Loop- Fade Out

Through the last five or so years we’ve seen a really interesting revival of the artier end of psych rock: psych drone, or I guess you could also call it krautrock revival. The Cosmic Dead, White Hills, Mugstar, Moon Duo, and Earthless…. I like most of these bands, even though I can recognize that they’re all fairly similar to each other. Though psych drone takes most of its inspiration from psychedelic rock made in the early seventies in America, West Germany, and England, the one band I feel I can point to as the prototypical psych drone outfit came from the 90’s, a little closer to our time– that band was Loop.

It’s a little ironic that I’m inferring that a whole genre of music is derivative of Loop, when Peter Kember famously snarked that Loop was itself a rip off of his band Spacemen 3 (still more ironic that Kember would say that, considering that 3 of the songs on Spacemen 3’s debut were covers). Let’s be honest though, as much affection as I have for Jason Pierce (Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is one of my favorite albums of all time) and as much respect I have for Kember as a producer, Loop were better at being Spacemen 3 than the Spacemen themselves were. And the funny thing is, Loop already seem to be fast on the road to semi-obscurity. Just this week, I’ve asked something like fifteen people if they were going to see them at the Doug Fir tonight, and not a single person seemed to know who they were.

Vocalist and guitarist Robert Hampson initially formed the band with his then-girlfriend Becky Stewart on drums and Glen Ray on bass, before revamping the band in 1988 with bassist Neil MacKay, guitarist James Endeacott and drummer John Wills. In 1989, James Endeacott was replaced by Scott Dowson on guitar. They only recorded three albums, and Fade Out was their second.

Loop’s music is repetitive,  detached, and highly sexualized.  It’s pretty simple stuff, but it cuts into the ears, and the soul.  Listening to this group back to back with modern psych drone, you will see what I mean when I say that this is the band that nearly all psych drone must reckon to– detached vocals echo amid metronomic drums and slow, blaring guitar riffs. So perhaps Loop’s music is fairly samey– but rock is fairly samey music. Listen to “Fade Out”, “Fever Knife”, and “A Vision Stain” and tell me that they didn’t do a top notch job of making garage rock that brings you on a slow-motion journey through inner space.

Loop has recently reformed for a tour. For my Portland readers, they will be playing tonight at the Doug Fir. The line-up will be that on A Gilded Eternity, with Scott Dowson on guitar. Hurry before it sells out! Happy listening and see you there.


Mono- You are There

One of the loveliest of the third-wave post-rock bands is Mono, hailing from mid-2000’s Tokyo.

I remember having some friends in high school who loved these guys. I’ve never been a huge fan of most third-wave post-rock, but the genre has its moments– How Strange, Innocence by Explosions in the Sky is one, and You Are There by Mono is most certainly another.

Third-wave, for the most part, rehashes Labradford’s albums as much Godspeed’s, with bolero guitars, crashing climaxes, and somber silences the ingredients one can count on hearing.  It’s nice music, and Mono’s music might be the nicest of the bunch.

You are There is, like its contemporaries, severe and sad, but it has a gracefulness and special majesty to it. Central to this is the interplay between lead guitarist Takaakira Goto and rhythm guitarist Hideki Suematsu. The guitars boom and shimmer like no other band from their generation, conjuring up romantic imagery of snowy mountains and caverns. It’s worth mentioning that this album has a fitting cover: a snowy mountain scene with a pine forest in the foreground and a blood sunrise in the background. Mono was a first class band, and it would be nice to see a new album from them.

If any of my Portland readers are interested, Mono will be appearing at the Doug Fir Lounge tonight at 8Helen Money will be supporting. Happy listening.