Three days in May

Loop. Three nights of Loop. Three consecutive, ear bashing nights of Loop. 😀

Ear bashing night 1: Bristol Exchange

Bristol. The scene of past Loop disasters and past Loop triumphs.

I met fellow ‘enthusiast’ Dave in Bristol and we went for a nice cup of tea before the gig. Then we trolled along to The Exchange, running into Soundhead Martin and guitarist Dan in the pub.

Support for the night was by Salope (Gareth out of Anthroprophh, Big Naturals and Kuro), which consisted of a drone of electric cello and theramins. I rather liked this.

When Loop came onstage to their usual drone-intro, which is when I always get a bit excited, they launched straight into The Nail Will Burn. The set included several older tracks and two tracks from the most recent Array 1 ep, Precession and Aphelion but, alas, not the groovy Radial.

Collision sounded great and Arc Lite was spot on 😀 Ending on Burning World is a lovely way to go out too.

I’d say that this was a good solid Loop gig, very enjoyable and a great start to the weekend of Loop gigs.

Set list:

Ear bashing night 2: London, Raw Power Festival

Baba Yaga’s Hut, one of the best London promoters, also presents one of the best London weekenders, Raw Power, now in its fourth year. At The Dome (Boston Arms) in Tufnell Park from Friday to Sunday evening various levels of psych heaviosity is hurled out onto an expectant audience. This year included some Loop heaviosity.

As is the way with me, I didn’t go for the whole day straight through. The Dome is not far from where I live so I can pop in and out. This time I popped in for Japanese New Music Festival (brilliant and hilarious), Qujaku (scary wailing), Cosmic Dead (very hairy) and, obviously, Loop. I think that Loop worked really well in the context of this event. They’re heavy enough to hold their own in the assembled line-up but also dancey enough for people who don’t really know them to just have a good old frug. The sound at the Dome was pretty well spot on so we were getting all the volume and distortion as it’s meant to sound without any mess or superfluous fuzz.

The audience was upbeat and totally went with the band on this journey into sound 😀 Robert was pretty jolly too so there was a nice level of banter: audience member, “play Fix to Fall”,  Robert, ” we can’t play that. It’s too hard” and (while tuning his guitar) “I’m having trouble with my g-string” (how we laughed!).

The setlist was the same as in Bristol.

Ear bashing night 3: Manchester, Transformer Festival

Ooh, controversy. When The Victoria Warehouse announced the ‘too good to be true’ line-up which included Swans, The Fall, Royal Trux and, of course, Loop, the gig-hivemind drew in its collective breath and said, “smells like Barry Hogan”. Barry Hogan; he of a swathe of ATP triumphs and disasters. This assumed connection, together with a couple of, frankly, disastrous and heavily criticized events at the Victoria Warehouse seemed to really put people off buying tickets, despite the hilariously cheap price.

Sure enough, when we got to the venue it was nowhere near full. On the plus side, this made it a much more comfortable experience than friends of mine have had there in the past; no queues for the bar or loos, no crushes getting into the different rooms, plenty of space to just hang out with friends and we were able to actually see the bands. On the minus side, the lack of bodies may have contributed to the extremely echoey sound, rattling around inside this giant box. The Fall sounded (from the back of the main room) like they were playing in a tin can and Loop’s set was definitely affected by an eerie echo.

It sounded like they spent the first couple of songs battling valiantly with the sound onstage before giving up on subtlety and wacking everything up to 11. I think that Wayne (drums) in particular, was having to work extremely hard to hold it all together.

Nevertheless, Loop playing a ridiculously loud, ridiculously heavy set in a disused warehouse is a scenario that I can happily get behind and I enjoyed the gig enormously, despite the problems. And I wasn’t the only one. New best occasional pal Rob was seeing Loop  for only the second time and responded with a level of joie de vivre that is to be applauded. He was giving out badges!

So, of the three nights, I enjoyed all of them but the London gig was the best. A great atmosphere, pretty heavy playing and excellent sound all worked together to make this the best one. Lots of Soundheads were out and about over the weekend so it was also nice to see people and catch up with them (you all know who you are. Thanks for being great company x).

And now I’m looking forward to Liverpool Psych Fest in September for some more Loop action.

PLAY RADIAL!!

Soundheads-on-Sea

I’ve been on my travels again (blogs coming later) but I had barely touched down when I was off again. From Tehran to Prestatyn. Do I know how to live, or do I know how to live?

After an early morning fight from Tehran (+3.5hrs time difference, fact fans) and a journey time of around fifteen hours, you won’t be surprised to hear that I was pretty tired, and I wouldn’t have done this for just anyone, so you know what’s coming next…

Loop. (whoop whoop!)

I was pretty wild about the fact that Loop played a gig in Manchester while I was still in Tehran 😥 . They, apparently, played a good’un, but at least a stroke of good fortune had allowed me to come to the ATP Festival at Pontins, Prestatyn for the evening* to catch their set there. The weather in Prestatyn wasn’t quite as good as in Tehran.

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Hooking up once more with the awesome Soundheads of the Edinburgh Chapter, Ellen and Simon, we made a point of getting to the front for Loop’s set.

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The set list for this gig was great, starting with old favourite Afterglow and taking in three out for the four tracks on the most recent ep. It was fantastic to hear Radial live and it set off quite a frenzy of shimmying from the crowd.

Unfortunately they didn’t do the encore tracks on the setlist. I don’t know if this was because of time.

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There was some hilariously drunk heckling from the lads from Younghusband (their album has been produced by Robert, so they’re pals), including a disastrous stage-diving attempt which just ended with a loud thud.

At these types of festivals, most people stay onsite in the holiday camp chalets but I found the whole holiday camp thing a bit alarming. When I first walked onto the site, I felt quite sure that I was going to be attacked by a psychotic clown at any moment,

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so I was staying in a hotel right next to the camp, on the seafront.

The Prestatyn seafront in November o_O

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As I said, I was pretty tired, so I was glad of a nice quiet bedroom to collapse into. And so, mind racing, ears screaming, I drifted off into a delicious Loop-infused slumber.

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Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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*Thanks to ATP

Also thanks for the security guy from London for the set list, and to Dan for the life-saving coffee.

I managed to grab a few film clps:

Aphelion: https://youtu.be/jn8FP2HD2Q0

ArcLite: https://youtu.be/vQvfFCCd3Yc

Forever: https://youtu.be/0NrUOp9K8cA

Radial: https://youtu.be/AFxzCVxh5OI

Kevin Shields in a Hot Tub*

Loop in Barcelona. BAM 2015

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2015 seems to be the year of ‘moments’. Moments of madness that is.

You know Loop, yeah? Well they were playing a gig in the street in Barcelona. As you do.

I had another of my little ‘moments’ and went over for the day. I’m really going to have to stop doing this.

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Loop. Love. Blah blah. Here are some pictures.

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I managed to get some decent ones of Wayne for a change.

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Look! Smiling!

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*Why Kevin Shields in a Hot Tub? I have no idea but Robert introduced one of the songs as Kevin Shields** in a Hot Tub.

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**Kevin Shields is the Herr Obergruppenführer My Bloody Valentine.

The land of fire and ice…and Loop

First off, there are no Romans in Iceland (there were a few random coin finds, but they don’t mean that any Romans were actually here so, in the absence of any real hard evidence, my statement stands). So what on earth am I doing here? From the title of this post, you’ll have guessed that this is Loop-related.

The ‘fire and ice’ bit is going to have to wait until I’ve had some sleep but first, Loop.

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ATP Iceland is a 3 day festival held at Ásbrú, a disused NATO air base near the airport near Keflavik (about 30-ish miles from Reykjavik). Sounds hilarious, doesn’t it?

The view from above.

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It was alright actually. All wind-swept concrete and stark angles. Quonset huts, and breeze-block and crinkly-tin buildings with different coloured roofs. Nothing soft. Nothing at all soft.

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Except the ubiquitous lupins, an invasive species that seems to be taking over every roadside verge in the country.

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To business.

I met up with a couple of cool Soundheads from the Edinburgh Chapter, Simon and Ellen, for the fun. Before Loop even came on stage, it was clear that this was going to be a typically hilarious Loop gig as the absolute miasma of dry ice kept setting off the fire alarm. Security seemed remarkably unfazed by this, with not even the slighted hint that an evacuation might be in order.

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In any case, the set was actually really great. I mean, it was basically the same set as they’ve been playing recently, but it was satisfyingly full of heaviosity and we were even treated to a little bit of shimmy-shimmy bum-wiggling. The sound in the Atlantic Studios, the main venue, was very good, very clean, meaning that we were treated to all the volume without muddiness or (unintended) distortion.

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Degi Hari

Stand-outs this time were Precession, this song just sounds fantastic live. I really prefer it live to the recorded version, as it has more of the oomph that I like. The drums are more pronounced, it’s heavier and the riffage is sharper and more urgent sounding. Nice one.

Arc Lite was top, with that driving impetus and ever-cool drum patterns. Burning World, which is, frankly, a lovely song, sounded lush and fluid, languid but not lazy. Mmmmm.

There was a bit of mithering from Robert. I’m not sure what the issue was but whatever it was, lots of magic gaffer tape was required. We were wondering if Robert was having trouble seeing his pedalboard, on account of the aforementioned dry ice.

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Right at the end, Robert had a little hissy, threw his guitar up in the air and stalked off stage. Some other people in the audience asked me about that afterwards. They’d really enjoyed the set but were concerned that there might be a serious problem. I told them not to worry :D. Robert was absolutely fine. He was outside having a chat and a gasper shortly afterwards.

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Discretion demands that I draw a veil over the rest of the evening (nothing naughty, just off-the-record), but I can say that I had a very nice chat with guitarist Dan and impressed upon him the absolute necessity of their rehearsing Radial in order to play it live as soon as possible. It seems that there are some autumn gigs in the offing, including in the US (you lucky Americans).

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And so, as the sun went down as far as it would go (this image was from about 1.30am) it was time to contemplate home, actual night-time darkness and water that doesn’t smell of sulphur. Iceland, it was fun. Thank you. And thanks to Hugo and Dan for the set list and pass.

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Ton Up

So I’ve reached my one-hundredth post. That’s quite a lots seeing as I don’t do blogs.

What shall I write about?

Hmm.

How about the fact that it’s my one-hundredth post? How about nothing?

I mean, rather than turn this into some sort of magnificent occasion, with a telegram from the Queen and bunch of roses, perhaps I’ll just let it slide by in a flurry of nothingness.

In a world where every little thing is hailed as ‘epic’, where every commonplace event gets pumped up into the biggest thing ever, maybe I’ll just let it pass with barely a comment.

Maybe I won’t even post any pictures. How d’ya like them apples?

I’ll see you on the other side of 100.

With pictures and all 😀

Since writing the above something momentous has happened. Something worthy of the Ton.

Loop are releasing new material 😀

This statement is from the Loop Facebook page:

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“Towards the end of 2013 saw the reformation of one of the most revered and respected late 80’s UK alternative bands, LOOP. The group, founded by Robert Hampson, hadn’t played together since the early 90’s but got together to curate a night at the legendary All Tomorrow’s Parties at Camber Sands. US dates followed in 2014 and they then got back in the studio to start recording. The result is three brand new releases coming over the next year which see the band return to their hugely unique and era defining sound whilst sounding fresh and exciting.

The first release is ‘Array 1’, four tracks and 32 mins of haunting, aggressive, beautiful noise. ‘Precession’, ‘Aphelion’, ‘Coma’ and ‘Radial’ are the first songs to be heard from their recording session done in Sub Station Studios in Rosyth in Scotland with the current line up of Robert Hampson (vocals/guitar), Hugo Morgan (bass), Wayne Maskell (drums) and Dan Boyd (guitar). With only an early version of ‘Precession’ having had any previous outing (at a show at the Garage in London at the end of 2014), this is the very first new music from the band since their third album, 1990’s lost classic ‘A Gilded Eternity’.

The next tracks will be released in the Autumn in keeping with Loop’s previous habit of putting out music in batches, Hampson describes it as “one project, with the same concept, delivered in bulletins”.

With the music out on 22nd June 2015, this ties in with a show at the Roundhouse in London on 28th June where they are part of the line-up of ATP’s Season at the Roundhouse. The event, curated by post rock band Mogwai to celebrate their 20th Anniversary, will be spread over six nights and see performances from the likes of Public Enemy, GZA, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

22nd June (24th June for the US) – ‘Array 1’ – 4 track release

18 June HEBDEN BRIDGE, Trades Club
19 June LIVERPOOL, Kazimier
20 June GLASGOW, Barrowlands (ATP with Mogwai)
28 June LONDON, Roundhouse (ATP with GZA)”

And here’s the first track from Array 1, Precession –  http://www.stereogum.com/1796516/loop-precession-stereogum-premiere/mp3s/
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I’m delirious.

“You can dance if you want to, but if you’re gonna bump into your neighbour then, er, you know….”*

Bump, bump.

20140919_144222  It’s Loop, but not as we knew it.

Ok, I’ve just got back from France where I went, as a birthday treat to myself, to check out the new Loop line-up 😀 . This was at the Levitation Festival** in Angers (Anjou), organised by Austin Psych Fest. I saw some other good bands too (and some absolute donkeys), but this is all about Loop.

New Loop? Regular readers (seriously, are there any? Well, Badger maybe, but anyone else? Ho hum) will have noticed that I have a bit of a penchant for the music and extreme volume of Loop. The earlier Loop (indeed, earlier Loops, plural), was, and is, very special to me but this is one of those moments when there’s a switch. The Gilded Eternity Loop of Hampson, Dowson, Mackay and Wills is officially no more and there’s a whole new Loop of Hampson, Boyd, Morgan and Maskell***.

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The set list went (please forgive me if I’ve got any of these wrong. I’ve got a memory like a sieve) Soundhead; The Nail Will Burn; Pulse; Straight to Your Heart; Fade Out; Collision (cue furious moshing from the crowd); Arc Lite (continued furious moshing); Forever; Vapour; Burning World (cue furious snogging from the sweethearts in front of me ).  No newies I’m afraid. We’ll just have to wait for those.

I think that I should stress here that what follows is observation, not judgement.

It’s difficult to resist the urge to compare, especially as they were playing old Loop songs, but I can really hear the differences. When you’ve been listening to particular songs for 25 years you get to know every beat and strum. Hugo’s bass-playing is pretty different to Neil’s, so I could really hear the differences there, especially on Burning World (again, not a criticism, just an observation. There’s no reason why Hugo should sound like Neil.). And of course Wayne’s drumming is quite different to John’s, but Wayne has been playing with Loop for a few months now, so he’s already a familiar part of this musical landscape. With new material these differences in style won’t be so apparent, so all the more reason for new Loop songs 😀 Newie-newness please 😀 (I don’t want much, do I?). Oh, and Dan’s guitar was way too quiet. Seriously, TURN IT UP!

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Now the judgement…

So, were they any good?

Well, yes actually.

They did start off sounding a bit tentative. I’d be very surprised if they weren’t all feeling a bit apprehensive as this headline slot is their first ever gig together (as far as I’m aware there were no warm-ups, no low key pre-festival gigs. Talk about deep ends!). They did seem to settle in really quickly though and it actually felt like they’d relaxed. I guess that the whole run-up must be pretty nerve-wracking but once you’re actually playing, you just get into it. Dan’s guitar was too quiet and the whole thing could have been louder.  I should fess up here though. I like the volume to be absolutely skull-shattering, so it probably was quite loud. Just not loud enough for me. Basically, if I can hear myself think afterwards, it wasn’t loud enough. But they did gel and that’s pretty good going, to sound so together right off the bat.

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The crowd was really responsive and there was a bit of a mosh-pit, stagediving, crowd-surfing and all that. This was quite hilarious to me, as most of my back-in-the-day experiences of Loop involved getting kicked in the head by stagedivers. That hasn’t happened in a while so I came over all nostalgic 😆 You could tell that Robert is all grown up now because he told people to be careful rather than just letting them go ahead and half kill each other 🙂 .

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When he introduced Straight to Your Heart Robert said that it was for anyone who had seen them play in Paris a few months ago. I saw them play in Paris a few months ago so you know what?  I’m owning that one 😀 . 

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So I hope that they enjoyed the gig and that they want to keep on with Loop.  They do have at least another couple of gigs scheduled for November in the Netherlands (which I can’t go to 😦 ) but I hope that there’ll be more. And new material too. It is worth it and it’ll mean that we have a whole new band to love.

Long Live Loop.

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* ” http://www.glassdarkly.com/LOOP-PAGE.html – I’ve just HAD to Anglicize the spelling. I can’t bear the absence of ‘u’s.

**http://levitation-france.com/

*** That’s Robert Hampson – Mr Loop; Dan Boyd – Brightonian and arch Loop fan; Hugo Morgan- better known as the bass player from The Heads; and Wayne Maskell – The Heads’ drummer and, latterly, Loop’s very own Animal.

I did lots of other, non-Loop, things in Angers, and I even found some Roman stuff, so if you have any interest at all in non-Loop Angers, look out for that.