In form, much of Looper's "Up a Tree" is hip-hop, but it doesn't sound anything like the music that came out of the South Bronx 20 years ago. This gentle, nostalgic but aurally up-to-date album shares the wistful sensibility of a certain Scottish folk-rock cult sensation, but then that's understandable: Belle & Sebastian is Looper mastermind Stuart David's other band.
These 10 tracks features synthbeats, samples and scratching, but their lyrics -- more often spoken than sung -- extol the happiness of childhood, the innocence of teenage crushes and the wonder of a pleasant afternoon. "There are some days that catch the light/ Days like diamonds," muses David in "Festival '95," an observation that probably never occurred to Grandmaster Flash. In "Up a Tree Again," the Looper singer-songwriter croons, "She's very quiet and very small/ In fact she's hardly there at all," celebrating a heroine who might as well be a mouse. Like his Belle & Sebastian cohorts, David seems to have been unduly influenced by children's books. Still, as very quiet and very small albums go, "Up a Tree" has a suitably meek charm.
Appearing Thursday at the Black Cat with Kahn. To hear a free Sound Bite from Looper, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8126. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)
CAPTION: Karn and Stuart David mix it up as Looper, blending disparate styles and attitudes.