Words: Danny Wadeson (Wade) Words: Fern Edwards (Fernzy) Pictures: Fern+Danny Dates: 10th-11th July Location: Brighton Intro: Dear Readers, Please enjoy the Loop coverage we have so meticulously cooked up for you. It was our humble pleasure to attend a festival, lie around on massive beanbags, get mesmerised by video installations and eat japanese food (although not strictly within the context of the festival) and then present words and pictures to that effect on a shimmering platter of coverage goodness for your delectation. Loop Day 1: Armed with my favourite bright purple trousers, myself and Fern grabbed our passes from a small side-room in the Royal Albion Hotel, and were greeted with a high degree of cordiality by the (very sweet) p.r. duo. We were given a nice fat programme with detailed information about all the acts playing, as well as the collective of visual artists OneDotZero. As if we didn't know everything about everyone on the lineup already! () We got involved; the first spate of music kicked off at 12:30 at the Dome, with Natural Self playing to about 15 people in a massive concert hall. A jazz-funk ensemble with a half MC half rapper front man, Natural Self were sparse but not unpleasant. Of particular note was the frontman’s cheesy one-liners; ‘No discussion, just percussion’ being my particular favourite. After a brief stint on the aforementioned massive cushions handily piled against the walls in the foyer and bar area, it was back inside to the still ridiculously under-populated concert hall to see if Heels Catch Fire would live up to their name. First impressions were positive, and centered around the big harmonies, traditional set-up and great grooves. Lastly, a commendation on their dos; hair was great all round. It took a few songs before they warmed up, the venue no-doubt slightly intimidating, but they still put on an admirable performance; powerful vocals, solid use of dynamics and some seriously good post-rock riffs put to thumping bass got my feet moving (in plenty of space). Since writing this, Heels have been featured on the front cover of Brighton Source Magazine. Tipped for big things then, or at least on the right track. In hindsight I'd agree that they make a good cover choice! A brief soiree on the cushions once more acted as relaxing prelude to Casiokids. I’d been looking forward especially to catching yet another promising Scandinavian electro-pop band (a particularly favourite niche of mine) and they didn’t disappoint. On the contrary, they were absolutely brilliant. A massive sense of whimsical fun prevailed throughout the set that had the fast-filling crowd throwing some serious shapes; although none of us had anything on the members of the band themseves, prancing around, arms flailing, preposterous grins plastered all over their faces. Musical proficiencies aside (though i’ll come to those in due time!) it is delightfully refreshing to see a band so obviously enjoying themselves. All of this of course would be moot without an equally delightful set, and Casiokids delivered with panache; sigur ros-esque vocal melodies were melded effortlessly with synths, beats and plenty of percussion. Breakdowns got everyone moving whilst the interplay of airy, wistful melody, satisfyingly complex rhythms and quirky guitars ensured everyone was thinking too. Believe the hype. During Casiokids set, Fern was covering Elizabeth around the corner; this is what she has to say on the matter: The first act I catch at Brighton's prestigious Loop festival is Elizabeth Walling, aka ELIZABETH. Being a fellow Brightonion, I had briefly met Elizabeth at this year's Great Escape festival – a chance encounter after witnessing Hanne Hukkelberg's intimate show in the art venue 'Basement'. Both being huge fans of the artist, we briefly congratulated her on her beautiful and raw performance before returning to our cushion-adorned benches. Elizabeth was kind enough to give me a demo CD of her music, which instantly struck a chord with me. Tonight's performance is held in the Pavillion Theatre. Seats down, the lights are fluttering between dim blues, violets and reds, while the pulsating industrial beats of opening track 'The Terrible Hour' are so bassy I can feel the music thundering in my chest already. Elizabeth's voice has an astonishing range - she can meander between low, sultry and ominous tones to soft, angelic croons and fiery shrieks and wails effortlessly. Her vocals bring to mind the fragile, vulnerability of Beth Gibbons of Portishead; the eerie, sensual and early days of Goldfrapp before they went all tame, radio-friendly disco revival, and the complexity and creativity of Meredith Monk. All the while, band mates sample layers and layers of luscious harmonies, whirrs, clicks and crashing drums with nods to Bjork, Hanne Hukkelberg, Aphex Twin and Thom Yorke. The set flexes in and out of a cacophony of sounds and quieter, wistful moments. The former is what really sucks me in – the boldness of her voice layering over a wall of instrumentation really intensifies the experience and proves Elizabeth and her band are no one trick ponies, they are merely at the threshold between the avant-garde and the accessible – and I look forward to following where it leads them. Speaking of hype: I (Danny) left the Dome promptly after Casiokids to check out The Invisible at the Corn Exchange next door. Now, if you’ve done your homework and read The 405 interview with the London boys you’ll know that they seem like pretty down to earth guys, and certainly don’t buy into the massive hype surrounding them currently. Regardless, their set was refreshingly traditional in the sense that the focus was squarely on cleverly constructed songs and good musicianship, and with a marked aura of 'fashionable-ness'. The Invisible seemed to have two primary modes of attack; dense and melodic, as well as long, instrumental build ups. Both work well and certainly weren’t divorced from one another within the songs, but it did at times feel like there was a certain dimension, that elusive extra little something that was holding them back from making a impact. Then, kicking off proceedings with a simple question of ‘Why are you all sitting down?’ Telepathe took to the stage amidst a flood of blue light and encircled by computers, digital percussion, modules, synths and more. I’m a huge fan of the album, and the question going into to the live performance was always going to be ‘will their sound translate well into a live show?’. A: pretty much. The key was the brooding, swirling sounds and the live vocals; the yelps, ‘oh oh’s and spoken word sections somehow remaining catchy, the soundscapes more than making up for what was essentially a static stage show. Immediately after the appreciative applause for Telepathe had ended, Mirrors were due to play. Having not actually ever heard of them before, I was anticipating something rather grandiose by dint of the band members all sporting natty shirts, waistcoats, and generally looking incredibly dapper. My anticipation intensified as it became clear the show was going to be entirely digital; a slew of Macs began appearing, as did massive metal tables stacked with even more expensive looking musical electronics than even Telepathe could muster. My anticipation began, however, to wane somewhat as they over-ran their alloted beginning time by 5 minutes, then 10, then frowns appeared and hushed, frustrated looking exchanges between sound-men and band, 15 minutes, 20 (it’s like that Phenomenal handclap band song) then 25...and nothing to show for it. Ultimately, their entire performance, like their set-up, was characterised by waiting too long for something to happen. Elements were good. The occasional crescendo born from a whirlpool of melodic synths proved uplifting, but the overall effect was mired in repetitiveness and the fact the band obviously thought they were The Human League reincarnate. Also, the lack of any kind of explanation, humble greeting or apology for the ridiculously long wait further disillusioned me, and I’m sure a good portion of the crowd. After dinner at the frankly legendary Pompoko across the road, I was treated to The Field Minimalist loops at times, massive build ups and the odd sample were woven together piece-meal until the inevitable explosive drop, and explosive they truly were. Missing out on Plugs across the way was a shame, but honestly, The Field justified the risk. Still, I can’t help but think they would be more at home in a low-ceilinged basement club, where everyone is there to dance their faces off, as opposed to a stage much more suited, atmospherically as well as spatially, to full bands with more discernible song structures. Following The Field, of course, was an artist replete with band that I was genuinely excited to see. Deliberately enigmatic, a fantastic debut album, an absolute bonafide hype storm surrounding them, previous experience as a duo widely regarded as releasing a genuinely important and influential record; yep, none other than Karin Dreijer Andersson, A.K.A Fever Ray. Here's Fern's write up of the spectacle: As I suspected Squarepusher would be an amalgamation of slap-bass and songs I haven't heard yet, and being a fan of albums circa 'Feed Me Weird Things' and all, I am far more than excited to see Fever Ray. For those who have been in a cave for the past spring and summer, Fever Ray is the alias of Karin Dreijer Andersson, of the electronic duo The Knife. The album had been on constant rotation in my room and a frequent accompaniment to quiet late night bike rides avec one's ipod (I strongly recommend it, it's both uncanny and enlightening). It is very much an album to experience post-twilight, so tonight's performance inside the Corn Exchange sheltered from the dark drizzle outside is apt. Painstakingly, the show runs about half an hour late, and the patience of the crowd is put to the test. Incense wafts from both sides of the stage, triggering coughs and weepy eyes, and some dizziness in extreme cases. Through the smoke and lights I can make out an assortment of fringed Victorian lampshades, and as darkness falls and two parallel beams of bright light shoot over our heads, the ominous opening to 'If I Had a Heart' rumbles with such intensity that the crowd must brace themselves for Karin's heavily treated, low and masculine voice to break through. And when it does with complimentary feedback, we are wincing and generally feeling unsettled and expectant as to where it will lead. It leads into a luscious light show – the horizontal beams fan out into a roof, reflecting the swirling smoke and enveloping the audience. Karin is wearing something that resembles a multi-coloured yak cape with little horns, and her black and white painted face is barely visible. Other band members are adorned with the most captivating attire, and I'm feeling a little like I'm witnessing a sacred ceremony - which is a pretty special feeling indeed. Each element on stage feels like a performance in it's own right. The lamps fade on and off in synch with the music throughout the set, the lazers fire off into every direction one moment, and hit mirrors to create geometric shapes the next. Each band member seems lost in their own reverie yet united all at once, and the soft billowing of incense continues to lull the crowd into a liminal state between awe and daydream. All this combined creates one of the most atmospheric live shows I've ever seen. And not one for the fainthearted either - the volume permeates the Corn Exchange and by now the sound levels have been ironed out to harmonise with our noise thresholds. Any aforementioned uncertainty and drawn out waiting have now been forgiven as Karin and co persevere to play the entire album. The highlights of the set had to include single When I Grow Up, which inspires us all to wave our arms hypnotically in the air, and Seven provokes some dance moves also. Towards the latter part of the set, a chilling and relentless cover of Nick Cave's Stranger Than Kindness is delivered with such vigor I fear my eardrums might erupt. I cannot help but feel I'm only touching the surface of what an experience this performance was, but I know that I indeed went home with an indescribable feeling of it still resonating with me. (Many thanks to Edward Bishop for allowing me to use his snaps, no photos were allowed from the front! Check out his other photos from the show at www.flickr.com/photos/edwardfilms/sets/721576 21211018569/) Part 2 of the coverage, including full slideshow of all the photos can be found HERE!