NME – Ballad Of Ray Suzuki
27th February 1999
Record Review

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.

Kitty Empire

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.

Kitty Empire

NME – Up A Tree 06/03/1999
March 1999