Luo by Bad Loop (Review)

Again, there’s a sense of vastness, and yet there’s none of the obligatory epic flourishes that one often hears in trance music.
Luo, Bad Loop

I originally went to One’s website to download the new Loscil album, Stases. While there, however, I decided to download Bad Loop’s Luo on a whim (I think it was because of future-minimalistic artwork), and I find myself listening to this album far more often than anything else lately. Taking elements of trance and other club-derived forms of electronica, this Finnish musician creates a form of electronica that is both immediately accessible (and might even pass muster on a dancefloor) and intimate and meditative.

“Nio” is a definite highlight here, beginning with glittering, coruscating layers of synths and keyboard spangles, the sort of thing you might expect to hear drifting across one of Ibiza’s beaches sometime around two in the morning. But an undulating, slightly glitch-ified bassline begins its ascent, and the song slowly takes on a more epic feel, making full use of its 6 minutes to rapture the listener up into Bad Loop’s shimmering music. The synths begin spiralling heavenwards in ways that suggest a more celestially-minded Röyksopp, while Joy Electric-esque bleeps and bloops give the song a whimsical naiveté.

“Eri Valeire” begins with a similarly muted manner, with giant tides of synth sound slowly coming in amidst squelching, juicy analog bursts. As a higher, lighter synth melody plays in the distance, deep undercurrents begin to move down somewhere in the song’s depths, and the whole piece begins to move with a surprisingly solemn sense of grace.

Melodies dance across the surface like sonar pings, their ripples distorting the reflections of the spacier elements playing high overhead. Again, there’s a sense of vastness, and yet there’s none of the obligatory epic flourishes that one often hears in trance music, no movement towards an inevitable climax. Just graceful, completely natural movements, a synthetic ebb and flow that is very easy to sink into.

Bad Loop (whatever his name is) eschews any attempts to manipulate the listener, to engineer the listener’s mood like so much dance-oriented music does. Instead, he focuses solely on creating slick, glossy, well-crafted synthetic music that, due to the great attention to detail, takes on some measure of human warmth and sensitivity. Even dancier pieces, such as the extremely catchy “Kauniit Ihmiset,” have a sense of play intertwined within the pulsing rhythms and soaring melodic lines, which is far more enjoyable and fulfilling in some ways than even the most epic of trance moments.

The atmospherics that one hears floating and whispering through Luo (especially on the too-short “3B Or T”) remind me quite a bit of Manual’s recent Darla albums, such as Azure Vista or even his “Bliss Out” album, The North Shore. As with Manual, there’s a starry-eyed sense of wonder to Luo’s songs, one that feels more appropriate for long drives through the countryside, with the top down and myriads of stars high overhead, than spending hours in a packed, smoke and strobe-filled club.