LOOP haven't split up, they've just asexually reproduced. Nick Terry talks to their two incarnations, the experimental Main and the exploratory Hair And Skin TradingMain's Hydra ep is revelation and a discovery. II seem like an eleventh-hour intervention: here and now, at the butt-end of 1991, is a record that manages somehow to put nearly everything else in perspective, a record that makes most else recorded this year seem small.
Main are Robert and Scott, Loop's two guitarists on extended sabbatical, but it's in no sense a side-project or mere dalliance. The three tracks on Hydra seem fully-realised, extended out and developed. Strangely self-contained. Flametracer introduces itself with arc-weld guitars and a bass repetition oddly reminiscent of Joy Division's Atrocity Exhibition. Robert's vocals seem to fade out almost as soon as they're breathed, but thaI's as much to do with delivery as any mixing tricks. Time Over (Dub) beds itself down into a slowly-moving, graceful distant rumble of rhythmic thunder while guitar sounds seem to gently razor the sky from top to bottom: it's a huge composition, as epic as Godflesh's Perfect Skin Dub, and yet, still minimally understated. Best of all for me is Suspension: it starts with one guitar chord - the only clearly audible chord you'll hear on the whole record - and just lets it dissipate and resolve itself into a kind of sedimentary, sedentary feedback wash, with occasional, subtle chiming guitar ripples. The bass and rhythm hang there like a heartbeat; the overall effect is somehow unsettling, but peaceful: ambiguous. The title suggests both a kind of limbo as well as a comforting bliss, a place where the track keeps you submerged, a piace which you either don't want to leave, or can't. Either way, it's still awesome and affecting. Motionlessness was never this moving.
Talking to Robert isn't the most productive of experiences. He's not however, that reticent. Rather the opposite: he's positively voluble, insists over and over again that he'd rather leave it up to the listener to make up their own minds, doesn't want to play the music-press game where a band allow themselves to be the butterflies that us music-journalists catch, kill and frame under glass.
"Music is a voyage of self-discovery for everybody, whether your mate gets you
It's intensely personal, and you take everything in as an intensely personal experience. If people do give a view on a song, it shows that they've gone and made up their own minds about it. Even if their explanation of the song isn't accurate. I'm really into personal interpretations of things because that proves that people can still be really individual about things, instead of flocking along and saying 'My Bloody Valentine' just because Joe Bloggs says they're cool.
"I find it quite weird when they're considered such guitar gods. They're not really."
They're used a lot as a figleaf by other bands who feel they need to legitimate themselves in some way.
"Because most bands are totally faceless. They're totally inept. They have to say we're big My Bloody Valentine fans or Sonic Youth fans or Dinosaur Jnr fans because basically they're totally inept. They haven't got an original idea if it fucked them up the arse."
By contrast, Main are a group who can be buggered to come up with original ideas and try things out.
"We just experimented until we found sonething," said Robert. 'There's no samples. Everything on that record is generated by a guitar. Neither of us share a great love for this auto-music sense of using a sampler. It's so easy. There's no wah-wah either, and no backwards tapes there. It's all tone manipulation, using frequencies and changing frequencies. A lot of it is real sort of analog stuff and manipulation of tapes, of tape speed."
You're deliberately not allowing yourselves the safety-net of sampling or using occasional, subtle chiming guitar ripples. The bass and specific effects pedals the way, say, The Young Gods or Slowdive would. You're deliberately having to fall back on yourselves.
"Some writer lumped Loop in with Slowdive.I took that as an insult. I think we both feel more artistically pleased if we know we've formed a sound that we got ourselves rather than saying 'fucking hell, there's a bit on this Kraftwerk record and there's a bit on this James Brown record that would be so fantastic on our record'. We don't need to do that. I'm sure anyone who's got an iota of originality about them doesn't need to do that either."
You don't even rely on the conventional verse-chorus format.
"We're not interested in verse-chorus-verse-chorus. It's such an overused form. There's other people who say repetition is for people who can't play music. But people like Steve Reich, they're classically-trained musicians, and they're just prepared to say if this piece only takes three notes, it takes three notes. Loop were never exactly musicians, we just knew how to manipulate things well. You can manipulate those two chords, so that as cyclic and repetitive as it seems, there will always be these little things flying off it. We always produced repetitious music but always take it somewhere and manipulate it."
Take yer classic pop songs, your samplers and your delay pedals, take your hip record collection and your music press, take these crutches and make a pyre out of the whole fucking lot. Learn to breathe again. Learn to freefall. Learn to catch yourself when you're falling backwards. "Now, do without me."
Originally appeared in Lime Lizard magazine, January 1992
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