For the aspiring tape loopers out there, I’m sure I speak for us all when I say that we’d all like to have the time to play around with splicing tape into loops and recording through a four-track. But when this is not possible, here’s an easy alternative right in your DAW.
Famous Tape Loopers
The renowned artists of tape looping are these (and others I’ve missed, I’m sure):
- Geir Jenssen / Biosphere – His Shenzhou album is comprised mainly of Debussy loops.
- Tim Hecker – His Ravedeath release uses loops and some mean distortion.
- William Basinski – Known for his Disintegration Loops where the tape slowly disintegrated over the course of the tracks.
- Robert Reich – Loops of some type were his main focus, but not disintegrating or degraded ones.
For me, Biosphere and Basinski are the two I aspired to emulate.
How I Made Mine
The Loop Source
The source of my loop was Debussy’s La Mer from an orchestral recording.
Capturing the Loop
First, I had to capture the loop and have it sound good. I could have done this in several ways, but I chose to use the INA GRM Freeze tool. I played a WAV file of the orchestral piece I wanted and engaged Freeze to manipulate it while Edison was also running and recording a five-minute block of what Freeze was outputting. I duplicated the five-minute block three times to get a fifteen-minute track.
When I captured the loop, I did not have any other effects on – only Freeze.
Other methods I have used are these:
- INA GRM Freeze (sometimes with Shuffle) and Edison recording a WAV file.
- Edison (FL Studio) to record a WAV file and cut/loop it.
- Augustus Loop (with or without Edison) to record or process in real time.
- Other tools such as Meringue, or Crossfade Loop.
Effects Applied to the Loop
Second, I applied effects to the loop itself in the instrument channel and mix bus that the loop was routed through.
I found that Evolution could smooth out the loop a bit and make it less harsh, so I used that at a low mix level. I sometimes may use Shuffle as well, depending on what I am going for.
Equalize made the loop shimmer in the different frequencies and I think is the main actor on the loop.
In the mix bus after these and before the master, I had RC-20 providing some vinyl noise that I thought was a nice overlay.
I also had compression, reverb, and equalizers in there, but these are not the special items, so I didn’t think them worth mentioning here.
Effects in the Recording
Third, I had to have a disintegration effect during the overall recording playback. I tried different tape emulations such as these:
- RC-20 Retro Color
- Denise Bad Tape
- AudioThing Reels
I settled on Reels to get the sound I wanted. I applied it early in the master chain.
Then, I needed the tape to disintegrate over time, so that meant automating the knobs on Reels front panel to really distort the tape as it played on.