With the three albums he’s released as the Field, Stockholm’s Axel Willner has established himself as one of the most original voices in electronic music. Thanks to his knack for weaving arpeggios into gorgeous sheets of melody, his 2007 breakthrough, From Here We Go Sublime, surprised pop critics who never thought they’d care about microhouse or ambient techno. And Never Ending Nights (released under the moniker Loops of Your Heart) is heavier and more earthbound by comparison, and to Willner’s credit, it sounds far removed from the Field’s starlit nightworld. If Here We Go Sublime and Looping State of Mind betrayed the Swede’s affinity for American dance music (particularly the gooey gospel harmonies of house), then And Never Ending Nights skews more Teutonic in its influences. The work that Klaus Schulze did tinkering at the boundaries of krautrock and psychedelia in the ‘70s is a major point of reference, as evidenced on “Broken Bow,” when five minutes of heavy drone gives way to looped motorik percussion.
One of the characteristic sounds of And Never Ending Nights is the hum of a speaker. For a musician like Willner who works predominantly with programmed instruments and computers, that hum is the vanishing point between digital and analog, where the purity of simulated sound has to mix in with the cheap plastic of a laptop speaker or the interference of other electronics. “Little You, You Should Develop” and “End,” two of the more alluring tracks on the album, acquire warmth and depth from Willner’s careful manipulation tones, with occasional pops of static and other such imperfections making the songs feel corporeal and inhabited. On the astonishing, 11-minute “Cries,” Willner counterpoints sprawling synth tones with guitar-like arpeggios and the sampled crackle of distant fireworks.
For just that one track, And Never Ending Nights manages to be as beautiful as Willner’s best work as the Field. What’s impressive is that he can evoke this particular sort of beauty, which is textured by emotional experiences of nostalgia and contentment (to be sure, a very different kind of beauty than the glamorous, urban exhilaration he’s indulged in before). It’s true that some of the tracks on And Never Ending Nights come across as process-oriented and unfinished, which makes sense when you consider them as exercises in Willner’s attempt to develop a different aesthetic vocabulary than the one he’s already proven fluent in. The world he’s introduced on And Never Ending Nights is intriguing in its mixture of mundane and alien moods. That it accomplishes this by way of its immersive scope and languid pacing—that is, through Willner’s willing suppression of his pop instincts—is a testament to his versatility, and suggests that some very cool recordings await if he finds a way of bringing these two sensibilities into dialogue.