Caught In The Loops
Hugh Hopper : Jazzloops (Burning Shed Records)

Hugh Hopper has long had a fascination with the use of tape loops and the sort of textures that can be produced by them. These interests go back to his teenage days in Paris under the influence of Gong-meister, Daevid Allen, himself an acolyte of Terry Riley. Hopper continued his own experiments on Soft Machine's ´Spaced' from 1969. Best known of all is probably ´1984', his first solo outing after baling out of the Softs. That album still stands out as a quirky little masterpiece from an era when he was involved with some fairly dull jazz rock.

Now he has assembled further soundscapes on ´Jazzloops'. He grafts assorted instruments and loops together to create some pieces which are not a million miles away from that earlier album. Samples have been lifted from ´live' and other recordings by various friends and musical associates like Robert Wyatt, Elton Dean, Didier Malherbe and Simon Picard. These are mixed with his own bass, voice and keyboards. The technology may be better and genre-wise it offers a passing nod at post trip-hop but there is still a similarly dark and grainy feel to some of these tracks that recall the somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere of ´1984'.

Bass reverberates and various items of percussion throb and pulse while unidentifiable loops circulate in the back or foreground. ´afrik' is one such track and also features some characteristic fuzzy bass and looped sax that comes and goes, a strangely haunting voice in a fog of sound. Like other Hopperscapes it has an eerie, alien quality that is still attractive. The same goes for ´garrisoi' where Wyatt's voice floats wordlessly over a steady bass riff.

More shredded fuzz bass lines throb and fizz around the crisp drumming and tight horn riffs of ´acloop'. These horns reminded me that Hopper has had a fondness in the past for James Brown style brass riffs. This is as good an example as any of his ability to weld together diverse textures. Though others may use similar methods the results here could only be the work of Hopper.

It isn't all dark terrain though. ´aintpo' has some luminous keyboard and horn playing coupled with guitar that may even be the kind of speeded-up bass he's used before elsewhere. The atmosphere is lighter. Music for a slow drive through a warm French landscape in August.

These assembled pieces show a concern for pitting the very human sounds of various saxophonists against computer generated samples. It is refreshing to hear Hopper following his own path and getting the best sound out of these combinations. Even the minimalist packaging is idiosyncratic. The cd comes in a brown folding card with black and white photo inside. Like the music, it is oddly attractive.

Paul Donnelly