Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Loop
A Gilded Eternity


Released 1990 on Situation Two
Reviewed by fwump bungle, 11/07/2000ce


Loop helped to save me in the late 80’s. They helped to save me from a fate worse than death. I was at college in Wakefield, drowning in a sea of Smileys, baggy jeans, floppy hats and future members of Ultrasound. Shoe-gazers all around, I clawed for a little substance to grab hold off. There was always Cope, of course (and, hey, where there’s Cope, there’s Hope) – but a nourishing head stew requires a number of disparate musical ingredients (especially for a growing lad, such as I was). I had already discovered some Golden classics (The Stooges, The MC5, Chrome, Suicide to name but four… I had a long way to go, but I was getting there) but where was the music of today? Where were the Heads who were supposed to be forging our new heritage?

Then I found a copy of the first Loop album ‘Heaven’s End’ and bought it for two (fairly inane) reasons (one: the vague techie cover; and two: it had a cover of Suicide’s ‘Rocket USA’ as a bonus track). Well, it fair blew me away. Okay, so the singing was crap, and purely incidental, the lyrics may have been in Urdu for all I knew or cared. And I didn’t care, because the guitars were loud, and they were almost impenetrable – and now I wanted to start playing loud impenetrable guitar riffs. The only sense of order was gained from the repetition of grooves, I was free from the curse of the verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus mentality. Here, for one of the first times, I was experiencing Sound.

Sure, there were other things going on which occasionally touched on similar ground to Loop – Spacemen 3 came closest, and My Bloody Valentine patrolled the poppy edge of their terrain – but Loop had the edge. They didn’t have to force out the psychedelic moments, and the Krautrock reference points were all naturally occurring. Plus, it also helped that, more often than not, they rocked a fat one.

The band was in a constant state of flux - with the personnel thinning so much that occasionally it was rumoured that there was only main man Robert Hampson left – and the musical progression from the first album through to the end reflects this.

‘A Gilded Eternity’ is Loop at their highest point, the guitars are hard and angular, the bass riffs spot on, and the drums unrepentant. As usual the vocals are whiny, but buried so deep in the mix that Hampson may as well be next door singing through the wall.

The tracks, like the guitars, swirl into one another. The bass propels things forward, keeping the momentum going, and the drums glue the whole thing together. But wherever the music wanders, it always comes back to the guitars. Only on the album’s centre-piece, ‘Shot With A Diamond’, are the guitars usurped by a droning soundscape not a million miles away from what Tangerine Dream were doing on ‘Zeit’ (and I don’t make that comparison lightly). Only on the closing track, ‘ArcLite (Sonar)’, is anything even closely resembling a ‘song’ served up – and then it’s only because the snare has the audacity to double-up on a couple of occasions, thus altering the rhythm and serving to ‘section’ the music.

This whole sound may have been what floppy-fringed shoe-gazers were all aiming for, but they failed to recognise the one ingredient they were lacking. They had the guitars, they had the pomp-psychedelia, they had the effects pedals, they even (occasionally) had half-decent riffs. But they forgot the Rock.

Loop fizzled on for another year or two after this album, and eventually broke up in 1992. Drummer John Wills and bassist Neil MacKay formed the spasmodic Hair & Skin Trading Company. Hampson, meanwhile, (after a short break in the Godflesh ranks, performing on their finest album ‘Pure’) went on to form Main – and it’s under this guise that he continues to evolve the sound he first pursued with Loop.


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