Guardian Review

John Fordham
The Guardian, Friday 20 February 2009
Article history
Arts activities with "collective" in their titles inspire thoughts of earnest encounters in threadbare rooms in which performers outnumber audiences, but London's Loop Collective specialises in dispelling cliches. Like the F-ire Collective, it's a loose confederation of skilled and mostly young British genre-jumpers with strong connections to improv, world music, and contemporary classical music and jazz, and it has just staged a four-day birthday party at the Vortex.

Loop Collective festival
Vortex, London
The final night featured vibraphonist Jim Hart's band, and chamber ensemble Fringe Magnetic. The latter mingled strings and woodwind (Fraud's James Allsopp and Outhouse's Robin Fincker were among the clarinets) with composer Rory Simmons's incisively jazzy trumpet variations and the accomplished singing of Norwegian vocalist Elisabeth Nygaard.

Jim Hart's Gemini quartet suggested more of the jazz tradition than most Loop members do, but Hart's fleet, narratively coherent and often spectacular extended improvising over his own tricky brand of postbop was assured enough to make light of the intricacies.

Saxophonist Ivo Neame (also a gifted pianist) made the familiarities sound fresh with his punchy emphasis and unorthodox phrasing, and the rhythm pairing of bassist Jasper Hoiby and Outhouse drummer Dave Smith made the group sound a lot bigger than a foursome.

Fringe Magnetic also favoured devious rhythmic puzzles. These were softened by interwoven long-note melodies or Simmons's bright and emphatic trumpet sound. Tight bass-led grooves underpinned skidding string parts and jazzy horn lines, while ethereally drifting high-note melodies were curled over rumbling low-end drumming or built to thrashing collective climaxes.

Nygaard entered mid-set, bringing to the music a remarkable conjunction of regular phrasing and abstraction, and a mix of percussive power with a Scandinavian spaciness that had more in common with Susanna and the Magical Orchestra.