Helm’s Guide to Loop-Based Music

We asked the experimental musician to help us navigate a particularly meditative inspiration.

During the making of my new record, I became interested in the way extended listening to loop-based music can lock the listener into a bizarre, semi-hypnotic state. In the right context it can open up another kind of listening entirely, where abstract sounds and repeating phrases take on rhythmic and trance-like qualities. In the same way a word loses its meaning when you say it 100 times in a row, the source of the sound you’re hearing becomes blurred and insignificant when you listen to a loop over and over again and is perceived as something else entirely. Here are eight of my favorite tracks and records that provide solid representations of this phenomenon.

Severed Heads, “Gashing the Old Mae West”

The Severed Heads discography is full of many highlights, and this is one of my favorites. Many repeated loops build up and over each other to the point where deciphering them becomes a useless and impossible task.

NON, “Mode of Infection/Knife Ladder”

This is the first release from Boyd Rice and Robert Turman as NON. It’s a 7″ consisting of three locked grooves, two tracks and multi-axis playback. I could do with a copy of this if anyone’s selling.

Kevin Drumm, “Organ”

This is the edited version from Drumm’s Comedy album; the full-length one is an hour long. Who knows what this loop is made from—a fuzzed-out metallic guitar, an actual organ, or, as the FedEx driver who heard it while I was at my old warehouse job described it, “a broken air-conditioner.”

Ricardo Villalobos, “Enfants (Chants)”

Here, Ricardo Villalobos does the impossible by making Christian Vander sound even sexier than usual.

Throbbing Gristle, “What a Day”

This feels almost like the “Smoke on the Water” of loops when it comes to industrial music, but I felt its inclusion in the list was necessary.

Actress, “Grey Over Blue”

This one’s possibly my favorite Actress track to date, and it’s a real shame he left it off his last album. Mournful and swampy.

Smegma, “In the Murder Room”

Smegma melts wonderfully all over this vicious riffing loop from an incredible Pigs for Lepers album.

Underground Resistance, “Transition”

This is the perfect track to get lost in. If you hear this played out in the right circumstances, there’s a possibility you may never come back.

Helm’s new album on PAN, Olympic Mess, is out now. Header image by Jess Gough.


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