Heavy, drugged-out and utterly hypnotic, Loop invoked a dark, trippy sound that was unlike most other UK underground rock bands in the late 1980's. Blending together the trance-inducing psych riffage of Hawkwind, the stoned Detroit garage stomp of the MC5 and Stooges, and the mesmeric motorik throb of Can, Loop were a band whose sound was a mirror image of their name: cyclic, circular riffs pounded out over heavy duty propulsive drumming, plowing through thick clouds of feedback and lysergic lead guitar, with dreamy, disinterested vocals drifting in through a field of reverb. Along with the Spacemen 3, these bands breathed new life into the idea behind space/drug rock, but where Spacemen 3 were super wasted and spaced out, Loop had a much heavier, crunchier sound, with guitars that could be heavy and distorted enough to sound almost metallic. Hell, Loop were heavy enough to have ties with Godflesh, for fuck's sake, as the legendary Godflesh/Loop split 7" will attest. All of Loop's output has been out of print for years and tough to find, but we're finally seeing their albums being reissued through Reactor, in gorgeous new packages with loads of extras, starting with the band's first two albums.
As awesome as Loop were, they've mostly enjoyed a cult underground following and aren't well known outside of psych/noise/avant rock circles. I think they were ahead of their time in so many ways, and if you dropped Loop in front of an audience at a current heavy psych show, people who had never heard of them would probably go nuts over them. Huge, buzzing metallic guitars, head-nodding riffs looped over and over, big booming motorik drums, simple three chord riffs grinding over and over, super catchy and blown and soaked in effects and feedback, the singer's narcotized crooning just barely cutting through the thick haze of drugged out rock. So goddamn great. They were like this massive supercharged krautrock band, but overloaded with trippy effects. After Loop disbanded in the early 1990's following the release of A Gilded Eternity, members would go on to form other projects like Hair And Skin Trading Company and Main, but none of those projects were as heavy and spaced-out and druggy as Loop.
When Loop came out with their second album Fade Out in 1988, you could hear them evolving beyond the raw, noisy Stooges/Can drugjams of their debut with a cleaner, more polished production and a streamlined approach to their sound that sounds even more unique here. The eight songs on Fade Out are way heavier and crunchier than before, the bass more audible, drums more complex and driving, and more than anything the guitars are more pronounced, with a huge crunchy distorted tone that casts off most of the stoned, feedback-coated haze of their debut. A thick cloud of guitar whir opens the disc, shuttling us into the heady propulsive throb of "Black Sun", distorted garage riffage and echoing chord clusters exploding over a pulsating bassline and busy motorik drums, hinting at the psychedelic feedback of the debut but pointing towards a more focused, acid-scorched hypno-rock sound. "This Is Where You End" is another classic, again jamming layers of buzzing guitar drone-riff and wailing wah guitar over a heavy krautrock beat. The song "Fever Knife" is one of the slowest tracks on Fade Out, a sludgy bloozy guitar riff plodding alongside multiple lead guitars breaking out into druggy wah-wah overload, the track moving in and out of phase at times and even being devoured entirely by massive flanger effects. This one is super druggy and psychedelic and stomping and it's the closest we get to Loop's earlier sound. But that's followed by the heaviest Loop song yet, "Torched"; here the guitars get super distorted and chunky, a huge wrecking-ball riff crashing through the endless wah, almost overwheling the distorted bass and frenetic drumming, getting noisier and more blown out and caustic at the end - definitely one of my all time favorite Loop songs! Then it's back to another slow syrupy drug crawl with the title track; the central riff is a massive plodding dirge, grinding slowly over a steady propulsive pulse and the weary, effects-heavy vocals, the whole thing dark and heavy and oppressive. "Pulse" is another catchy midtempo rocker, lots of wavering tremelo guitar and trippy wah-buzz and heavy distorted riffage, followed by the equally crunchy jams "Vision Stain" and "Got To Get It Over", the latter of which closes the album out in a dark fog of rumbling low-end feedback and haunting ambience.
As with Reactor's reissue of Heaven's End, Fade Out is given the deluxe treatment, packaged as a double disc set in a metallic silver Stought style gatefold sleeve with printed inner sleeves. The first disc features the remastered album, and the second disc has even more awesome extras this time around, including alternate mixes of three songs from Fade Out that are drenched in feedback, a demo version of "This Is Where You End", a three song Peel Session from 1988, and a bunch of textural guitar loops played by Robert Hampson for the Fade Out sessions; these five loops range from wailing feedback blur to rumbling slabs of heavy drone, and these abstract guitar pieces forshadow the more experimental guitar-based music that Hampson would explore with this project Main after the demise of Loop.