Album Review: Loop – Sonancy

[Cooking Vinyl; 2022]

For whatever reason, Loop never really took off like their brethren Spacemen 3 and Failure. Space-rock wasn’t such a big thing during their pomp in the late-80s/early-90s, so the scope of their reach was mostly limited to the UK where the band, including leader Robert Hampson, is from. The initial run was brief, shorter than Spacemen 3, starting in 1986 but ending around the same time in 1991.

Hampson’s largest contribution to the genre was also the last Loop album; with 1990’s A Gilded Eternity he merged shoegaze and space rock together. Soon after, Loop were done, and stayed dormant for over 20 years until emerging in 2013 for All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Camber Sands. Loop later promised to release a string of EPs called Array, but only got as far as putting out Array 1 in 2015.

Given this history, it’s a little shocking to see Loop back in 2022 with Sonancy, their first album in over 30 years. Though they all reconvened for the Array 1 EP, Hampson is now solely in charge the direction of Loop Originally born out of the post-punk boom of the 1980s precipitated by Joy Division, Wire, and various others, Loop got attention via a natural similarity in sounds, but never fit in with the ilk. Sonancy rectifies that by fully submerging their sound into the pool of post-punk, while still filtering it through the ambient space fuzz that made A Gilded Eternity such a gem.

“Interference” opens the odyssean trek with metallic vocals from Hampson that come off mutinously to the standard. Spiritualized bears the title of space-rock gods now, but Jason Pierce doesn’t shroud his voice behind thick robotic masks like Hampson does. Sonancy orbits around the idea of Hampson’s that Loop can be anything he desires; it can be both a rock album and a meditative stasis album.

The propulsive highlight “Fermion” is the rocketing example of Hampson’s desire for a post-punk sound amidst his usual alien-like guitar squeals and otherworldly samples. On top of that, “Eolian” immediately sounds like Joy Division before Hampson’s echoing synthetic voice cuts through. This influence runs rampant on Sonancy, and while many newer bands that implement the aesthetic have grown slightly stale as a result, Loop’s delicacy with it pulsates.

There’s no telling what’s in store for Loop after Sonancy though, as Hampson has continuously strived to evolve the band’s concept. Even when Sonancy sounds like something from the past, Hampson blasts through the hull with reverb that thrusts us forward forcefully but weightlessly like on “Aurora”. This black abyss that Loop created is vast and infinite, and yes, even monotonous at times, but Hampson is shooting for the moon on Sonancy. He understands that it takes a rocket ship to get there – and those take time to build.