On-the-fly harmonizing
April 7, 2009 6:14 PM   Subscribe

I'll see your David Ford and raise you a Mary Ford! (not exactly the same, I know, but tewtally awesome)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:17 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Owen Pallett does it too. he's cool. aka Final Fantasy.
posted by GuyZero at 6:24 PM on April 7, 2009

Also, AskMe question on the topic.
posted by GuyZero at 6:26 PM on April 7, 2009

Also see the Quantum Cello episode of NPR's Radio Lab podcast.

Additionally, Ableton just released version 8 of their digital audio workstation software, Live less than a week ago. It contains a new looper tool!
posted by reishus at 6:27 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Andrew Bird!
posted by carsonb at 6:32 PM on April 7, 2009 [6 favorites]

The first time I saw this done live was KT Tunstall doing the first Black Horse on Jools Holland a several years back (when it was first released as a single). Really impressive, so I was pleased to see that in this set of links. Her voice sounds awesome on the second one, too.

I'm surprising myself now, by listening to a load of DubFX links on youtube, now. Surprisingly good, considering my initial expectations.
posted by Brockles at 6:43 PM on April 7, 2009

Zoe Keating, too - her album is great.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:18 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yeah, please post more examples of live tracks using loopers - I posted all the ones I could find that I remembered hearing before but it was terribly hard to dig up more.
posted by flatluigi at 7:19 PM on April 7, 2009

Reggie Watts is my personal favorite. (previously)
posted by TurboH at 7:35 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this, flatluigi. I watch that David Ford video about once a week, because it just scratches some kind of itch in my brain that I can't quite put into words. It's like a magician showing you exactly how the trick is done, but the reveal is more surprising and clever than you could ever have imagined.

I really should go and buy his album to thank him for all the enjoyment I've gotten out of that video, but I just know it's not going to be the same.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:35 PM on April 7, 2009

I posted a related question on AskMe as well.
posted by nanojath at 7:39 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

These are cool. Imogen Heap's was the only one I'd heard/seen before out of these videos. So thanks!
posted by Dumsnill at 7:41 PM on April 7, 2009

Foy Vance!
posted by Tapioca at 8:06 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't believe no one has mentioned Keller Williams yet. This is pretty much his bread and butter, and the man is really good at it. The best part of any K-Dub show is him getting some good looping action going and then dancing up on stage to his own music. Here's a pretty good example of what I'm talking about. He also does some amazing covers.
posted by friendlyjuan at 8:28 PM on April 7, 2009

Kaki King does something similar.
posted by unmake at 8:54 PM on April 7, 2009

Jon Brion is astoundingly good at this, improvising entire songs right in front of your eyes until they're 20 track masterpieces. It's nuts. I'll try and track down some video later.
posted by incessant at 8:54 PM on April 7, 2009

Damien Rice. Looping starts at 6:00.
posted by shannonm at 9:01 PM on April 7, 2009

Martin Dosh, a drummer and keyboardist who collaborates and tours with Andrew Bird, is also a live looper.
posted by lovermont at 9:12 PM on April 7, 2009

I came here to mention Zoe Keating. And I love David Ford.
posted by Caduceus at 9:52 PM on April 7, 2009

Dude in the last link has a 5-string violin...!

Also, thanks for the Zoë link, bashos_frog, I didn't realize she has put out solo stuff. Her name was familiar, but I didn't know why until I saw all the bands she has played with whos albums I have. :)
posted by inparticularity at 10:01 PM on April 7, 2009

I'd actually considered a post myself but hadn't gotten around to putting it together.

Andrew Chaikin, aka Kid Beyond, takes the a cappella approach. I have his EP, Amplivate, and it's excellent. I've seen Toxic Audio do a bit in their set where the intro of Evanescence's "Bring Me To Life" is done by one person looping on top of themself until it cuts out when the rest of the group comes in. Can't find video of it, though. IIRC there are others in the a cappella community who've followed the Kid Beyond route but the names escape me at the moment, and a search of my usual resources just turned up this guy.

Theresa Andersson has been making something of a splash lately with an album that was largely recorded by herself in her kitchen. (Same song on Conan, with somewhat better audio, but I'm a sucker for the dancing in the kitchen video.) And I ran across a number of suggestions in the comments to this Wil Wheaton post - it's what got me listening to KT Tunstall, in fact.
posted by rhymeswithaj at 10:42 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I rarely comment on here, but this has been the most worthwhile mefi post I've seen.

This performance by White Denim still continues to get me.

But really, if we're going to talk about looping, how can anyone not mention Battles.

The Battles links provided may not have visual proof of live looping, but its there.

And just for good measure, because I love looping, El Ten Eleven.
posted by king dingaling at 10:44 PM on April 7, 2009

Howie Day is also really good at this.
posted by thewittyname at 11:23 PM on April 7, 2009

posted by matt_od at 1:04 AM on April 8, 2009

Little Boots with her Tenori-On (which cheats just a little, but is still quite cool visually)
posted by Sparx at 1:48 AM on April 8, 2009

Fred Frith was live looping before it had a name, and before anyone else that I have heard of. Robert Fripp practically made a whole career ripping off a Frith piece over and over, he made some live looping albums with Brian Eno.

So much modern musical technology seems designed to make having collaborators irrelevant. It is remarkable and sad that nowadays it is easier to have a machine play the drums and another machine play a repetitive accompanying riff for you to play along with than it is to make music with other human beings. Not that I am any good at collaborating or anything, I am just a little melancholy knowing that an entire industry exists to make it easy to be as antisocial and self absorbed as I am.
posted by idiopath at 2:07 AM on April 8, 2009

There was a great setup that Bob Ostertag and Fred Frith used for one collaboration, where Bob had a mixing board routing back and forth between three variable speed reel to reel tape decks. Between the three tape decks there was ONE LONG TAPE LOOP, spooled around through all three. They were variable speed, so the amount of slack between any pair would change. For takeup, they used rings hung from helium balloons (to prevent the tape collecting on the ground and getting tangled on things). The album they recorded using this live method was called Getting Ahead. Fred played his guitar, and Bob recorded snippets to different parts of the loop using his three tape machines, and manipulated the speeds to compose new chords and melodies from this live collage.
posted by idiopath at 2:16 AM on April 8, 2009

OK, this is the last one, I promise. Bob was kind enough to provide the above mentioned track for free download, so I recommend taking advantage of his kindness and giving a listen: Getting Ahead.
posted by idiopath at 2:21 AM on April 8, 2009

Great post - thanks! A link I posted in the AskMe thread a while back should be added here for completeness' sake: Looper's Delight is the go-to place for all you'll ever need about looping and how to do it!
posted by benzo8 at 3:02 AM on April 8, 2009

Cibelle does this a lot.
posted by Crankatator at 4:08 AM on April 8, 2009

My pal Rifle Recoil does this too.

Great thread.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:12 AM on April 8, 2009

Thanks for the post--great! I'm also glad that carsonb mentioned Andrew Bird. I saw him live, and was absolutely blown away.
posted by epj at 6:24 AM on April 8, 2009

seconding the Kid Beyond recommendation. Here's a cool video I saw a few years ago where he really lays out what he does (kind of an Ableton Live commercial, but still interesting and insightful to watch)
posted by mannequito at 7:13 AM on April 8, 2009

I saw Adrian Belew do this in a club here in St. Louis, like ten years ago?
posted by Restless Day at 8:33 AM on April 8, 2009

I always liked Liam Finn's performance on Letterman a year or so ago (skip ahead to 1:30). Not as much looping as some here, but he uses a little to great effect.
posted by booth at 8:49 AM on April 8, 2009

Son of Dave ?
posted by leapfrog at 9:08 AM on April 8, 2009

Electric Counterpoint

A bit in the middle taken by The Orb for Little Fluffy Clouds.

Mrs Pilgrimm is another performer who does this.

The multi-tape recorder technique (wrt Getting A Head above), first used by Fripp & Eno in 1972 on No Pussyfooting was originally stolen from Terry Riley anyway (check out Rainbow in Curved Air).
posted by Grangousier at 9:22 AM on April 8, 2009

Wow. I didn't think anyone would beat me to posting that Liam Finn link... but I'll second that it was very cool, particularly the instrument switch.
posted by Heminator at 10:04 AM on April 8, 2009

Mathias Loibner looping on an electric hurdy gurdy (this YT clip has been on MetaFilter before).
posted by Restless Day at 10:18 AM on April 8, 2009

Thanks for the heads up about the Riley composition, I am listening to it now. I wish I had discovered this instead of No Pussyfooting back when I was a teenager and was often listening to the latter. For better or worse, my tastes have changed since then.

I have heard that Frith was doing live loops before No Pussyfooting, I just cited Getting Ahead as one of my favorites, not as an early one. Frith recorded the technique first on his 1974 album Guitar Solos, two years after No Pussyfooting. Riley definitely beats them both chronologically, but I have heard hearsay that Fripp made a career out of appropriating the concepts from a couple of Frith compositions. I don't have anything to go by but hearsay and the circumstantial fact that they were both British expat guitarists in the New York rock/jazz/improv music scene.

Not having the definite authority of chronology to justify my claim to his superiority, I can at least make the statement that I find Frith's usage of looping more nuanced, simultaneously more dynamic and more subtle than his predecessors and most of his peers.

I admit fully that this is a matter of taste, and that these days my taste is such that my liking stuff is a pretty good predictor of other people not liking it.

That said, my favorite live looping to listen to lately is the Austrian post-actionist scene, in particular Joke Lenz (AKA Sudden Infant) and Rudolph Eber (aka Runzelstirn and Gurglestock).
posted by idiopath at 10:19 AM on April 8, 2009

Chet Atkins liked live looping so much, he named his looping song (not a video of him playing, sorry) after the Jam Man he used to make it. I saw him play it live in Knoxville sometime around 1998 and it was smooth. (Oh, and one Jam Man seller tried to compile a list of loopers.)
posted by underthehat at 10:28 AM on April 8, 2009

Ah, given that we're talking about live stuff, this is probably straying from the subject, but I'd hate to see a discussion of looping go by without a mention of Gavin Bryars' "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet".
posted by Vervain at 10:38 AM on April 8, 2009

Roisin Murphy [eyebleed colors] did it on her tour for her album, Ruby Blue. There's probably a video out there of when she loops an alarm clock for "Leaving the City," but I can't find it.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 10:39 AM on April 8, 2009

Nifty, aka Matt Smith, who played with Owen Pallet in a band called Les Mouches oh-so many years ago, is also a genius with a loop pedal. thusly.
posted by object-a at 11:07 AM on April 8, 2009

We are legion, we loopers ... we even have our own listserv (Looper's Delight) ... Zoe Keating is among our members there ...

At the risk of shameless self-promotion (there's more elsewhere, if anyone is interested), I've been known to use a loop or three myself. I prefer to let the loop become a part of the overall piece (i.e., "find the loop"-style), rather than a more karaoke-style backing approach.

It is simply a technique within many genres of music, but it is nice to see this posting. Thanks, flatluigi, for posting this!
posted by aldus_manutius at 12:21 PM on April 8, 2009

Beardyman 2
posted by empath at 12:51 PM on April 8, 2009

Watching Imogen Heap's "Just For Now," I also random-clicked "Hide and Seek". Jesus jumped-up Christ music can still make me cry like a little boy. Not entirely dead inside!
(Cool *sniffle* post, *sniffle* thanks. *sniffle*)
posted by Glee at 1:21 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Y'all should check our Yoav.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:52 PM on April 8, 2009

Dr Didge used to specialise in looped performances featuring funky arrangements with digeridoos. Here is a good example.
posted by rongorongo at 7:19 AM on April 13, 2009

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