Tages-Anzeiger; 27.08.2005; p.54

Deutsche Version dieses Artikels.

Musical Door Opener

The 1st International Loopfestival Zürich in the Moods club showed on Thursday how people are united by their love for digital loop devices.

By Christoph Merki (Translation to English by Bernhard Wagner)

Everything breathes familiarity. The musicians performing every half hour in the Moods club, Zurich come from all over the world, yet they seem to know each other - a small family, joined by the one big musical passion: the technique of live looping. With the solo artists in mind, it seems as if the cult band New Bag of the Lucerne-based guitarist Christy Doran was going beyond the scope of the festival (Their concert was the figurehead of the first evening and concluded it). A seamlessly functioning band of four. Possibly too perfect for this evening! Singer Bruno Amstad uses those tiny digital devices that represent the core of the festival: loop devices. When Amstad sings a sequence he can record it instantaneously, repeat it endlessly, add further tracks to this background: The musician plays music with himself.

«Us Loopers»

In the first three and a half hours before Doran's gig the instrumentalists had presented their work with loop devices. Every half an hour a different musician was standing on the Moods stage, closely communicating with his loop device: And it seemed as if it were rather these instrumentalists genuinely standing for the spirit of this festival happening in Zurich for the first time rather than Doran's group who represented rather the icing than the cake itself.

Organisator Bernhard Wagner lead through the evening as moderator - the first of three evenings with a total of 40 musicians. It became obvious that the performing musicians represent a network. James Sidlo, a musician from Texas, uttered the determining phrase at 22 hours: «Us loopers . . .» A We-feeling exists among the musicians. Also an atmosphere of movement is detectable. The looping musicians want to consider themselves a «movement».

Magic of the Moment

Deservedly so? From the musical core idea the loopers are not pursuing something new at all. The loop is a musical process from time immemorial. But the festival is not only about loops but live loops in particular. And that's where things get in fact interesting. Only since approximately ten years there are digital devices that allow live looping on stage.

In the Moods, it seems as if it's less the style of repetitive sequence which consolidates loopers, but rather the sheer existence of the looping device. Many instrumentalists don't consider their patterns strict at all, they just produce what has been conceived by their devices. Isn't the dissolution of the strict, hermetic loop-understanding the very strength of these liveacts? Much of the presented music is played with the air of improvising jazzers. And of course it is no coincidence that the swiss headliners of the whole festival originate in Jazz: Christy Doran, Rätus Flisch and Christoph Grab.

The musicians in the moods express something playful. This impression started already with the american guitarist Michael Klobuchar who opened for the festival. To mostly two-bar phrases as base material Klobuchar adds very rich sounds, wah-effects, sound collages. The live loops facilitate something of the magic of the moment that is characteristic for Jazz. Using live loops the music is not as extremely delegated to the machines as it is in electronic dance music: The relationship between man and machine is defined in a new exciting way.

The evening showed that live looping bonds easily with a broad palette of styles. Klobuchar's elated phrases inspired by american folkmusic sound so very different from the soundscapes by darkroom, UK. They sound so different as the understatement, the reductionism commemorating LaMonte Young in the rhythmisized held sounds of the guitarist James Sidlo. They sound yet different from the looped music by the German Michael Peters using noises from a portable radio receiving arbitrary Zurich radio stations. Live looping appears as the skeleton key that fits all stylistic doors.

A drawback of live looping that revealed itself in the Moods: The individual tracks evoked from a single musician hardly interlock as coherently as in the notated american minimalism. The final act provided fitting accuracy, though: Christy Doran's New Bag. As the four musicians mixed and matched their patterns it became obvious that the most effective loops still are the composed ones.