Loop were the first band I ever went to see twice on the same tour, in Liverpool and Manchester on the "Fade Out" tour in November 1988. I bought their last two albums "Fade Out" and "A Gilded Eternity" on the days they were released and saw them play five gigs before mainman Robert Hampson moved on to more experimental soundscapes with Main. This co-headline show with Godflesh was the third time I'd seen them since their surprising but most welcome reformation, which was initially just to play and curate All Tomorrow's Parties and has now grown into something bigger. In Leeds Loop opened and their set was very similar to, although a little shorter than their performances at All Tomorrow's Parties Camber Sands and Leeds Brudenell Social Club in December 2013. The big surprise was a change of drummer. John Wills was gone and in his place was the drummer from The Heads. Loop seemed a little tighter than in December. This is probably because they've been playing longer now, but the change of drummer could also be a factor. However it was perhaps telling that "Vapour" had been dropped from the set as the sped up then decelerating coda must be their most tricky drum part. They also had no time for the Can "Mother Sky" medley and yet again opened with "Soundhead," a possible manifesto for Robert's obsession with sound. There is also some irony or relevance in this being the opening song in that the first song is the one where the sound might not be quite right and needs a some tweaking. It sounded fine but they really nailed it with "The Nail Will Burn." Although Loop's aproach to rock is more considered and cerebral, I think their prime antecedents are the Stooges as their songs combine killer riffs with hypnotic mantric effect, Robert's vocals delivered in a an almost monotone. "Soundhead" could be the unholy offspring of "Not Right" (riff) and "We Will Fall" (mantra). "Straight To Your Heart" could be their "I Wanna Be Your Dog", the song lodged deep in the set (fourth actually). Few were caught out by the lull before the psyched out coda, suggesting that despite an abundance of Godflesh T-shirts, people knew Loop music well. One lady near the front was struck by Loopmania and started whooping and shouting, "Robert!" between songs. "Well someone's having fun," remarked Robert. Everyone down the front was having great fun, feeling the "Pulse" as heavy as it should be. The tremelo on Scott Dawson's guitar shimmered, "It'll happen some time," and legs akimbo Neil Mackaye bassed raw power. There were two songs in succession that mentioned hearts; "Fever Knife" cut with deliberate precision, a tunnel for the ultra-familair riff of "Collison" then the highpoint "Arc-Lite" revealing itself with stop-start circularity as one of the best dance tunes ever. At the end of the eighties Loop all looked alike with long black hair hiding their faces. Now Robert sports a silver bowl cut and Neil and Scott have their hair cut short. They might look different but the music sounds the same, a timeless artistic legacy that could last "Forever." They'd played everything but the title track from the first side of "Heaven's End" but I'd really love them to play "A Gilded Eternity" all the way through. There was a little more of that with "Breathe Into Me" then a rewind to their earliest days before Neil and Scott were in the band for a slow "Burning World." Since this gig Scott Dawson is rumoured to have left Loop. Soon after Loop were gone Justin Broadrick and GC Green were battling the drum machine in Godlesh, a more metallic proposition, but sharing with Loop a love of the riff and monotone vocals, although delivered with much more aggression. The only song I recognised was "Antihuman" but I enjoyed their brutal wall of noise, albeit from further back in the room.
This review was written for Optical Sounds 7