Looped Squares - Looped Squares

Looped Squares – Looped Squares

Looped Squares is a German-based band with roots from diverse musical and geographical backgrounds. I recently spoke to the band who gave an insight into their meeting, origin and the Looped Squares album.

“We met when we worked at Thomann music store in Germany. We have different backgrounds (Romanian, Dutch and Polish/German), but our shared taste in music brought us together: jazz/fusion and progressive rock. Dave Mola (guitars) and Frank Tinge (drums) have known each other since 2009, through performances with their bands Relocator and Effloresce, with which they also played at several editions of the Generation Prog Festival. They also played with Time Shift Accident at the Night of the Prog Festival last summer.

We started jamming in the rehearsal room at work in 2019 and wrote our first song, called Looped Squares. There was no plan at the time to work on a full album, but soon several demos were written. We realised that this had potential to become an album and we enthusiastically started writing and recording the songs we are now releasing. Our first song was instrumental, just like several previous individual projects and many artists and albums that influence us. This meant that this album is also completely instrumental.”

So, their self-released debut album contains eight carefully composed instrumental tracks and contains a balanced, well-executed mix of fusion and progressive rock. Having already made their mark with bands such as Time Shift Accident, Effloresce and Relocator, it can be said that Looped Squares has accents from prog metal and jazz rock, not surprising. After a first listen you quickly think of heavy jazz rock in the trend of Weather Report and Mike Stern. A sharp rocking guitar sound, coupled with tasteful keyboards, melodic bass and powerful yet varied drums. But the prog influences are amply present.

“We did everything ourselves: writing, recording, producing, mixing and mastering. Everything you hear (and see) was done by the four of us. The pandemic has slowed things down a bit, but we are extremely proud and excited to finally share our music with the world!”

Looped Squares
Looped Squares (Clockwise from top right): Dave Mola, Frank Tinge, Adrian Sardi, Jan Essenstam

Opener Rockdown immediately shows what Looped Squares stands for: swinging fusion with a sharp rocky edge, in the person of guitarist Dave Mola with Steve Lukather-like playing. But Jan Essenstam’s Hammond organ is also worth listening. For title track Looped Squares they shift down a gear, the unison play between guitar and bass is topped with a melodic synthesiser flavour.

On Cactus Recovery the band shows its other side, unmistakably prog rock with odd time signatures, a dominant bass, howling guitar, keyboards dedicated to the ominous atmosphere of the song and various tempo changes. With Aquafied Spheres, it all relatively settles down, this time with guitar and keys dueling/dueting with each other, featuring some Eric Johnson-related guitar playing by Mola and the Mike Lindup-like keyboards of Essenstam’s.

“Our favourite bands include Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cosmosquad, Protocol, Dream Theater, TRI Offensive, Porcupine Tree, Planet X. Musicians who have influenced us include Steve Lukather, Andy Timmons, Marco Sfogli, Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Greg Philinganes, Mike Lindup, Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller, Melvin Lee Davis, Simon Phillips and Virgil Donati.”

Such a title can only come from a Dutchman: Elfendertigst, meaning ‘sluggishly’. But the suspected lazy pace is hardly noticeable; on the contrary, it’s an intriguing piece with leading roles for bass and drums. Confusion is more in the direction of jazz-rock, I hear influences from Bruford, especially through the guitar playing that refers to Allan Holdsworth.

Tall Order is a bit of an odd one out because it’s much more mainstream fusion than the rest of the tracks. The music is reminiscent of GRP, especially due to the Dave Grusin/Bob James-like piano playing. The duet between guitar and synthesiser makes up for a lot, as does the funky bass. The closing New Life could also have been from Lee Ritenour, with long melodic guitar lines and a slow tempo.

The previously mentioned razor-sharp guitar sound comes from Dave Mola, his playing resembles a cross between Steve Lukather and Mike Stern and also sounds like Allan Holdsworth. But he’s not the only one who stands out, the band consists of capable musicians. I especially like Adrian Sardi’s melodic bass lines, and I clearly hear his preference for Lee Ritenour-bassist Melvin Lee Davis. Jan Essenstam’s keyboard playing reminds me of that of Kit Watkins (Camel, Happy the Man) but especially Mike Lindup (Level 42). Wonderful melodic solos with frequent use of the so-called pitch bend wheel, the controller that changes the pitch. The drums are more difficult to compare, but Frank Tinge is no rookie and knows how to keep all those solos and melodies together with his tight style of playing. Compliments for production and mix, the whole thing sounds clear and tight.

There is also some criticism: a total playing time of approximately 37-minutes is on the short side and barely fills two sides of the LP. In addition, the final chords occasionally seem a bit abrupt. But that covers most of the criticism.

“We have plans to work on more music and have already written some demos. There are no plans for live performances at the moment, but if the opportunity presents itself, we think it would be fantastic to play live.”

All in all, an excellent debut from this international ensemble and highly recommended for fans of the genre. Don’t be misled by all the comparisons, these are certainly not copy-cats but experienced musicians who have anchored the roots of their favourite music in their genes. The result is impressive, personally I’m looking forward to a live performance by this exciting quartet from Germany.

“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to introduce ourselves to you and for your years of supporting this music genre!”

01. Rockdown (4:05)
02. Looped Squares (3:31)
03. Cactus Recovery (6:33)
04. Aquafied Spheres (5:07)
05. Elfendertigste (4:28)
06. Confusion (4:59)
07. Tall Order (3:31)
08. New Life (4:28)

Total Time – 36:42

Jan Essenstam – Keyboards
Dave Mola – Guitars
Adrian Sardi – Bass
Frank Tinge – Drums

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 1st December 2023

Looped Squares – Facebook | Bandcamp