Suitcase blues: Looper finds its own identity with The Geometrid.
Suitcase blues: Looper finds its own identity with The Geometrid.
Jane Campbell


When you become intractably identified as "formerly of" and your new band is relentlessly mentioned as a "side project," it's not easy to make a name for yourself -- just ask Looper's Stuart David. A founding member of cult darlings Belle and Sebastian, the mild-mannered David was sometimes mistaken for the group's other Stuart, reclusive mastermind Stuart Murdoch, but more often overlooked as a bassist and accompanist. For those in the know, Looper's electronica-lite was appreciated as a curiosity more than anything else, something for B&S devotees to occupy themselves with between that outfit's efforts. Not that the residual attention hurt Looper, considering that word of mouth and acclaim by association did give the charming but modest 1999 debut Up a Tree a much larger profile than it would have garnered on its own.

Certainly, the shadow cast by David's more prominent involvements has not eclipsed his own accomplishments: This Stuart is the underground version of a Renaissance man, a published author and aspiring artist in addition to being a capable musician. And David has developed into a leading man in his own right since amicably dropping out of Belle and Sebastian not too long ago and channeling his varied interests and skills into the artsy-fartsy high jinks of Looper's second outing, The Geometrid. Whereas the good-natured noodling and humble craft of Up a Tree made for a pleasant, though coy, first impression, the new album beams with bolder, more confident songwriting that transforms the earlier introspective tinkering into pop gems boasting an eclectic appeal. Just check out the opening three tracks, which crisscross plenty of contemporary styles, from the keyboard grooves and sampled shout-outs of the opener, "Mondo '77," to the fuzzed-out ear candy of "On the Flipside," to the ingenious "Modern Song," with its modem-driven rhythms and lo-fi trip-hop atmosphere.

What brings and keeps together the diverse approaches is David's creative focus, which gives shape to his insistent sense of wonder and sweet tooth for experimentation. On "Tomorrow's World," David conjures up a thrift-store version of space-age bachelor pad music with a Speak & Spell symphony while he and his wife, Karn, go sci-fi in the duet vocals ("And no one has traveled to Mars/And everyone would live in things called Biospheres"). A daydream of a different sort, "Money Hair," ends the album with lovey-dovey innocence and soul-like enthusiasm, floating and fluttering to peals of brassy horns. Letting his imagination go, David leaves a lasting impression all his own.


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