By MICHAEL GOLDBERG
If the British-born alt-rock subgenre “shoegaze” is, as many people believe, the “house that My Bloody Valentine built,” then the recently reunited Loop is among those bands responsible for creating the foundation upon which that house sits.
Hypnotic, atmospheric and — on stages around the world — incredibly loud, the Robert Hampson-led outfit from South London eschewed conventional song structures for aggressive, guitar-pedal-fueled psych/drone head-trips that won a loyal cult following during its initial five-year run that ended with an acrimonious split in 1991, the same year My Bloody Valentine issued its landmark shoegaze manifesto Loveless.
For more than two decades, fans and promoters begged Hampson to re-form Loop; he resisted until last year, when he finally reconstituted the band’s four-piece final lineup for several festival dates in Europe. Loop finally returns to the U.S. this month, when it launches a North American tour at Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia on April 16.
Though he’s never publicly divulged the main reasons the band broke up all those years ago, Hampson told The Quietus in 2008 that the split was sudden, “like finding that your favorite uncle had terminal cancer and only had a week to live.”
And in a statement announcing the band’s reunion, Hampson noted that “as much as you try to run as far as you can away from it, your past will always haunt you. I have never really slept well over the demise of Loop, it always felt unfinished.”
Musically, at least, Loop — which Hampson formed with drummer (and then-girlfriend) Becky “Bex” Stewart in 1986, before changing the lineup twice in the ensuing years — went out on a high note with its best album, 1990’s stunning A Gilded Eternity.
Packed with layers of churning riffs and experimental noise driven forward by urgent motorik rhythms, all bound together with palpable tension, Eternity was the sound of a band on the heaviest fringes of shoegaze in total command of its post-apocalyptic vision.
The album’s two full-length predecessors — 1987’s Heaven’s End and 1988’s Fade Out — weren’t too shabby, either, offering plenty of moments as intense and hallucinatory, particularly in the live setting.
After Loop’s dissolution, Hampson briefly played guitar with the brutal U.K. industro-metal band Godflesh before forming the abstract/ambient duo Main with ex-Loop guitarist Scott Dawson; bassist Neil Mackay and drummer John Wills, meanwhile, put together the more Loop-like The Hair and Skin Trading Company, which was active until 1995.
Hampson quit playing guitar for many years — using computers, primarily, to compose his experimental soundscapes with Main and other projects — but just days after joining Godflesh onstage, six-string in hand for the first time in ages, at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands last year (during the set they played Loop’s “Straight to Your Heart”), Hampson announced Loop’s return.
Reviews of the handful of gigs Loop played in 2013 have been ecstatic in their praise, and recent online footage suggests the band is as powerful and propulsive now as it was nearly a quarter century ago, even if Hampson’s long, dark locks are gone, replaced by a short mop of white hair.
Plenty of reunited acts have insisted their resurrection would be short-lived, only to keep it going and going. But if Hampson stays true to his word, this tour is all about closure, and it will be Loop’s last hurrah.
“I refuse to prolong it and for it to become embarrassing,” he said. “It’ll be sharp and to the point … straight to your heart and then, it’s gone.”
IF YOU GO
WHERE: Kung Fu Necktie, 1248 N. Front St., Philadelphia.
WHEN: Wednesday, April 16 with opening bands Far-Out Fangtooth and Gondola.
TICKETS: $14, and doors open at 8 p.m.
INFO.: Check www.kungfunecktie.com