The second annual NW Loopfest brought musicians to Seattle and Portland from all over the world, some hailing from as far away as France, New Zealand and Austria. Rather than the common thread of a genre, instrument, or record label, these artists each shared the process of looping recorded sound in their live performances. Chances are you’ve seen it before, but organizer Noah Peterson (pictured above, opening the fest at J&M Café in Pioneer Square) gathered a truly eclectic bunch of seasoned “loopers” who breathed fresh life into the well-worn device.
Seattle-based experimental flutist Clifford Dunn processed his flute through hand-coded effects, cycling through layers of intricately detailed tones and abrasive textures using a suite of foot pedals. Dunn uses a piece of software called Supercollider to program a degree of indeterminacy into performance: “I can't predict precisely what the computer will do with either the playback speed or the length of the loop. In essence, this becomes a really rudimentary way of working with an artificial intelligence and having an improvising session with another person.”
Tukso Okey’s pedalboard is not your nephew’s loopstation. Through the magic of digital effects, Okey used his electric guitar to play keyboard, synthesizer, and bass parts, all while soloing long and often. He told me before his set how, though he lives in Seattle, most of his performances take place in an online environment called Second Life.
Eric Muhs, pictured above holding a customized double-neck guitar with a hinge, is the physics and astronomy teacher at Ballard High School. His set featured a theremin, ukulele, and several found objects, and took on the qualities of a sound collage. Muhs was a member of the seminal 1980’s Seattle bands Student Nurse, Audio Leter, and Vexed, and he currently plays in an acoustic Hawaiian band.
Closing the first night of Loopfest was the San-Francisco based looper known only as The Genie. Especially compared to the performers before him, The Genie’s sound was polished and linear, deliberately adding cushions of synthesizer atop percussive guitar arrangements.