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Array: Luke Avery

In general, genre definitions are useful, if only to help place a band among similar artists in a swelling marketplace. There’s the obvious pigeonholing issue, and the labyrinthine maze of sub-genres to navigate, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to roughly pitch the overall sound of a band. When it comes to Liverpool natives LOKA however, frankly, I’m stumped.

To dissect the elements that go into creating a Loka track would take more words that these pink pages can afford, and to place them squarely in a single category would be nigh on impossible. Loka deal in soundscapes: epic sonic journeys that remain hugely listenable despite their complex composition. In short, they make the difficult sound effortless. This lack of easy definition poses no issues for band founder Mark Kyriacou: “We didn’t set out to make music of any genre, or to create a new genre. We get tagged as ‘cinematic’ more than anything; I suppose that’s because we’re not typically song-based. We’ve been called ‘Gentile Baroque Funk’ before! People aren’t sure what to say when they hear a harpsichord.”

The phrase ‘best kept secret’ gets bandied around a fair bit in Liverpool’s music scene, but Loka would seem to have a genuine claim to the title. The band have rarely given live performances in recent years and have somewhat fallen off the radar of a local scene which has lately enjoyed exponential growth. However, this is no indicator of inactivity, but the length of the writing and studio processes for their new record. “People tend to forget easily,” says Mark. “When you’re not playing live every week you drop off the immediate consciousness. We’re not recluses; we’ve just been working to get this record ready. It’s been a long process, but we’re happy with it.”

The result of their labours is new long-player Passing Place, the follow up to 2006’s Fire Shepherds. An elaborately composed piece, the record encompasses (here’s an attempt at some genre footholds) a heady mix of jazz, dance, trance, psych-rock and folk. The complexity and scope of the record certainly explain the length of its gestation period. Bassist Tom Sumnall explains that, “The record sort of gets pieced together. Mark brings in the ideas and they get fleshed out through rehearsals. I think this record has a much more organic, jammed out feel to it. The songs really came to life in rehearsal. We’ve been lucky to know some really wonderful musicians to have played on this record; the sessions had a real friends and family vibe to them.”

“When we wrote the first record, we knew it was definitely a studio record. But, during the recording of Passing Place, we began to think anything was possible and really rehearsed with live shows in mind. We really want to expose it in as musical a way as possible.” Loka

The result of their labours is new long-player Passing Place, the follow up to 2006’s Fire Shepherds. An elaborately composed piece, the record encompasses (here’s an attempt at some genre footholds) a heady mix of jazz, dance, trance, psych-rock and folk. The complexity and scope of the record certainly explain the length of its gestation period. Bassist Tom Sumnall explains that, “The record sort of gets pieced together. Mark brings in the ideas and they get fleshed out through rehearsals. I think this record has a much more organic, jammed out feel to it. The songs really came to life in rehearsal. We’ve been lucky to know some really wonderful musicians to have played on this record; the sessions had a real friends and family vibe to them.” The album is released through NinjaTune, who it seems have also had trouble with how to categorise Loka. Mark elaborates, “We’ve been with NinjaTune since 2000. I’m sure we’ve not been as prolific as they would have liked, you know, two albums in eleven years, but they’re always really supportive. I’m not sure what they thought when we gave them Passing Place. They’ve got quite a bit of post-dubstep and we’re probably not as commercially viable. It’s a bit of an effort to know how to package us.”

During late 2011, Loka are taking Passing Place out on the road, initially performing in London and a homecoming show at The Kazimier. Having created a record which sounds so grand yet so intricate, it must seem a completely new challenge to prepare for a run of live dates? Mark: “When we wrote the first record, we knew it was definitely a studio record. But, during the recording of Passing Place, we began to think anything was possible and really rehearsed with live shows in mind. We really want to expose it in as musical a way as possible.” Even with the amount of musicians scaled down, Mark is confident that the shows promise to be something special: “We wanted to do the tour with a full live band, but it would be about forty people and we couldn’t make it work, logistically and financially. As much as we would have loved to have done it, we had to slim it down. But it’ll still be an eight-piece playing, we’re hardly bare-bones.”

We couldn’t agree more; Loka are a dense, yet alluringly tactile proposition on record and we expect nothing less from the group live. Hardly bare-bones indeed…

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