Review by Marc Bowie
Bands who record single songs that take up an entire LP side or more run the risk of being called self-indulgent … or worse. Looprider’s 2017 album, Umi, would seem to fit the bill, as at twenty-five minutes this one-track effort is longer than the oft-mocked In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Happily, the only thing it shares in common with that sometimes lumpen, albeit gloriously trashy, epic is a fondness for finding a catchy riff and hammering it into submission. Like Warhol’s soup cans, there’s beauty to be found in Looprider’s repetition.
Like their antecedents Boris and the Melvins, Looprider’s Umi has moments of intense noise rock leavened by quiet passages played with unexpected delicacy making for a satisfyingly varied sonic palette. Really, there’s a whole symphony being played here, and it’s more than worth the investment of your half hour.
The largely instrumental album begins calmly with washes of distorted guitar and keyboard alternating ascending and descending notes before the first repeated guitar phrase kicks in. Soon enough, the whole band is going at it, making a clatter as if you crossed the early Stooges at their droniest with Vs. era Mission of Burma. Umi continues to build in intensity as the guitars take flight, but while the playing is very precise it’s somehow both controlled and unhinged at the same time, like your slightly drunk uncle telling a story during dinner.
There’s a pause in the mayhem as the band shifts into a quieter passage that’s really quite beautiful, but this auditory sorbet doesn’t outstay its welcome and soon the music is back at stun volume. Although the guitars are center stage, both the drumming and bass playing are superb throughout. At about the halfway point the band plays a single recurring chord under a vocal chant, like workmen taking turns pounding stakes into railway ties. More peaks and valleys follow and are carried right through to the end where an intense fuzz freak out plays counterpoint to a chiming bell-like guitar figure. There’s a five-minute cut-down of the album available on their homepage, but seek out the full-length version; you’ll be glad you did.
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