So this, this, is what Stuart David left Belle & Sebastian for? The side project that, with its second album, now claims him in turning out to be small and increasingly perfectly formed. It may be the very lightest of constructs, and the twin poles established by David’s spoken-word musings and his wife Karn’s more frequent Nico-voiced contributions seem at times, well, poles apart, but the beginnings of a fragile guitar-meets-electronica cohesion can be clearly heard. Uncle Ray revisits a Californian seafood eatery and features a verbatim account of the eponymous sufferer’s post-dodgy-crustacean lament, while Mondo ’77 has the former BMX Bandit Francis MacDonald coasting like a demented Glaswegian Mr C before a ska horn section insinuates itself over the threshold. So this, this, is what Stuart David left Belle & Sebastian for? And very nice it is too.
A more rounded affair than 1999’s debut, Up A Tree, using electronic bleeps and rhythmic loops to create a soulful mood. The amateurish approach can be indulgent, but on Bug Rain and the brass-led Mondo 77, quirky melodies and pummelling beats are mixed to great effect.
Having now left the mothership that was Belle & Sebastian, Stuart David has created, with wife Karn and the rest of Looper, his own Kubrickian ‘cyberspacestation’, the Geometrid – an album and a concept, all thematically centred on visions of the future, and technology’s effect on our lives. With its cheap, simplistic Casio riff and glib Bontempi beats, the lo-fi new single ‘Mondo 77’ is a suitable but rather passionless opening number for this audio experiment. But then we drift into warmer territory with the gorgeous, jangly ‘On The Flipside’, the witty narrative, ‘Modem Song’, that samples the bip-bip-dee-dong-dee-dong sound of a computer hooking up to the Internet, and the wistful, guitar and flute-led ‘These Things’.
By now you realise ‘The Geometrid’ is an eminently listenable, electronic pop record, with much to cheer both gentle Jeepsterphiles and dance music aficionados alike – lyrics about the moon and drinking lemonade, Stuart’s wry prose and his unmistakable Glaswegian burr, teamed with more toe-twitching grooves than any indie band has the right to lay their hands on. Karn takes on more vocal duties than she has done before – and in the process proves that a female dance music vocalist needn’t necessarily be a wailing old slapper with her dress falling off. God bless Stuart and Karn – the Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Camberwick Green.
Single Of The Fortnight
Weh heh! Belle and Sebastian versus Looper, Battle of the Bands 2000! While not quite a Blur vs. Quoasis world championship bout, former B & S bassist Stuart David gives it the full fifteen rounds with a cheeky little Casio riff, rollicking techo beat and manic contortions from ex-BMX Bandit Francis McDonald. To cap it all, it’s topped off with a surprise helping of Stax-styled horns and trumpet blasts. Could well be capable of making indie discos cool again. Retro futurism a go-go!
This idiot gem is ace toytown raga-disco midway between Morgan and ‘The Rockafeller Skank’ – with stylish patois chants from BMX Bandits’ Francis.
One year, single, novel, tour and Belle & Sebastian album later, Stuart David releases his second Looper LP. You get: wee stories, squelchy beats, car-chase guitars and beatbox pop. The best use of internet dial-up sounds yet, too. More power to his restless elbow!
Ex-Belle & Sebastian founding bassist’s second offering of millennial magic. Now Stuart David has officially left Belle & Sebastian, he’ll be able to devote more time to what was previously a side project. Formed with his wife, Karn, Looper are one of the few truly idiosyncratic bands extant. Musically mixing everything from Sumner/Marr-y guitar riffs, Stax horns to telephone bleeps, their biggest strength lies in published novelists David’s incorporation of short story narratives into 21st century electropop.
Strange tales like ‘Bug Rain’ (about flies hitting a windshield) and ‘Tomorrow’s World’ (Y2K is not what we were told it would be) combine a fascination/fear of the future with an almost childlike imagination, not to mention the increasingly nostalgic device of fabulous tunes.
The Belle & Sebastian off-shoot act dive into some kind of cheap mutant disco/ska that wouldn’t be played at either a disco or ska night. Nevertheless the verve with which they do it makes it kinda groovy, particularly on the flipside where a ‘60s acid party groove is explored.
This is the first release from Stuart David’s Looper project following his recent department from Belle & Sebastian to concentrate on Looper. Mondo ’77 is a jaunty piano-fuelled track, which bodes well for the imminent second album.
The first Looper recording since main man Stuart David finally cut loose the apron strings from Belle & Sebastian, ‘Mondo ‘77’ is a fine slice of garage (as in actually recorded in a garage) dance music.
A jaunty stomp of Bontempi beats, half-speed house piano and off-key ska horns, it sounds not unlike Pigbag’s classic ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’ might’ve done, had it been recorded by a bunch of sensitive Scots types, all blootered on Buckfast, Schweet.
If Looper’s first LP ‘Up a Tree’ sounded fatally twee, like the self-conscious disco side-project of a bunch of terminal indie kids, then ‘Mondo ‘77’ suggests that the Looper massive are finally loosening up and realising that the best dance music aims squarely for the feet. Could be a Tom Tom Club for the 21st century.
Surprise from Belle & Sebastian-land in the form of – technology! A pulse, even! Love the rainy-day electricity, the dreamy boy vocals, the startling ‘it ain’t twee’ realisation – and that’s before getting to the Pulp remix.
Richard Madeley has a millennial bunker, apparently, and so does Keith Richards. Sometime Belle & Sebastian Stuart David doesn’t, and will be quite overjoyed when the whole of civilisation fizzes to a half on New Year’s morn, because it means we can build a bright shiny new one from the spares. ‘Let it burn’ is the general gist of Looper’s ‘Who’s Afraid….’ A burbling singsong on the grave of the world’s mainframes that makes up for in spirit what it lacks in subtlety.
As a rule, anti-millennium songs are only fractionally more palatable than anything released expressly because of the ticking over of a clock from 99 to 00. But you have to admire such a tender call total anarchy. Plus, there’s an intriguing Pulp remix of ‘Up A Tree Again’ to use as a future ploughshare on here too.
In which Stuart David does the impossible and writes a song about the Millennium, presently the last refuge of the inspirationally bankrupt, and conjures up a thing of bliss and wonder. Synths burble like new-born babes, David sighs like vintage Bobby G, and beats skitter like raindrops on window panes. A sad little record; a gently voice of reason amid a sea of phoney millennium hysteria.
Pick of the month
Renegade Belle & Sebastian member Stuart David runs amok with scratchy breakbeats, lo-fi electro-bleeps and loving wife in tow. Abandoning fey B&S musings in favour of wilful weirdness, this is a record which pairs tuneful pastoralism with clumsy experimentation, takes naïve synth detours and indulges in rambling Arab Strap-style narratives about Columbo. This is sweetly dysfunctional but thoroughly charming at the same time.
In a project led by Belle & Sebastian bassist Stuart David, Looper deliver a lot of what other Scottish post-Trainspotting beats and spoken words merchants have long been promising to do. Dreamy tunes and delicate beats evoke memories of long-gone summers when everything was perfect. Downright irresistible.
Belle & Sebastian bassist Stuart David makes his lo-fi solo debut.
With Scottish indie heroes Belle & Sebastian trouncing Steps and B*Witched to bag a Brit award, the timing seems perfect for their first solo offshoot. Except that Looper (bassist Stuart David with his wife and brother) are a far stranger proposition. The template is David’s A Space Boy Dream, from the last B&S album: low-key vignettes atop gently funky breakbeats and soft, strummed guitars. The result is like a more palatable version of fellow Scots Arab Strap, peppered with delicate ballads (Quiet And Small), jazz (Columbo’s Car) and bizarrely jaunty big beat (Ballad Of Ray Suzuki). And all recorded for the price of a packet of fags by the sound of it. Essential it’s not, but David’s tender, guileless delivery and the music’s playful naiveté make Up A Tree uniquely charming.
(Stuart) David’s Looper project is fun. Tinny, tiny tunes which race along chased by little blipping noises. Lovely stuff. Top album, too.
If the thought of child-song and trees houses curls your fingers into a fist, then Looper’s spaceboy dream is not for you. Chief Looper Stuart David is, after all, the Other Stuart in Belle & Sebastian(he actually wrote ‘Spaceboy Dream’ on the last record)and he brings with him the wide-eyed worldview of that Brit-lauded outfit.
The odd tale of how Looper- Stuart David, his artist wife Karn, and his photographer brother Ronnie – came to be is told on ‘Impossible Things #2’: a girl called Karen starts writing to a boy she doesn’t even know. He dubs her Wee Karn and seven years on they are man, wife and multimedia outfit. It’s a charming yarn, if you vanquish all cynicism – and Looper are all about doing just that. What’s remarkable, though, is that this modern-day fairy tale is buoyed along by crackling breakbeats, a flute loop, a quacking harmonica and a sticky-fingered sense of fun that infects the entire record.
For Loooper’s musical charms are actually far greater than those of the little scenarios that David narrates like a U-rated Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap. For all the appeal of the stories – the one about the moon landings being faked (‘Dave The Moonman’), for instance, or the one about meeting Columbo (‘Columbo’s Car’) – it’s the deft beats, synth burbles and sampled loops underpinning them that inspire. This is a record in love with childhood, but its cheeky groove is often closer to the mash-up of big beat than it is to the fey gambol of Looper’s precious ancestors, with the ‘Ballad Of Ray Suzuki’, for example, sounding like Bentley Rhythm Ace in short trousers.
‘Up A Tree’ is a spaceboy’s dream made real: the future, all shiny with buttons and things, brought down to earth, child-sized. It’s hard to resist.
Looper are an offshoot of Belle and Sebastian, who deliciously snatched the Brits Newcomer gong from Steps. More dance-orientated than the main band’s output, Ballad Of Ray Suzuki, is skittish ‘Little Beat’ (metro) born of a love of playful dance music and, believe it or not, Young Marble Giants.
This is not quite what we were expecting. ‘Bunch of loopers!’ exclaims a vocodery voice that might belong to a more cheerful cyber-child of Radiohead’s ‘Fitter, Happier’ droid. And before we know what’s hit us, some dippy samples and breakneck rhythms skitter off in the direction of Bentley Rhythm Ace, and dance upon the ruins of your preconceptions.
For Looper are Stuart David of Belle & Sebastian infamy, plus his lovely assistants Karn (Mrs David) and Ronnie Black (brother of David), and their second single sounds nothing like the fey folk pop of Stuart’s day job. Neither, it must be said, does this sound like ‘A Spaceboy Dream’, the Stu D track on the last Belle & Seb LP that sees him coming over all Arab Strap. Or, for that matter, the scratchy, lo-fi seven-inch effort that Looper put out on Sub Pop last summer. There’s plenty of all that to come on the album. For now, though, Looper are happy to mess with your head, thumb their noses at what’s expected of the, and quite possibly make you shimmy.
Better known as the bassist of last week’s Brit Award winners Belle & Sebastian, Stuart David and his wife Karn have created an imaginative album that’s part mellow beats, part performance art and part genius. Using samples of speech, delicate instrumentation and lots of looping, Up A Tree is firmly in the thoughtful B&S mode, not as fey. A large B&S fanbase will relish this beautiful album, as will those who like their music on the intelligent side.