Three decades since the sonic architects’ last album, a band thought to be done and dusted return with a new collection that is distinctly them
As far as comebacks go, Loop’s is one of the most unexpected of recent times. Having burnt out his attraction to guitars in general, originator Robert Hampson moved on to electronica with his Main project – and relocated to France – and the thought of a future Loop record seemed less likely than a Loch Ness monster sighting. After a brief two-year reformation in 2013 that took in an All Tomorrow’s Parties co-curation amongst other things, an EP (Array 1) emerged in 2015. Yet as quickly as they had returned, they again disappeared. So when a new album was announced for a 2022 release, jaws hit the floor somewhat; it’s over 30 years since their last LP, 1990’s A Gilded Eternity.
Hampson declares that, “style wise it’s incredibly different, going back to thinking about guitars and guitar sounds”, something he had distanced himself from intentionally with little desire at the time to plough that field any further. He also added that he had a specific sound in mind for the new, and fourth, LP Sonancy – Latin for “to create noise” – and this sound is deliberately directed towards early post-punk whilst retaining Loop’s trademark traits of repetitive, motorik beats and Hawkwind-like spacey swirls. In addition to the post-punk tribal drumming that considerably colours the collection, there is a repeatedly used guitar tone akin to a waspy buzz permeating throughout.
Sonancy was laid down in Bristol over the course of almost six months, with Hampson’s interest in science accounting for some of the obscure song titles. There’s a distinct quality on show that leaves you in little doubt that this is a Loop record, but it’s Loop in the 21st century and not the Loop that made its name; there’s an altogether more futuristic sound captured on Sonancy, and it starts straight from the word go.
Opener Interference introduces the waspy guitar buzz theme, as well as an energetic side that isn’t particularly something associated with a Loop record; there’s almost an urgency on show that drives blind at you, although the track is relatively plain and mundane amidst its propulsive motorik beat and swirls. The instrumental duo of Penumbra I and II offer a kind of psychedelic ambience that leads to something more abrasive but on these tracks there’s little evidence of a post-punk core or the tribal drums that would often adorn anything by Siouxsie And The Banshees, Bauhaus et al.
However, these are anomalies in that sense, as the rest of the album is positively overflowing with their presence, alongside those waspy guitar tones. Isochrone is a dark, monotonous trudge but the tribal drums dominate; closer Axion is noisier and more akin to the Loop you may remember, as its repetitive riff could be replayed for much longer than it actually is.
But the heart of the record is when Loop nail the post-punk direction they seek. The combination of those tribal drums, buzzing guitar and motorik drive sounds like a bit of a mish-mash, but it’s what Loop do tremendously well – distorting pre-conceived perceptions and purposely creating something warped from their blended influences. Singles Halo and Fermion work brilliantly as the energy gets ramped up with the former’s bassline of particular note, giving the track a somewhat late ’70s/early ’80s Simple Minds feel – albeit the Simple Minds from that time twisted into a spacey, Krautrock, psychedelic direction amidst mind-bending distortion. Also leaning heavily on Sonancy’s core direction, Eolian takes on a more melodic aspect of the theme for possibly the album’s peak whilst Supra is hypnotically – and more expected of Loop – mesmerising.
Lyrics on Sonancy are largely indecipherable unless you go out of your way to hone in on them, but once you do, Hampson prefers the listener to decipher their meaning themselves – something that might give the album extra longevity. For a band that have been mostly gone for the best part of 30 years, Sonancy is a triumph; it might not be exactly how you remember Loop to be, but it’s distinctly Loop nevertheless and is a welcome return for a band that were thought to be done and dusted. Who’d have thought it?