Music Week – Up A Tree
27th February 1999
Record Review

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.

record reviews

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.
8/10

Kitty Empire

NME – Up A Tree 06/03/1999
March 1999