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Sonancy Julian Marszalek , March 30th, 2022 08:42

It's been thirty-two years since the last Loop record. The new one may well be their best yet, finds Julian Marszalek

The nosebleed end of tQ’s demographic will recall a time when five years spent between albums would mean a career reboot and a total re-acquaintance with an artist’s oeuvre. More often than not, the whole process would resemble that awkward moment when you’d bump into someone from your dim and distant past and try to decide whether you’d liked them or not in the first place, let alone head down the pub to find out. But thirty-two years between albums? That’s some gap that Loop have got to fill, right? And to think that Tool fans consider themselves to be long-suffering…

And yet for all that, it’s not a sense of relief that greets Sonancy, Loop’s first full-length release since 1990’s magnificent A Guilded Eternity, but the gradual realisation that the band have delivered what is quite probably the high watermark of their career. There exists a tendency to equate that “their” with lynchpin and founder Robert Hampson. But as much as Sonancy may well be driven by his vision, it’s a stunning team effort that delivers this collection into the centre of your brain and beyond.

At first glance, Sonancy is an album that couldn’t be made by anybody but Loop. Fuzz guitars? Check! Repetition? Step right this way, sir! A subtle garnish of ambient sounds to stretch out the sound and experience? Ambassador, you are really spoiling us! But hold it right there because dig that little bit deeper and that’s where you’ll find the real truffles: what we’re talking about here is precision.

This, in part, is thanks to the watertight rhythm section of drummer Wayne Maskel and bassist Hugo Morgan. Already embedded in Loop’s line-up for the last seven years, their relationship was forged in the onslaught of Bristol’s psychedelic overlords The Heads and their near-telepathic locking in on the groove is at the root of Loop’s recorded resurrection. Witness the bounce of the bass as it moves in time with the skittering of the drums on ‘Halo’, a move that conspires to aim for the hips as much as it does the head. You feel the roll as much as the rock.

With less decay and bleed coming from the guitars, Sonancy benefits from a greater degree of separation in its instrumentation. Consequently, every track gets to breath. There’s little stifling claustrophobia at play here and much like the psychedelic experience, the music reaches and stretches out for a greater truth and space.

The layers of fuzz guitar add to the joy. Scything through with crispness and precision, the six string interplay is brought into sharp focus on the breathtaking ‘Fermion’ as one fuzz guitar piles on to the other before stepping back once again as the rhythm section grooves inexorably on. As the last slices of ‘Aurora’ give way to ambient soothing, the desire to head back to the beginning again and again is testament to Sonancy’s magnificence. A welcome return and then some.