a denouement rather than on its own relative to how strong the rest of the album is. It’s nice to hear something so tried and true and perhaps somewhat written off now full of so much vitality yet again. In Willner’s capable hands and heart, this mesmerizing batch of looped grooves and patterns takes on a vibrant life of its own. Highly recommended. (For those MP3 bargain shoppers, Amazon has it for $2.49!)

Buy it: Boomkat | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon