Album Review - LOOP's "Array 1"

By Allyson Bills

Over the past two years, the United Kingdom has seen a number of influential psychedelic and/or shoegaze bands make a comeback such as Ride and Slowdive. LOOP, comprised of the current lineup Robert Hampson (founder/vocals/guitar), Hugo Morgan (bass), Dan Boyd (guitar) and Wayne Maskel (drums), whom disbanded in 1991, can now be added to the mix. However, unlike their compatriots, LOOP is releasing new material despite a long hiatus. Array 1, LOOP’s fourth studio effort since 1990’s A Gilded Eternity, was recorded in Scotland’s Sub Station Studios in RosynthArray 1 is the first of three releases coming over the next year.

Precession” is the first track and single off Array 1, which LOOP released since their 25-year hiatus. This track is an indicator that LOOP is starting to stray away from their original psychedelic sound, and working on incorporating shoegaze elements of distortion and muted vocals. “Precession” maintains a constant beat with Maskel’s drums and Hampson’s and Boyd’s guitars in synch. This song keeps the listener waiting for something to happen for the duration of the song. However, there is no progression of “Precession” until the end with a bang.

The second track, “Aphelion,” demonstrates the shoegaze sound that LOOP is trying to nail in Array 1. The track gets off to an atmospheric start with with Hampson’s subdued, echoey vocals that almost reminds me of Catherine Wheel’s Rob Dickinson at some points of the song. Like “Precession,” “Aphelion” also retains a constant beat throughout the song with it not going anywhere. “Coma” is a breezy, instrumental track with the buzzing sound of Hampson’s and Boyd’s guitars throughout the song.  Their pedal effects makes “Coma” atmospheric, like you could fall asleep listening to the song.

The final track off Array 1, “Radial,” (and my favorite track) a haunting, steely number clocking in at 17:02 minutes. This is the only track off the album that actually evolves from a constant beat, and finally gives the listener a tease of possibly what’s to come in LOOP’s future releases. “Radial” has a quiet beginning with searing guitars and lax cymbals very reminiscent of Swans, and then catches the listener by surprise in the eleventh minute with the build up of the guitars and the rhythm section. However, in the 14:30 minute mark, “Radial” goes back into how the song started in the beginning and eventually fades out at the end.

In comparison to LOOP’s other releases, which has a more psychedelic, cleaner production, Array 1 is more nitty-grittier sounding record. While listening to the album, I can tell that the band is still trying to find the chemistry with their current lineup. For this reason, I found it very flat-sounding, and even boring at some points. It’s a good thing that LOOP is currently releasing a series of EPs, instead of a LP, because it will give a listener a taste of their new direction without simultaneously overwhelming the listener.

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