I REMEMBER the first time I fell down the LOOP rabbithole, as an uninitiated 17-year-old in love with the jingle-jangle sound of early Creation Records, grappling with the situationist excellence of Bogshed and Stump; finding my way into The Fall’s This Nation’s Saving Grace with a whole armful of questions for Mark E Smith.
In a friend’s bedroom, surreptitious cigarette out the window, he turns and says: “Oh, you have to hear these,” slipping a record from a sleeve on which figures reclined in a purple psychedelic light show. Feedback howled, power chords fuzzed, I was propelled into a psych world; it was, of course, “Sixteen Dreams” 12″. Later that afternoon I was on the train to the nearest Chain With No Name record shop, where I snagged “Spinning” 12″ for good measure. I’d entered a sexy new psychedelic world and I was ready.
It’s been a while; it’s been a long, long time actually; but LOOP, now signed to Cooking Vinyl, are ready on the starting blocks with what is, unbelievably, their first album in 32 years and their first new music in six. Come gather round and indulge in the immaculately acid psych strobe-fest of the video for a first track, “Halo”; it really is like they’ve never been away, powerful and surging and dirty and trippy-as. The visuals are state-of-the-art optically dazzling, a flood of strobe and symbolism; Robert Hampson’s voice is deeper, lost in electronic textures, any lyrical message decayed to the subliminal; the guitars honed and fiery and despatching you clinically in fuzz and motorik.
“Style wise, it’s incredibly different, going back to thinking about guitars and guitar sounds. Obviously you have to take into consideration things like percussive elements such as drums, which I haven’t been using in my other projects; but this is the mindset that makes up LOOP,” says Robert Hampson, the ever-present and visionary behind the LOOP name and sole surviving founder member who moved into drone electronica with Main and then Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM), LOOP a distant memory.
The first time LOOP re-emerged was to both play and curate 2013’s All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP) festival, followed by a performance personally requested by Robert Smith of The Cure at 2018’s Meltdown Festival.
“Through that long period when I often said I wouldn’t reform LOOP, I didn’t miss it, I didn’t feel the need to have it in my life,” explains Robert.
“It was working with people like Barry Hogan at ATP and the re-mastered reissues of our original albums coming out that sparked my interest again.
“It took me a few years to be comfortable to say, ‘Yes, we can do this again, we’re relevant’. I’m not someone who will do something for the sake of doing something.”
2015 saw the release of the EP Array 1, the first in a planned triptych which was later abandoned in favour of the new album, Sonancy. That will be with us next March.
“I went in an entirely different direction,” Robert confirms. “I started writing songs that were much more immediate, tighter, dare I say more aggressive – although not aggressive in the old LOOP way, but with a spikiness. It needed to sound more modern.
“My motto has always been ‘Forward’ and I always try to do something new with each record. I always try to push different influences in there. Specifically for this record, I wanted to counter the idea of the Array 1 EP, on which all the tracks were longer and drawn out. They still had the motorik element of bands like Neu! and CAN, but LOOP’s always had that. With Sonancy I also wanted to take a post-punk sound, spin it on its head and mix it with a psych influence.
“I was very anti-guitar for a long time. You hear progressively through the Main period the guitar fading away. I just felt that it didn’t have any place in what I was sonically trying to do and I didn’t miss it at all.
“Now, having a guitar in my hands doesn’t bother me anymore as long as I can do something useful with it; and working with the current line-up we have, it’s very enjoyable indeed. Long may it reign.”
Not only are they back; but boy, are they firing on all cylinders. Every cylinder going. Psych headz: life just got really interesting.
“Halo” is out right now via digital streaming providers.
LOOP’s Sonancy will be released by Cooking Vinyl digitally, on CD and on vinyl on March 11th; you can book your ticket aboard here.