Loops Haunt – ‘Zenith’ EP (Black Acre)

In an world where terms like “bass music”, “post-dubstep” and “chillwave” are allowed to exist, “IDM” is no longer nearly the embarrassing descriptor it used to be. Of course, it’s still woefully inadequate – as so many genre titles are – to convey the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between, say, Boards of Canada’s gauzy loveliness and Venetian Snares’ insane breakcore. Yet there’s no use calling Zenith, the new EP from Loops Haunt, anything else. It is what it is: throttling, feverish IDM, with hip-hop and smatterings of jungle thrown in for good measure. Loops Haunt has so far only graced us with a couple of singles and an EP, so at seven short tracks, this outing on Bristol label The Black Acre is his longest – and most adventurous – effort to date.

Opener ‘Fathom’ is an incendiary blast of live drumming that sets the scene well for an EP in which the tracks are defined by percussion, whether it’s languid hip-hop beats or forays into more junglistic territory. In ‘Galleon’, the first track proper, Loops Haunt sets melodramatic chords against heavily whomping hip-hop beats and haunting peals and beeps. The contrast between their overt modernity and the melody’s hyper-synthesised classicism lays out the EP’s central dichotomy: a tension between old and new, organic and synthetic, lo-fi and heavily processed. With its elegiac organs and thick, loping beats obscured by foggy filters, the high drama of ‘mun Rhul’ continues the theme, reinforcing it with a pitched-down vocal sample that’s unintelligible but weirdly reminiscent of vintage science fiction.

Liquid melodies swirl and warp in EP highlight ‘ZENITH’, joined by a wonderfully wobbling musical saw and Amon Tobin-esque jungle breakbeats that roll around before everything comes together rather beautifully. It’s Loops Haunt at his best: he melds these disparate, fluctuating sounds and effects, and when he separates them, each element is lingering and poignant.‘dltfaypily’ also puts jungle through a mincer, as abstract as its (rather Aphex Twin-ish) title would suggest. It’s all Clark-style polychromic synthwork, the self-consciously futuristic modem bleeps only reinforcing its hypermodern/retro duality.

Part of Zenith’s appeal lies in its stitched-together, amorphous form. Loops Haunt abandons reassuring structures in favour of short, uninhibited tracks. Yet the EP never feels like a collection of shapeless sketches; rather, its tracks are deeply involved. It’s a rewarding listen, shadowy in places without being oppressively dark. The exception to this is ‘Heal’, a glitched-out epic in which luminous synths spiral and tumble alongside a silvery musical saw and some truly pretty vocal snatches set against disjointed beats. ‘Hike’ closes Zenith on an ambiguous note: its doleful organ notes roam around the grid, field recordings and retro bleeps providing one final clash of old and new.

IDM’s decline was in part due to the ever-increasing sophistication of computers; in many ways, the futurism it embraced predicated IDM on its own built-in obsolescence. As laptops took over from hardware, those records that had once sounded like the future – Squarepusher’s brilliant Go Plastic, for example – began to feel dated. Though it may not be a game changer, Loops Haunt’s blend of foundational IDM’s non-computerised sounds with synthetic effects produces a work that swells with nostalgia, while keeping one foot firmly in the present.

Loops Haunt – ‘Zenith’ EP is out now via Black Acre

Maya Kalev