For some 30 years, Oakville born Andrew Aldridge has lent his guitar textures to many a song from a myriad of performers. Danny Michel, Sarah Slean, Lori Yates, Oh Susanna and many other critically acclaimed Canadian artists have chosen Aldridge as their guitarist for touring and recording.
Twice in his lifetime, Aldridge has called Hamilton home - although these days he and fiance Ladybird Sideshow's Lisa Winn are more content in the more country living of Fenwick. While there is plenty of room for Aldridge's equipment and the Noah's ark of animals they tend, Aldridge not only still considers himself a Hamiltonian but also regularly tends to his local work with Mary Simon and the Mississippi Bends as well as Rae Billing and Crybaby among others. While it's more roots, rock and pop that we're more accustomed to Aldridge mining, this week Aldridge reignites his other passion in the experimental and improvisational musical exploration of an event he created some twenty-one years ago called Planet of the Loops.
"It was meant as a one off night that I decided to do as a self-indulgent where a bunch of like minded musicians could bring out all of their toys, noisemakers and effect pedals and just improvise and whatever happened, happened," says Aldridge. "Kurt Swinghammer was a friend that had the same kind of Brian Eno type influences and ambient soundscape things. Tamara Williamson was one of the first to do live vocal looping - before Feist ended up doing that kind of stuff. They were at the first Planet of the Loops I did. I invited some friends to do make sounds that we couldn't do on a regular gig and who cared if anyone showed up in the audience? As it went, quite a few people showed up and most asked when are we going to do it again?"
Birthed in Toronto, Planet of the Loops had its own built in audience of musician's musicians and audiences that were enthralled by the neo-psychedelic and ambient trances of the improvised music dynamic. What was very much a single night of guilty pleasure outside of his regular music journeys developed into an in-demand monthly and weekly event, spawning others to create the long standing Ambient Ping event in Toronto.
Aldridge himself found juggling a busy touring schedule and the Planet's monthly shows a tad too much but retained the premise and the name for a Planet of the Loop series that has found a welcome home in the Hamilton area over the last fifteen years (although Aldridge frequently offers shows in Hogtown but we won't hold it against him). This week, Aldridge brings the Planet of the Loops for one last edition at the now closing Artword Artbar.
"It started as a teenager for me - as well as learning to play by playing along to records, I'd spend hours doing this sort of thing and not really knowing much about it until I discovered people like Brian Eno and Robert Fripp," says Aldridge on his passion for creating more experimental sounds. "When I first heard Bill Frisell, what I was hearing is what he was doing and I was so happy that other people were doing this sort of thing. This ambient side has always been a side of to my playing but I've discovered it's not as much about the genre but about getting four people that have ideally never met or played together and getting them out of the regular jam or song context. It's not as much about the looping but the communication between four people and what happens. I love chance music and more of an edge to things where anything could happen."
More popular examples can be taken from Eno's work as the mad wizard intermingling into early Roxy Music's glam pop or even Adrian Belew being enlisted by David Bowie to create a guitar solo without hearing the song or knowing the key. It's this excitement of experimentation and the accidental and wondrous beauty that might occur that fuels Aldridge's passion with the Planet of the Loops.
"Each show is a different cast of players and instruments offering different sounds captured and treated with different effects," says Aldridge. "We've had different visuals as part of it - I've had lots of people inquire about participating and it's been exciting to have a wide range of players come together in this set up. Ninety percent of the time it's just such an exciting performance. For this show, Cheryl O is from Toronto - she's a pit player from orchestras and stuff who wanted to get out of that scene and play more in an improvised setting. She came out to a POTL as an audience member but wanted to do it and she's been a part of this a couple of times. Steven Sauve lives in Hamilton and is a keyboard player, soundscape artist. and sound designer. For years, he did film and TV composition but now teaches that side of things and plays events like this. And I'm excited to have the Artword Artbar's Judith Sandiford doing visuals - she loves doing that and it's such a great part of the evening.
"Planet of the Loops is an all improvised night of creating, recycling and treating sounds," adds Aldridge. "The event is for people who like live music performance or jazz music. This is a true live setting where you never know what's going to happen. Anything can happen as a result of what somebody else does. It's a listening event as much for the audience as the listeners taking part as well. If you love Sci-Fi soundtracks like "Blade Runner", often it sounds like an extension of that but it can pretty noisy and crazy - like a Knitting Factory, John Zorn kind of thing. At the beginning, I was surprised at the people that came out and said that they liked it. I thought it was so self-indulgent and that nobody else would get it or like it. But people still come up after shows looking for a CD or some kind of recording but we never play the same thing twice so... Everybody that comes out seems to enjoy it as long as they know what they're getting into."
Planet of the Loops September 2019 Edition happens this Thursday September 26 at the Artword Artbar featuring Cheryl O on violin, Steven Sauve on keyboards, Judith Sandiford on visuals and Andrew Aldridge on guitars. Show starts at 8pm and $10 gets you in but seating is liited so you're encouraged to arrive early. Click on andrewaldridgemusic.com