American minimalist Terry Riley used a delay/feedback system consisting of two reel-to-reel tape recorders for a concert in Paris in 1963. He invented the name “Time Lag Accumulator” for that setup, recorded several albums with it (such as the famous “A Rainbow in Curved Air”), and did tape delay based “all-night flight” concerts for a couple of years.
In 1973, Ambient pioneer Brian Eno introduced the Time Lag Accumulator to King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp (recording the album “No Pussyfooting” on the fly), and Fripp loved the system’s possibilities so much that he went on tour with it for a few years in the 1970s, calling it “Frippertronics”. Fripp’s magical Frippertronics music soon turned many other musicians (including myself) on to what would later be known as “livelooping”.
I started experimenting with a “Frippertronics” setup around 1979, and used it on several live concerts. Eventually, like everyone else, I started to use the new analog, and later digital delays because they could create the same long delays without being as cumbersome and heavy as a pair of tape recorders.
The Time Lag Accumulator is a piece of music history now, and few people remember it. But a few years ago, I restored my tape machines and reanimated the “Frippertronics” delay method. I presented it at livelooping festivals (2013 in Cologne, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Time Lag Accumulator, 2014 in Paris, and 2016 in Berlin), and at some workshops for music students.
As wonderful as digital loop boxes are, the less-than-perfect sound of tapes seems warm and organic in comparison. Some artists (such as William Basinski or Wouter van Veldhoven) even use the characteristic low fidelity properties of deteriorating tape delay as a trademark feature of their music. Also, in live situations, there is definitely something magical about the pair of rotating tape wheels – the audience loved it at my own concerts much more than I expected.
Improvising with tape delay, part 1
Improvising with tape delay, part 2 (no sound in the beginning)
“Autumnal” loop 2016 in Berlin
ARTE Tracks feature (in German) about the 2013 Loop Jubilee in Paris, featuring a few seconds of a Michael Peters interview
2013 and 2014 recordings with the Time Lag Accumulator
Early experiments with this setup:
1981, Frippertronics intro for Die Härte