Essential Loop (and Loop Related) Recordings:
1990 - 1999
(or, Return to Main Loopography Index)
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1990 - 1999
Paul Dresher and Ned Rothenberg: Opposites Attract (1991)
Paul Dresher and Ned Rothenberg: Opposites Attract, New World Records 1991: I'm not sure how essential this is on the larger scale, since I seem to be the only person to have ever bought this record, but it was certainly a huge inspiration to me. Paul Dresher has done a lot of work with tape-based looping systems. Ned Rothenberg is an NYC-based woodwinds virtuoso. Opposites Attract is the result of 4+ years of collaboration, and offers a number of interesting perspectives on the challenges of live-looping with an ensemble, and on how looping technology was evolving at the time (1987-1991).
The liner notes describe the process of making the disc. Dresher had designed a live tape-looping system, a 4-track reel to reel deck with an extra playback head, thus allowing 4 loops and 8 separate playback tracks. For the initial 1987 recording sessions, they did live looping with Rothenberg's various instruments (alto and tenor saxes, shakuhachi, bass clarinet and ocarina) and Dresher's guitar, and layed tape loops from Dresher's looping system onto 24 track tape. They then assembled a band of some of NYC's best avant jazz players, including Mark Dresser on acoustic bass, Anthony Jackson on electric bass, and drummers Bobby Previte and Samm Bennet, and overdubbed live parts onto the pre-recorded loops. There were immediate problems with the sessions, the loops were autonomous and didn't synchronize well, plus they felt the looping left the music static and limited their compositional freedom. So the project was abandoned for a few years.
In 1989, they picked up the project again. By this time, digital samplers and computer sequencers had become affordable. An opportunity for a live performance provided the impetus. They sampled the loops from the original master tapes, and spent several weeks constructing a single 45-minute piece which they performed live with a sequencer and a keyboardist triggering the loops. This was a success, so they returned to the studio and worked on the material again, using some of the performances from the original 1987 sessions and also adding new overdubs.
The music is similar to some of David Torn's work from the 80's and 90's, only the loop sources are mostly from woodwinds instead of guitar. Several pieces are built around rhythm loops generated from keyslaps on a bass clarinet, amplified and EQ'd to sound like some mutant mix of roto-toms and a tabla. The songs range from edgy funk workouts to ambient soundscapes, with some terrific playing from all involved. This disc proves that extended technique woowind sounds are an excellent source for looping, and I'd love to hear more musicians explore this area.
Paul Dresher and Ned Rothenberg - Opposites Attract - available from the Paul Dresher Ensemble's web site.
Paul Dresher and Ned Rothenberg - Opposites Attract - Buy it at Amazon.com
David Torn: Tripping Over God (1995)
David Torn: Tripping Over God - Buy it at Amazon.com
Robert Fripp: That Which Passes: 1995 Soundscapes, Vol. 3 [Live] (1995)
Undoubtedly one of the most complex arrangement of loops ever conceived by a single performer is Robert Fripp's monumental "That Which Passes" Soundscapes Vol III. Consisting of 11 tracks in total the album was compiled from a series of live recordings at the Gothe Institute in Buenos Aires beginning on the evening of Monday 3rd. April and continuing through to Sunday 9th. April, 1995, and Washington Square Church on Friday 8th. and Saturday 9th. September 1995.
More refined than the proceeding albums this work presents itself as a deeply spiritual catharsis. The sleeve notes, written by Robert in his usually thoughtful style, explain how the album was created after the passing of his mother. The linear notes also go into considerable depth as to the business nature of DGM (Fripp's label) and related philosophical discourse.
But the strength and real beauty of this album lay in the incredible tones, immense layering and endless delay produced by Fripp's four TC 2290 delay units. Scarcely a recognisable guitar sound is evident. The overall sound could be more likened to a haunted cathedral of whirling weeping spirits. Tracks such as 'The Leap' demonstrate Fripp's fine control of the technology and have moved this listener to genuine awe in an ipod headset.
Fripp moves very slowly with his looping and the delay times used can be quite long. The ability to keep command and maintain attention throughout these long segments is a testament to RF's abilities as a guitarist. But for myself, like all truly great pieces of music, this albums represents something more than the notes played and technology utilised, for me this album is all about emotion and honesty. In my book you'd be hard pressed to find a more dramatic display of sadness to joy from death to rebirth and finally salvation.
Robert Fripp: That Which Passes: 1995 Soundscapes, Vol. 3 [Live] - Buy it at Amazon.com
Bill Frisell: Bill Frisell / Kermit Driscoll / Joey Baron - Live (1995)
Bill Frisell is one of those musicians that are so good that they make it look easy. He never plays any blazing runs, but he has such control of the guitar, musicality and beautiful tone, that you can't help but be impressed. And the more you listen, the more you are impressed.
This extends to his looping, which is so seamless and natural you sometimes don't even notice it. Sounds will mysteriously pop out of nowhere in the middle of a solo, to the point that many would assume they are overdubbed.
While most Frisell recordings have plenty of examples of his looping, this live set, generally considered to be one of his best recordings (and a great example of the incredible, almost telepathic, interplay between these three fabulous musicians), leaves you in no doubt as to where those ambient sounds in the background are coming from.
Bill Frisell: Bill Frisell / Kermit Driscoll / Joey Baron - Live - Buy it at Amazon.com
Chet Atkins: Jam Man (1996)
Chet Atkins is of course well remembered for his fingerpicking guitar playing style and his many popular Country and Bluegrass songs. His career spanned decades, and throughout he was an avid enthusiast for new musical technologies - including those related to looping. He used tape echo effects as integral parts of his music well back in the 60's. In the early 1990's, Chet aquired two Lexicon JamMan's shortly after they came out and became an enthusiastic looper.
For his 1996 album Almost Alone, Chet recorded the song "Jam Man". The song makes heavy use of looping, where he layers multiple parts and creates different song sections. And obviously he named it after his favorite looping tool, the JamMan! In performances he liked to explain the looping process to audiences so they could appreciate what he was doing, and after finishing the song he would leave the stage while his JamMan kept on playing "Jam Man."
"Jam Man" became a popular country hit for Chet, and still gets regular radio airplay. Chet Atkins won a 1996 Grammy award for "Jam Man" for Best Country Instrumental Performance. In the process, Chet introduced looping to legions of Country fans, Chet Atkins fans, and finger-style guitarists who avidly studied his playing. Chet is the one who suggested to Phil Keaggy that he give looping a try, producing another of our essential loopers.
Chet Atkins: Almost Alone - Buy it at Amazon.com
Chet Atkins: The Essential Chet Atkins: The Columbia Years - Buy it at Amazon.com
Chet Atkins: Chet Picks on the Grammys - Buy it at Amazon.com
David Torn: What Means 'Solid', Traveller? (1996)
Phil Keaggy: Acoustic Sketches (1998)
I saw Phil Keaggy play last night, and that guy's a looping monster. He was playing amplified acoustic, and started off most tunes by quickly building up a grooving "drum" part by tapping and slapping the body of the guitar, often adding a shaker part by waving one over the soundhole, where the internal mic could pick it up. And then, he was off--singing, playing, overdubbing, recovering quicly and gracefully from any mistakes (forgotten lyrics, switching hiccups, whatever). It's a cliche, but he's a one-man band up there. Looper's appeared to be a JamMan and DL4. A highly recommended performance, unless you've got a serious aversion to Christian lyrics and a bit of between song prosyletizing.
If you're interested I'd suggest Acoustic Sketches, which is all instrumental with oodles of JamMan and liner notes for each tune by Phil detailing tunings, JamMan use, etc. It's from 1998, and he's progressed WAY beyond that now, but it's still a good example. He's also got a new all-guitar album (Freehand) which I haven't had a chance to listen to yet, but I suspect it's also got a bunch of looping since it seems to be a big part of what he's up to now.
Ever since I started Looper's Delight, one of the most common names I hear in relation to looping and influence is acoustic guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy. I get emails all the time from acoustic guitarist loopers who tell me Phil Keaggy is the primary reason why they became interested in looping. He has used looping extensively in his live shows for many years. As a result, he's played an essential role in introducing looping to the acoustic guitar universe, where looping has now become commonplace.
In interviews Keaggy talks about using the jamman a lot on "Acoustic Sketches" from 1998. Since that album is highly regarded anyway, it's a great place to start investigating Phil Keaggy and his looping.
Phil Keaggy: Acoustic Sketches - Buy it at Amazon.com
Andre LaFosse: Disruption Theory (1999)
Andre LaFosse's 1999 album "Disruption Theory" was a major milestone in the looping universe. It blew me and many many other people away when it came out. He applied drum&bass chop up and reconstruct concepts to his guitar playing, and pulled off a lot of it live with a single Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro, fueled by a hyperactive d&b rhythm section. With the exception of the drum track, all the sounds on this album are created with a guitar and a looper. He even has an "Echoplex solo" on there.
I hadn't heard anybody doing stuff like this before Andre. He brought all sorts of new looping techniques to the table, many of which he's continued to develop in remarkable ways into his current unique style. Best of all, he used the ideas musically. "Disruption Theory" rocks! There's a reason people on the Looper's Delight list mention Andre LaFosse all the time as an influence. That man can play!
With "Disruption Theory", Andre LaFosse was already way beyond what most people thought looping was all about. He really raised the bar, and he raised it a lot. After this you could hear Andre's influence appearing all over the place in the looping technique of of looping musicians. And this was just a hint of what Andre was going to do next...
Andre LaFosse: Disruption Theory - Buy it directly from Andre's Altruist Music site
Andre LaFosse: Disruption Theory - Buy it at Amazon.com
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