Essential Loop (and Loop Related) Recordings:
1980 - 1989
(or, Return to Main Loopography Index)
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1980 - 1989
Grandmaster Flash: The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on The Wheels of Steel (1981)
Grandmaster Flash is generally regarded as the innovator of many of the DJ techniques that spawned the whole idea of "turntablists." In the mid to late 70's he came up with the "cutting" techniques so common today, where he could quickly switch back and forth between two turntables to extend a jam. It was a manual form of looping, where he could let a sample play on one turntable while cuing the same thing up on the other turntable. Crossfade back and forth and you get an endless loop. Originally this was just a way to let a good groove keep playing so people at the party could keep dancing. But Flash took it further than that. Add scratching over the top, so he could improvise rhythms and sample fragments into the groove. Mix together an assortment of different records as sound sources. Soon Grandmaster Flash was more than just a party DJ, he was constructing collages of sound together into music that was all his own. He was a key pioneer in the earliest days of Hip-Hop, with legions of DJ's and producers following in his wake in the decades to follow.
The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on The Wheels of Steel is the first recorded example of this style of DJ-created, multiple-sample music, and it is a Grandmaster Flash tour-de-force. It was the archetype for all multiple sample music to follow. In it, he mixes together one of his own group's hits, "Birthday Party", with elements of Chic's "Good Times", Blondie's "Rapture", The Sugarhill Gang's "8th Wonder", Spoonie Gee's "Monster Jam", Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust", and a few mystery samples into something completely new. Loops and fragments are spun together into something completely new. And of course, through it all the danceable beat never stops.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five - Adventures on the Wheels of Steel (box set) - Buy it at Amazon.com
Grandmaster Flash - The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash ... More of the Best - Buy it at Amazon.com
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five - Best of Grandmaster Flash Vol. 2. - Buy it at Amazon.com
Grandmaster Flash - Message/Adventures of...(reissue of original 12") - Buy it at Amazon.com
Robert Fripp: Let the Power Fall (1981)
1 man, 1 guitar, a fuzz box, volume pedal and two tape recorders: the pure deal. It's like studying Looperus-Australopithecus.
More reviews needed!
Robert Fripp - Let the Power Fall - Buy it at Amazon.com
Paul Dresher: Liquid and Stellar Music (1981)
I'm a big Dresher fan. I dug his "Liquid and Stellar Music" (1981). I had the great privilege of witnessing Paul do this mucic live in the small auditorium of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. His method of looping (at the time) was strictly tape-based -- but still startling nontheless. He employed a single 8-track reel-to-reel machine with long adjustable "arms" that had pullies on them to accomodate long tape loops of varying lengths. He had also constructed a "bank" of foot pedals (looking much like an organ player's bass pedals, but obviously home-made) that controlled the recording volume on each of the 8 tracks of the recorder. These he would use to control the input from his guitar. While his music had a lot in common (in my thinking) to groups like Tangerine Dream and Ashra (mostly because of the repetitive aspect) it was enthralling to see one person "do it all" live -- and so well too. Though it was stricly guitar-bassed, it was totally un Fripp-like. His playing was very similar to what I've heard of Matthias Grob's -- very fluid, clean and melodic. One of the really neat tricks he would do involved his post-loop processing through an early Eventide Harmonizer. Somehow (this was pre-MIDI, I believe), he was able to, at certain points, change the pitch of his loops (without changing the tempo) by pressing keys on a small, one-octave keyboard. This was the first time I'd heard (or seen) anyone do that.
Additional Comments from Richard Zvonar:
>He employed a single 8-track reel-to-reel machine
It was a four track: TASCAM 40-4.
>He had also constructed a "bank" of foot pedals
24 control voltage pedals that regulated a VCA mixer build by Paul Tydelski at UCSD.
>One of the really neat tricks he would do involved his post-loop processing through
>an early Eventide Harmonizer. Somehow (this was pre-MIDI, I believe),
>he was able to, at certain points, change the pitch of his loops
>(without changing the tempo) by pressing keys on a small, one-octave
>keyboard. This was the first time I'd heard (or seen) anyone do that.
He used an Eventide H949. The keyboard would have had a control voltage connection. He later moved up to an H3000.
>his music had a lot in comon (in my thinking) to groups like Tangerine Dream and Ashra
I've often wondered about influences on Paul's loop music. I never heard him listen to TD, Fripp, or any of that era's "space music" but that doesn't mean he was unaware of it. Steve Reich (and to some extent Terry Riley) were probably more direct influences, and I expect Ingram Marshall and Daniel Lentz inspired the tape system.
Bit of Dresher trivia: The first version of "Liquid and Stellar Music" was a class exercise for Robert Erickson's timbre seminar in the winter of 1978. It was realized on an Ampex 1/2" 4-track. The intention was to create a musical texture that was perceived as a continuum, without individual "sound objects" popping out in the mix.
Paul Dresher - Liquid and Stellar Music - available from the Paul Dresher Ensemble's web site.
Severed Heads: Since the Accident (1983)
Severed Heads work always relied heavily on multitrack tape loops, and Since The Accident (along with City Slab Horror) is probably the best example of their work. The album features their early proto-dance 'hit' track, "Dead Eyes Opened" (since remixed) and gloriously grotty "Exploring the Secrets of Treating Deaf Mutes". However the loop tracks are the real highlight of the album. "Brassiere in Rome" is a masterpiece of sliding looped sections producing an ever shifting soundscape. Other loop track masterpieces include "Gnashing the Old Mae West", "Golden Boy" and "A relic of the Empire", the last, on rare Australian editions, includes audio in the run-in (i.e. as soon as the needle touches the vinyl). The B-side includes a loop-groove at the -start- (on the Australian edition anyway).
Tom Ellard + Garry Bradbury: Tape machines, drum programming, sequencers, turntables, televisions.
Simon Insectocutor: Guitar, treatments.
Severed Heads - Since the Accident - Buy it at Amazon.com
Paul Dresher Ensemble: Slow Fire (1985)
Slow Fire is a modern opera composed by Paul Dresher and written by Rinde Eckert. It featured extensive use of the sophisticated multi-track tape looping system Paul first began using in1979 and continued using throughout the 80's and 90's. In 2005, Slow Fire was reprised for numerous exciting performances, where Paul used three Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro loopers instead of his original tape looping system. The CD is a studio recording from 1992. There is also a video available of the original 1985 performance. (both are excellent, but neither compares to seeing it live.)
It is really something how intricate the looping is on Slow Fire. Paul was way, way beyond the stereotypical looping-as-sound-texture thing at that point. He smoothly creates multiple parts with a lot of interlocking harmonic and rhythmic elements, and mixes the different loops on the fly for different song sections. He even grabs bits of Rinde Eckert's vocals into the loops. The music is composed, and it's cool to hear how precise it all comes out. It would be easy to think it was pre-recorded samples being triggered by a sequencer, but it if you listen you can tell it's all performed live. I think that really gives this performance a better energy than pre sampled stuff ever has. It is amazing to think that Paul Dresher was composing and performing looping music as sophisticated as this in 1985. He was well ahead of his time. The opera itself is fantastic and powerful - wonderful music. We saw it performed in 2005 and couldn't get the music out of our heads for months.
I saw "Slow Fire" performed live back in 1988 (over half my lifetime ago...!) and it was a very, very powerful thing. This was around the time I started getting into electronic music (and well before I played guitar) and I was really taken with the way electronics were being used in an obvious, engaging, MUSICAL way, that was woven into the texture of the performance itself.
I didn't know anything about the concept of "looping" at the time, but I knew it was really great music, and I could tell (even in my technologically uninformed state) that Paul was using his gear in a fabulously dynamic manner. And there's nothing ambient about it...
Two thumbs up for 'Slow Fire'. Very, very highly recommended.
Paul Dresher Ensemble - Slow Fire - CD and Video are available from the Paul Dresher Ensemble's web site.
Paul Dresher Ensemble - Slow Fire - CD Buy it at Amazon.com