LOOP – Heaven’s End; The World In Your Eyes; Fade Out; A Gilded Eternity

January 01, 1970

(Reactor/Revolver USA)

 

www.midheaven.com

 

London’s Loop, extant from 1986-91, operated under the
shadow of likeminded psychedelicists Spacemen 3, with many British journalists
at times openly – cruelly, even – dismissive of the quartet’s slavish devotion
to fuzz ‘n’ skronk. Granted, leader/guitarist Robert Hampson didn’t necessarily
go out of his way to court the press, and in England at that time the name of
the game was sucking up to the powers-that-be at the NME, Melody Maker and Sounds.
But in retrospect, those writers’ inability to peer beyond surface similarities
between S3 and Loop and award the former the
brass ring purely because it lit the hash pipe first and dropped all the
“right” references in interviews now seems short-sighted and mean-spirited.
Both groups were thrilling in their own right, and if truth be told they both
operated within a shared milieu where scores of other artists, in England and
in other countries, were rediscovering classic psych, hard rock and
experimental groups of the ‘60s and ‘70s – among them Stooges, MC5, Velvets,
Red Krayola, 13th Floor Elevators, Can, Amon Duul, Faust, Suicide
and DNA – and adapting those
influences to their own singular purposes.

 

Indeed: as revealed by these four expanded (original album +
bonus discs loaded with demos/rarities) and exquisitely remastered sets – originally
reissued in Britain in 2009
and finally available on U.S.
soil – Loop was no drone-trick pony. 1987
debut Heaven’s End (8 out of 10
stars) evidences the trailings of angular postpunk even as guitarist Hampson
displays a healthy appreciation for the likes of Ron Asheton and Fred “Sonic”
Smith, effectively channeling three decades’ worth of heaviness into a
compelling late ‘80s vision every bit as memorable as S3 or the then-emerging UK
shoegaze scene. Check the wah-wah powered strafer “Straight to Your Heart” (pure
Stooges) or the trancelike “Forever” (nice touches of Cale-era VU).

 

Speaking of “influences” namechecked above: the Heaven’s End bonus disc includes demo
and Peel Session versions of Loop’s blazing cover of Suicide’s “Rocket USA,” and
it still holds up magnificently. Meanwhile, the Krautrock specter of Can hovers
at several junctures throughout the discography – in particular the throbbing,
mesmerizing “Blood,” from 1990 swansong A
Gilded Eternity
(6 out of 10). It’s worth noting that by that point Loop
was starting to repeat itself and a split was probably inevitable. Still, the
lads didn’t necessarily go out on a low point, and “Blood” along with the
atmospheric, 9 ½ minute “Be Here Now” cradle the kosmiche egg with a purposeful delicacy, prefiguring Hampson’s
subsequent foray into music more aligned with soundscaping than rocking out.
(The pre-album demos spotlighted on the bonus disc offer additional hints as to
the direction his interests were taking him.)

 

Dipping back to 1989 for a moment, we find Fade Out (9 out of 10), familiar to
habitués of record shops’ import bins for its ultra-minimalist all-grey/silver
cover. Drenched in so much echo and reverb that it’s the aural equivalent of
getting trapped between funhouse mirrors, the album sets its controls well past
the heart of the sun to perform a series of black-hole jumps so seamless that
it’s a wonder filmmakers didn’t license whole passages of the record for their
own trippy visuals. From shimmering opener “Black Sun” to the proto-grunge of
“This Is Where You End” to the dark, ominous title track, this album is what
Loop was all about: uncorking the cranium, ladling in green goo, strapping in
to the capsule, and rocketing into the unknown. The bonus CD’s demos, mixes and
Peel Session tracks are revealing, though not essential, although a track
comprising “Fade Out Guitar Loops” is just bizarre enough to justify the disc’s
existence. Wrapping things up in the reissue series is The World In Your Eyes (7 out of 10), from ’88 and originally an
8-song LP compiling the band’s singles to date. In ’91 it appeared posthumously
on CD with 2 additional songs, but here it’s a whopping 3-CD, 27-track monster
boasting tribute album cuts (Neil Young, Nick Drake), a split single with
Godflesh (which Hampson would join briefly post-Loop), the promo-only Live EP, sundry demos and yet another
Can cover (a must-hear take of “Mother Sky”) alongside the Pop Group’s “Thief
of Fire.” Loop’s roster of icons was
unimpeachable.

 

In the mid ‘90s I interviewed Hampson, by then helming the
ambient-tilting Main, and in casting back to his Loop
tenure, he seemed genuinely proud. To the inevitable Spacemen 3 question, he
laughed and said, “We just loved some of the same music. That’s not a crime, is
it?”

 

No sir, it definitely was not.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Rocket
USA”
(Peel Session), “Straight To Your Heart” (Heaven’s
End
); “Head On,” “Mother Sky,” “Cinnamon Girl” (The World In Your Eyes); “Black Sun,” “Fade Out” (Fade
Out
), “Afterglow,” “Blood” (A Gilded
Eternity
)  -FRED MILLS

Leave a Reply