Review: Manuel Zurria – Loops4ever

Loops4ever goes beyond merely reconstructing pieces and awkwardly planting the “Zurria” trademark on top. The double album is part of an extensive research project into repetition in music that has also included the triple CD Repeat! (put out on Die Schactel back in 2008), taking him beyond the loops themselves to peer into the minds of those that use them most notably. The pieces featured were deliberately chosen for their conceptual freedom, and by developing an understanding of the individual processes and intentions that birthed them (including interviews with the artists themselves, transcripts of which are included with the CD), Zurria finds himself able to take the compositional core along a very personal tangent without denting the initial artistic intent.

Flutes are the main timbral constant here, and often act as the most explicit tool of Zurria’s personalisation. It’s not often that I’ve heard the instrument’s tone (usually soft and intimate in nature) utilised to provoke such an extensive range of atmospheres and intensities within one album: slinking snake-like through melodies during Sclelsi’s “Casadiscelsi”, screaming in shrill whistles on John Duncan’s “The Carnival”, and fluttering in hyperactive delight across Jacob TV’s “Lipstick”. The sudden transitions between them can often feel rather sudden, but they aptly illustrate the way in which Zurria manages to shed new light onto various creative characteristics of himself.

However, the journey feels rather futile when his end results tread far too closely in the footsteps of the originals. In particular, the pieces of Alvin Lucier and Jacob TV do little to contribute to what has already been conveyed so effectively by the composers: the former consists of the same gradually sweeping pure wave oscillators found on Lucier’s version, while both takes on Jacob TV pieces fail to sufficiently expand on the jittery combination of boombox and flute present in the original recordings. It’s here that Loops4ever feels like some sort of indulgent fantasy dress-up box, through which Zurria can step directly into the shoes of his influences rather than carry the pieces into personal places; something that probably appeals to the fanboyism of the artist more so than the ears of his audience.

Loops4ever is much more interesting when the likes of Basinski’s  “A Movement in Chrome Primitive” are taken from fragments of lo-fi piano into endless cascades of flute harmony, or when Terry Riley’s brash saxophone blasts are swapped for delayed layers of breathy woodwind birdsong. It’s during these pieces that the concept behind the album is most clearly conveyed. It’s not about artistic imitation; it’s about artistic empathy, and Zurria succeeds when he ventures beyond the original incarnations of the pieces themselves to attempt to align himself with the minds that conceived them.