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!!

The Heads: 97% sausage

I haven’t posted a music blog for a while. I have been to a few gigs this year, and some pretty good ones too, but I’ve been busy writing about Iran and Morocco.
So to inaugurate the 2016 MooseandHobbes music blah blah, it’s The Heads. 😀 Whoop whoop.
The last time I saw them play was in September at Liverpool Psych Fest, and that was an absolute blast so I was well up for some more. This week I was looking at two gigs in two nights, in London and Manchester, so I  was gearing up for an onslaught.
First up, London. The Lexington, between King’s Cross and Angel, is where I saw The Heads before. That was a fun gig; loud and dancey. They also had lots of merchandise on the stall, in a variety of colours, so the HeadsHeads were in Nerdvana.
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The set was totally funky and included a number of songs that are basically long jams. The last time I saw them they could have been charged with ABH but although this was, I think, the same setlist, this gig had more of a groove and less of a battering, opening with the extended build of Bedlam. I particularly enjoyed Quad and Cardinal Fuzz, but, loving a wig-out as I do, Stodgy brought a grin to my face. It’s amazing how different the same songs can sound.
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At first I was thinking that it could have been louder (I always think this, so it’s not unusual), but by the end, me and my pal Jeremy were yelling at each other, so I think that the volume increased as the set went along.
As an aside, I was also struck by the make-up of the audience. I think that I only saw about 6 women in the whole place! Including me!! Maybe I was looking in the wrong place and all of the feminine elements were clustered together somewhere else. Odd.
The next day I was off up to Manchester for more action at The Ruby Lounge (and Romans too, but that’s another story). I met up with Leeds pals Ann (@ann_sequinworld) and Andy. Ann had done her leg in so was hobbling a bit, but was, otherwise, on good form.
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They played the same set, but the gig was a bit of a different beast again. Higher volume and a much harder, edgier sound meant that, although the set was still pretty funky, it had considerably bigger teeth.
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I don’t know who this chap is, but he had a setlist and a startled expression. Clearly, fame awaits him.
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So how did these two gigs compare? Let’s look at the round-up:
  • London: more funkalicious, a bit quieter, ~97% sausage.
  • Manchester: harder, louder, lower sausage ratio. Maybe 65-70%.
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The Heads were due to be playing in Prestatyn the following night, at ATP Stewart Lee. This is one of those holiday camp festivals that I find a bit much (I won’t even try to explain why, they just don’t suit me), so I didn’t plan to go, even though the line-up is great. Judging by this couple of gigs, this last gig at ATP will probably be harder than a Honey Badger with a flick-knife. I just wish it wasn’t at Pontins.
And so I made my way back to London and crashed out. That was good. A couple of days of Total Heads was just what I needed to blast the cobwebs out of my brain.
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Now, if only I could get a bit of Loop…

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.

PZYK Out

Last weekend I was up in Liverpool with my mate Jeremy. We hadn’t just gone on a whim, but were attending a psych fest, rather grandly entitled Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia (Liverpool Psych Fest to you and me).

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This festival runs over 2 days (Friday and Saturday), from mid-afternoon until the wee hours on both days. Obviously I wasn’t going to spend the entire 26 hours with my head in a speaker. I mean, there are other things to do in Liverpool, but I still got to see a few good bands, have a look at some very cool film and lighting installations, peruse the record stall and generally hang out and catch up with other chums.

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So here they are, sort of in order of top-ness (although not necessarily exactly), my micro-reviews.

My overall winners of Liverpool Psych Fest 2015:

The Heads

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50% of The Heads now = 50% of Loop, so that’s happening, right? But, in any case, I also like The Heads in their own right. By the time that The Heads were really doing the business in the later 1990s/early-2000s I’d gone off into the world of dark drum’n’bass so I pretty well missed them. A quite different group of Bristolians had my attention. I’m happy to be making up for it now though.

To describe this gig as ‘face-melting’ could be considered as something of an understatement. There were moments when the sheer volume was actually making me a bit dizzy. My inner ear took a right battering, I can tell you. At one point, I thought I was going to fall over. But I didn’t. So that’s ok.

This was largely a noise set rather than a sing-song (the gig at The Lexington in April was a bit more of a sing-song. But only a bit). But although, yes, it was stupid loud, it wasn’t stupid, if you see what I mean. And so they went storming around their back catalogue and we had lots of tunes from across various of their albums with barely a break throughout the whole set.

Basically, they went large.

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At the end of the set, I was able to get a setlist from Wayne. Thanks Wayne.

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THE BIG DECISION for a lot of people at this year’s festival was Spiritualized or The Heads. I made the right choice 😀 I can still say this, even though I know that Spiritualized played Take Me To The Other Side which, I bet, was a real tear-jerker.

After the set I had to pop upstairs to retrieve the swag I’d bought earlier, and when I was up there, another festival-goer remarked that I must have just seen a great band because I was still doing the monkey-dance 😀 It was the kind of set that leaves you reeling and high-kicking at the same time 😀 Fun, fun, fun (with added AHB).

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I filmed a couple of songs on my camera, here , but the bloke standing next to me filmed the whole set at much higher quality, here.

Also mentioned in dispatches:

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This is Simon Price from The Heads’ other project, and saw the ‘3’ expanded to ‘5’ with the addition of The Heads/Anthroprophh axe-man Paul Allen and Carlton Melton’s Rich Millman.

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This is a slightly less in yr face beast (but only ‘slightly’ less), but the set as a whole had a pleasing driving quality (lots of forward motion) with long (semi-) improvised (?) instrumentals building, evolving, adding layers and texture. A little less rock and a little more roll. One of the stand-out sets of the weekend, without doubt.

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Etienne Jaumet

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Multi-instrumentalist and producer Jaumet, of Zombie Zombie fame, pulled out a relatively low key set, with saxophone samples (sampled live!), beats and a certain Gallic funkiness. It’s less party-party than Zombie Zombie, but I liked it.

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The Lumerians. I was actually in another little venue, District, seeing Vision Fortune (who hadn’t really got going yet) but Jeremy kept sending me texts telling me that there were sparkly monks playing in Camp. Sparkly monks, you say? Yeah, well obviously. So off I went.

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I can’t honestly say that The Lumerians were big or clever, but they were fun 🙂  Lots of synths and rythmic guitars. And sparkly.

K-X-P, more hooded figures to round off Saturday night. These are a Finnish krautrock-y 3-piece with a nice line in ‘motorik’ (*snigger*) with pretty dark, driving beats and a certain amount of yelping. I did like this band but, unfortunately, they were following The Heads so I was still bouncing off the walls. I’ll need to see K-X-P again in order to do them justice but I think that they’re a goer.

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Blanck Mass, him out of Fuck Buttons, pulled out a great, pretty upbeat dance set (much of my Friday was on the dance rather than psych side). Described as an “eclectic mix of krautrock, minimal synth and Detroit techno”, which is about right, but it also made me think that this is what hard house could be like if it wasn’t so bloody boring.

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This was followed by Factory Floor who rounded off Friday night with another rousing dance-along. I understand that they sometimes have a live drummer which I think would have been even better (I like drummers. More drumminess please). It was more like a club vibe for the latter part of the night with hard techno beats and visuals there was no time for sleepiness until my head hit the pillow at stupid-o-clock.

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Not bad, so-so and meh:

What’s Russian for ‘shoegazer’? Pinkshinyultrablast. These are getting a bit of a buzz at the moment and they’re alright, but a bit of a one-trick-pony. They are clearly (very clearly) big fans of MBV but I think that the reliance on one, very girly, female vocal becomes a bit samey after a while. The music is not bad, all late-80s fuzzy indie guitars, but I hope that they’ll push it a bit more and not stick to the one tried-and-tested formula.

Virginia Wing were also alright. They had a touch of the Stereolabs about them but I really felt like they could do with just a little more bounce. The songs (I think we saw 3 or 4) were pretty good but needed a little more energy to stop them tipping over into becoming a bit boring. One to watch, maybe.

Vision Fortune. Well TBH, it hadn’t really got going before I was lured away by sparkly monks (see above, The Lumerians).

Jane Weaver, yes yes I know you all love her and she’s the saviour of music (or something) but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that she was going to end up being the next Dido or Adele, and doing a Bond theme for nice middle class Guardian readers. I’m sure she’s very nice but I just don’t really need this.

There was another band playing in Blade Factory who we saw 5 minutes of by accident. One of the blokes had a hat on that was just upsetting me, so I had to leave. I don’t know who they were.

I also tried to avoid anything that smacked of prog, as I have an extremely low prog-tolerance. That means you, Carlton Melton.

Damn and blast it:

At festivals it’s inevitable that you’ll end up missing something that you wouldn’t have minded seeing, either because of clashes or because of late-night-early-morning-I-don’t-want-to-get-up-ness. Anyway, I missed Destruction Unit, but I’ve heard that the sound wasn’t great for them. I would have liked to have seen Hey Colossus but I was in Kandodo5, and ditto for The Octopus Project, but I was in Pinkshinyultrablast. Another time, hopefully.

In addition to all these musical shenanigans, the festival had lots of other spaces to hang out in and see stuff.

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There was a chill-out cinema.

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With groovy lights. (Look, Loop t-shirt 🙂 )

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There was silk screen printing which looked like fun (I didn’t really have time to do one).

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I really liked the room with the projections. They had bands playing in there too but it got too crowded to be able to even see anything.

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And what about all those other things-to-do in Liverpool?

I had actually determined that while I was in Liverpool, I was going to have nothing at all to do with the B****es (because I’m contrary like that). I was doing pretty well until  I ran into this splendid specimen…

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*sigh*

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.