THE LOCKED GROOVE: the deliberate skip at the end of a record that keeps playing the same 1.8-second (or 1 1/3-second, at 45 rpm) soundbyte over and over, forever, or at least until something wears down. Artists from Lou Reed to the Beatles to Amon Duul have ended a record on a locked groove. 23 Skidoo even threw one in the middle of their LP The Culling is Coming, so that one must lift the needle and advance to hear the rest of the side. Locked groove music (or non-music, as some would consider it) is free from the manipulation of melody or harmony or any sense of development; all other elements are sacrificed for the natural rhythm inherent in the turntable's rotation. This is visually enhanced when the record is on colored or clear vinyl, and the textures of the disc move back and forth to the rhythm of the groove.

The 1978 release Pagan Muzak, by pioneering industrial musician Boyd Rice (aka Non) was probably one of the earliest of these. A 7-inch record housed in a 12-inch sleeve and labeled as an LP, it contained 17 locked grooves playable at speeds 16/33/45/78. Rice himself drilled a second spindle-hole half an inch off-center for even more variety. When people complained about the single's being packaged as an album, Rice quipped, "LP means long player, and this is the longest player you're ever going to find."

With the advent of CDs, locked grooves on records have become more prevalent, as if to thumb a nose at the deficiencies of the new medium. RRRecords has come out with two various artist compilations of locked grooves: 1993's RRR100 EP, a seven-inch record with 100 locked grooves; and the impressive RRR500 from 1998, a 12-inch with 250 locked groove tracks on each side. How many other labels offer 500 cuts by 500 different artists on a single slab of vinyl, and every track goes on forever?

Locked grooves can be seen as a primitive analog predecessor of interactive entertainment, since the listener must decide when the piece is over, and, in some cases, what speed to play it. Whereas some locked grooves become merely irritating after a minute or a dozen seconds, others attain a certain zen-like beauty in their simplicity, as they pulse along on their mesmerizing infinite rhythm loop. They are a paradox of brevity and vastness, the aural equivalent of a Mobius strip with no beginning or end, offering repetition in its purest form without distractions.