Freq has been online in various forms since April 1998; this iteration has been around as of 2010, with an archive of older material available too.
Please scroll down and on for the most recent reviews; see also the archives index for 1998-2009 below while there is also an A-Z index of everything posted so far.
The bulk of the record reviews 1998-2008 are in the following pages — as time allows they are being converted to the newer, searchable format:
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London 30 January 2015
The day didn’t start well. A blocked drain, forgetting the keys to work and having to go back and fetch them and then a slip on rainy plastic, a mid-air semi-cartwheel (“semi-cartwheeled headfirst in the rain,” as Edward Ka-Spel would say) into the side of a skip and a resultant injury resembling nothing so much as the remnants of a failed scalping all combined to make it the sort of day when there’s nothing really for it but to go and see Sleaford Mods. Fortunately, the day ended with me going to see Sleaford Mods, so it all turned out nice in the end.
It’s an early show, presumably so the Electric Ballroom can be cleared out in time for whatever passes for a club night in bloody Camden these days, which means that when I’d normally be settling down with a gin and tonic and
Continue reading Sleaford Mods / Steve Ignorant’s Slice Of Life (live at The Electric Ballroom) […]
The last thing I was expecting when listening to these recently-unearthed rarities was Gospel. But that’s what hits your ears first, hallelujahs, hand claps and all, roasted on some mad Blackpool-type organ and acoustic hints of blue grassy glinting holy — a bedazzle for the senses indeed.
Thomas Dinger‘s only other released work, Für Mich, lightly dusted you with its composed turquoise, as its strange inclinations subtly took hold in the warmth of a summer’s day. This collection of fragments from the archives leaks these mellow edges too, but is a far edgier beast as the second track proves, plying your ears in wrong modem sounds, bendy electronics flanging away, burger-flipping odd collusions of drum’n’bass. This could quite easily be Frankensteined together, but it’s more like the re-configured soup of experiment as dub fingers massage Thomas’s voice;
Continue reading Thomas Dinger – 2000 […]
Ici d’ailleurs/Mind Travels Important
Aidan Baker has made an art of being really, really boring. Having released several thousand albums to date – with almost all of them revolving around a guitar and a couple of pedals – you’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘boring’ was in some way a pointed derision aimed squarely at the man’s omnipotence, his unwavering dedication to a singular minimalist aesthetic, but Baker is far too skilled for that sort of charge — his boredom is acute, exhausting, emotive.
The Sea Swells a Bit serves as a wonderful elucidation as to what is on offer here, which is to say, almost nothing, but a strangely captivating nothing that extends far beyond the sum of its parts. The opening ten seconds of the title track sound like any one of
Continue reading Aidan Baker – The Sea Swells A Bit/Triptychs […]
Collected from two years’ worth of home two-track tape recordings made between 1982-1983 by Liquid Liquid‘s percussionist, Reel To Real gathers together Dennis Young‘s sketches of sometimes engagingly naïve acoustic songs alongside frenetic percussion workouts and occasional synth frenzies which prefigure the arrival of drum and bass in their clattery pace.
The demo-like quality of most of the material makes for an occasionally intimate and sometimes plain giddy feel to Reel to Real, and Young certainly gets to let some of his more avant-garde musical ideas rip here. This is especially evident on often non-linear tracks such as the bowed strings and analogue squitters of “Sprayed”, the skronky snippets of “Tape Interface For Guitar” and in the tape collage “Radio Transmissions 1”, while “Overdub Dub” layers Young’s echoed voice and percussion over a reggae tune. In
Continue reading Dennis Young – Reel To Real […]
This has got to be Edward Ka-Spel‘s most introspective album to date; some would say business as usual, another party political broadcast from the inside of Edward’s head. Words held in tea-stained sepia and dust-choked webs, hints of jaded melody creeping out of the inky gloom, like threadbare playthings that have seen better days. Yep — definitely business as usual, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Limburgia” eases you in with the soft canter of bongos and a slip-disc of key strokes, all chip-wrapping a monologue concerning some mining accident that frays into festering unrealities that sound fatigued, stonewashed. To which “Red Highway” ups the anxiety in industrial tensiles and a visceral thrashing of cane against aluminium railings that gets you all unnecessary while Ka-Spel’s vocals start losing it in the ever-tightening mincer
Continue reading Edward Ka-Spel – The Victoria Dimension […]
The Helen Scarsdale Agency
Ever needed to block out the world beyond the ears with the application of sound, to soak and bleach away the intrusive noises of other human beings, their transport, the built environment, the elements themselves? Try Scarlet then, up loud and/or on headphones, and let Jim Haynes reorganise the sound world in rawer form.
Tired of melody, bored to tears by tunes and in need of something a little more intense than just simply entertaining? Get Scarlet for the saloon bar, and keep those pesky customers at bay, or at least those unhardy enough for the scatter of abstraction and the sputtering bursts of electrical noise which will instantly guarantee a nagging feeling of concern for the safety of the speakers, or possibly the proper functioning of the central heating.
Feel like something to make
Continue reading Jim Haynes – Scarlet […]
The Helen Scarsdale Agency
So Long is an often subtle work of suggestively imaginative electronics which offers to transport the listener to places where they are equally welcome to apply their own meaning as to take those proposed by both the music and its naming. Drifting along without a seeming care in the world, Stilluppsteypa‘s Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson seems unconcerned how long his journey will take, if a track title like “Eight Hour Delay” is any indication of the mood being conjured here.
Slowness is the order of the day, so being a third of a day behind doesn’t seem like too much of a problem when the music is this languid, this relaxed. At nearly thirty minutes duration, the chances that the listener is going to be in a hurry to get the track over and
Continue reading Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson – So Long […]
London-based duo Kontakte‘s 2014 release These Machinesbrought a blissfully blistering end to their silence of two years between albums. Here, Ian Griffiths and Stuart Low give a detailed breakdown of how and why each of the album’s tracks came into being.
“Shut Your Eyes And You’ll Burst Into Flames” These Machines – Limited Edition CD by KONTAKTE
Stuart: This track was birthed over a number of years, the original bare bones were written in 2005 – 2006 and it existed in that form for a few years until 2009 when I started recording bits and pieces as a home demo. It was during this time that the idea for a ‘desert’-sounding lead guitar came to me, along with the extremely droney guitars underneath (which everyone seems to think are synths), which helped emphasize the desert sound I
Continue reading Kontakte’s These Machines track by track […]
King of Spades
It seems like it’s been an æon since the last Chrome album. But with Feel It Like A Scientist, Helios Creed and band returns with some of his wildest proto-punk, space rock craziness in years.
“Nephilims (Help Me)” jumps straight in there with a grinding power-chord riff and wild synth madness that acts like a punch into your third eye and is a great opener for the album. Zappa-esque nonsense-style jazzing introduces “Prophecy” and within a few moments we are already hitting backwards cymbals before a more straight-ahead space rocker takes off with a stunning, catchy riff. The vocals are swallowed in enough reverb that they seem aimed at the astral plane. Stuttering Kraftwerk synth patterns open “Lipstick” to battle against strange vocal intonations and a cautiously melodic keyboard lead that wanders over
Continue reading Chrome – Feel It Like A Scientist […]
Not so much glitching as rippling on a bed of deftly, deliberately placed samples organised by Timo Reuber and Staubgold label head Markus Detmer, Transit is also blessed with the production skills of Joseph Suchy, ensuring that everything unfolds with a suitably spacious, widescreen feel.
A constant sense of motion, of change and unfolding, of new vistas opening up as the album progresses, matches its title perfectly as the music moves across the stereo spectrum with occasionally delicate surefootedness. Transit demonstrates that computer music can sparkle with a human warmth, even if it has been built up in stages by a duo who describe themselves as technicians or “sound station attendants” who inject sequences of organised sound, rather than composers. This very Kraftwerkian attittude is belied by the results, and while no track clocks in longer than five minutes,
Continue reading Klangwart – Transit […]
A beautiful-looking release from Sulatron Records, this cosmic slab has three massive planet-sized tracks on it. The album is a collaboration between Electric Moon members Sula Bassana and Komet Lulu and Zone Six members Modulfix and Rainer Neef. These improvisations from Krautzone are pure kosmische soundtracks to outer space travelling.
“Liebe” starts off with some moody synth playing and a very laid-back vibe that lets you drift away on its beautiful atmosphere. Imagine staring at the full moon from a beach and the stars hurtling overhead, and you get an idea of its groove. Drums are steady and remind me somewhat of Steve Jansen at times, especially as they get slightly more tribal. Onkel Kaktus‘ bass is steady and helps the whole rhythm gain a rolling pace, so that when the lead guitar begins to soar it gives
Continue reading Krautzone – Kosmische Rituale […]
Two tracks; fifteen minutes of fearsome post-hardcore grunt, groan, riff and thrash from Eleanora splashes out of the speakers as if the very devil was grinding out the best tunes behind them, goading the band into producing yet more screamed crescendos.
Tight as the screws which surely must be holding down the drummer’s kit in case it should get beaten off the stage, “Mammon” shifts gears and swerves with the erratic control of a rally driver careering headlong into an ice-storm while their co-pilot yells out a constant stream of incoherent rage at the all-encompassing elements rather than anything resembling useful directions.
“Amenable” starts off in just that fashion, a pleasant churn of guitar soon joined by a frying-pan bass sprawl until the doomy whole coalesces into a dirgesome trudge through ponderous drum spasms and the harsh grindcore-style
Continue reading Eleanora – EP […]
Two companion LPs from Janek Schaefer find this most mercurial of composers expanding upon some of his more exploratory audio ideas across four sides of vinyl (or nine tracks in digital form).
“White Lights of Divine Darkness” is a suitably spiritual opener to Unfolding Luxury Beyond the City of Dreams, a piece recorded for Sir John Tavener on the day he died, and the mood of reflective recursion continues into “Unfolding Honey”, an hypnotic swirl of shimmering, silky feedback and subtly-shifting crackling echoes recorded to accompany an exhibition of Japanese fashion in London. The segue into “Luxury” is almost imperceptible, with its drift into angelic drones, as is the elevation into the clouds and spattering of raindrops recorded from a helium balloon while a Carpenters piano loop unravels and accumulates in
Continue reading Janek Schaefer – Unfolding Luxury Beyond the City of Dreams / Inner Space Memorial in Wonderland […]
Recorded live with no rehearsal, as is Damo Suzuki‘s way — he makes a habit of not meeting or playing with the group who will act as his ‘sound carriers’ before the night of the gig — Start From Zero does just that.
Mugstar demonstrate their proficiency as space rockers extraordinaire in a churn of muscular drums and wibbling synthesizers from the get-go. While there’s a certain inevitable lurch into the sort of free-form jam band workout that playing with Damo so often inspires — the urge to drop into “Mother Sky” seems always palpably present in his backing band whenever Suzuki plays live — Mugstar keep their playing restrained and spare for the bulk of “Subway Sound”, giving Suzuki the space to let his vocals breathe and unwind spaciously. But then “Zero Coda”
Continue reading Mugstar + Damo Suzuki – Start From Zero […]
Helena Espvall (of Espers) and David Maranha of Osso Exótico‘s first joint album finds the duo pushing and prodding at the boundaries of what their amplification of cello, violin and electric organ can achieve in the field of drone music. It hardly needs to be emphasised that as much volume as the reproducing equipment can offer clearly — and the listener(s) can stand — will give the best results for this LP, as Sombras Incendiadas is all about density, and even surrender.
Obvious – and explicit – reference points include John Cale, LaMonte Young and Tony Conrad at their most stretched-out and harmonically-vibrant. Maranha and Espvall let the distorted sound of their instruments flow with a raw intensity which never pretends that there is anything exploding in the shadows other than the bowed
Continue reading David Maranha and Helena Espvall – Sombras Incendiadas […]