Locked Grooves

While the best things to ever arrive at my P.O.Box are modules for my synth, second best has to be vinyl. As I’ve been away on holiday the last few weeks I haven’t gotten into town to clear my mail but I knew there was some gems waiting for me…. And so this morning I raced in & did a drive by…. Apart from two 12″ bought locally secondhand (remixes of classic Luscious Jackson track Lady Fingers and a sublime Echospace track by Intrusion – Angel, voiced by Paul St Hiliare) there was also two copies of a record I came across online of 1,000 locked grooves. Yes, you read that right: 50 musicians submitted 20 loops each & it was released by RRRecords with 500 locked grooves on each side!

If you own two turntables & haven’t played with locked grooves then its really something you should try. I think the first one I came across was on the Sonic Youth album Evol who’s track ‘Expressway to yr skull’ has a duration listed as infinite.

When I was in Berlin a few years ago I picked up two copies of a clear vinyl 10″ of locked grooves by Alva Noto. One side is full of about a dozen of his staticy textures, the other side is clicky rhythmic loops. If you put both texture sides on & play the same groove on both decks the phasing & stereo movement you can play with are fantastic!

locked groove

Possibly the latest release of locked grooves is via the 20th anniversary box set from Warp Records, which includes two 10″ locked groove albums, each containing 20 locked grooves.

Coincidentally I went & saw the new Coen Brothers film A Serious Man yesterday and right about the 75 minute mark when the character Larry gets stoned with his next door neighbour, the film soundtrack lapses into a great locked groove. Admittedly it is not a music loop per se, but a song on the hifi ends and a typical ‘end of side one’ locked groove slowly becomes a dreamy rhythm track to which slightly effected natural sounds (eg ice in his glass) slowly add, taking you inside his blunted mind…

Its funny, locked grooves can catch you out in a great perceptual way eg in this thread: “I just realised that the Two Lone Swordsmen song I’ve been listening to for the past 20 minutes is actually a locked groove at the end of the record.”

According to wikipedia: Probably the first track to utilize this technique was The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), featuring a multi-layered collage of randomized chatter in its run-off loop. The Who responded by putting a mock advertisement for their label, Track Records, in their The Who Sell Out LP. On The Format’s album Dog Problems, the feedback at the end of “If Work Permits” continues into the lock-groove, which repeats. Early copies of Pink Floyd’s album “Atom Heart Mother”, Peter Gabriel’s second album (also known as Scratch), The Boomtown Rats’s album “The Fine Art Of Surfacing” and The Dead Kennedys album “Plastic Surgery Disasters” also utilize this. Another example of locked groove record is Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s debut album F#A#∞ (pronounced F-sharp, A-sharp, Infinity). At the end of the song “Bleak, Uncertain, Beautiful…” there is a string phrase recorded on the locked groove. The title’s “infinity” refers to this phrase. The Stereolab album Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements ends with the song ‘Lock Groove Lullaby’ which, as the name suggests, extends into the locked groove. Nail by Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel (1985) features a lock groove on the final song (“Anything”) which results in the final note of the album slowly repeating itself. Portugal. The Man’s 2008 album Censored Colors contains a locked groove at the end of the first disc repeating the words “turn me over”.
Locked grooves can also be added part way through a side. The Gorillaz debut album, like the CD release, features the remix of “Clint Eastwood” as a bonus track but the LP has a locked groove after what is meant to be the final track of the album so the needle has to be physically lifted and moved to play the bonus track. This concept has been extended to the production of records consisting entirely of circular “locked grooves” to provide collections of infinite loop sound samples of duration limited to one revolution of the disc. Notable examples of this are the releases from RRRecords of the 7″ RRR-100 (with 100 locked grooves) and the 12″ RRR-500 (with 500 locked grooves) and RRR-1000 (with 1000 locked grooves). Canada’s Legion Of Green Men took the art further creating several records and remixes containing what they called Eternal Opuscules, rhythmic tunes and songs which would play seamlessly to a locked groove at the end of a side. There are also many techno records featuring loops as locked grooves, which, when recorded at 133⅓ bpm and are replayed at 33⅓ rpm, will continuously repeat the beats and musical phrases, which can then be utilized by a DJ. More info on locked grooves here too.

UPDATE: you can listen/download the rrr locked grooves here

6 thoughts on “Locked Grooves

  1. Tom Ackroyd

    There was an Echo and The Bunnymen (I think) record where the last track on side 2 ended with the “rising tone” aural illusion. It carried on going into the run-off groove.

  2. Torley

    I hadn’t thought about locked grooves in awhile; your background and stories are most welcome.

    “Legion of Green Men” brings to mind the highly-melodic “Synaptic Response” I hadn’t listened to since high school.

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  4. Hecsmon

    Nurse With Wound’s Cooloorta Moon contains a lock groove at the end. Sorry, dont have any more information.

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