Archives by month/year

Welcome to Freq in 2015

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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High On Fire / Bask (live at The Scala)

London 12 November 2015

It was my friend Lee Nite who first played me an album by High On Fire. I knew and loved Sleep’s work, but had kind of considered that HOF’s sound was a little too fast for my doom/stoner rock ears. He slipped on their first album and said something like “this is fucking brutal and psychedelic”. And he was right (as with most of the things he played me); my musical world atlas shifted a bit in its orbit and suddenly High On Fire made sense and I had to get the album. Then we saw them at the Camden Underworld and I was once again worshipping at the altar of Matt Pike.

So fast forward a few years and my friend is no longer with us and I’m making my way to The Scala to see HOF play live again for the first time in

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Various Artists – Brown Acid: The First Trip

Riding Easy

Brown Acid - The First TripIf this album were attending high school, right now it would be on its way to the principal’s office, about to be expelled for having been caught selling cheap speed to the younger kids at the school gates.

So, from where did it cop its supply? Why, from one Lance Barresi, proprietor of American emporium Permanent Records who, together with Daniel Hall of Riding Easy Records, has undertaken a heroic trawl through the vaults in order to bring the discerning music-buying public this tasty selection of greasy, long-haired cuts with a bad attitude:

So, what have you got to say for yourself? Fuck you, Principal Brown.

The premise is so simple it could almost form the basis of a question in a logical reasoning test:

Question 14 – Complete the

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Eaten Alive

Arrow Films

Eaten AliveAs I write this, the horror community is mourning the loss of Gunnar Hansen, whose turn (yes, that one, round and round with a buzzing saw in the middle of the road in the blazing sun) as Leatherface helped put Tobe Hooper on the map, Texas Chainsaw Massacre having not only been a huge hit, but unbeknownst to anyone having also changed the face of horror forever.

Hooper’s follow-up film, Eaten Alive (also released as Horror Hotel, Horror Hotel Massacre and Amok for starters, and also known by Hooper as Death Trap), just re-released by Arrow on blu-ray and DVD, is a very different beast. Instead of giving us more of the same, he gave us a campy, colour-saturated nightmare that juxtaposes a fairly silly plot with a genuinely chilling central performance from Western and Twilight Zone veteran Neville Brand

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The Cesarians (live at The Dublin Castle)

The Cesarians at The Dublin Castle Hallowe'en 2015London 31 October 2015

So it’s Saturday night in Camden Town, and it’s also Hallowe’en, which means picking our way through assorted ghosts, ghouls, clowns and supervillains to The Dublin Castle, there to see London’s mightiest punk/chanson/brass jazz ensemble, The Cesarians. They’ve got a whole new album’s worth of material to play us, and a perfect night to do it on.

What they haven’t got, however, is a bassist, Budge McGraw sadly having been taken to hospital. But you know what? They’re The Cesarians. They can do it. With this forced return to their original no-guitars policy, they’ve got Hallowe’en on their side. Which means Justine Armatage on keyboards can fill in with some seasonally appropriate spooky low-end organ sounds. And thank the ghosts, it works, dammit!

The Cesarians at The Dublin Castle 
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Troum and Yen Pox – Mnemonic Induction / Troum and Raison D’être – De Aeris In Sublunaria Influxu

Troum and Yen PoxMnemonic Induction Transgredient

Troum and Yen Pox - Mnemonic InductionThis disc shows the collaborative strengths of the German bliss-mongers Troum coupled with the menacing ambience of America’s Yen Pox, originally released by Malignant Records in 2000 and remastered for this re-release on Transgredient. Mnemonic Induction is a 63 minute journey divided into quarters, each track eating the tail of the next to make essentially one continuous dronescape, the whole a brooding and low-end masterpiece, splattered in melodic ruins, groans and percussive shivers.

Mnemonic Induction by Troum & Yen Pox

Suggestive vanishing points shoot the synapses in swarming circulars, tug at the duvet of consciousness in rumbling halflings and misty apparition. It sounds vast, inescapable, like a paulstretched Les Rallizes Dénudés full of surging gravities that dangle you on claustrophobic hooks, swinging you between the chasm of waking

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Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard – Sound X Sound: Music For 30 Chromatic Tuners


Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard - Sound X Sound: Music For 30 Chromatic TunersThe second in Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard‘s Sound X Sound series of 7″ singles, Music For 30 Chromatic Tuners follows on from Music For 8 Recorders in similarly trilling style. Where eight recorders together made for a sometimes gritty listen, Løkkegaard’s choice of not-quite instruments here leads him down somewhat different pathways.

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Siena Root / Tornet (live at The Black Heart)

Tornet live October 2015London 16 October 2015

It’s a sold out show tonight, so there is a real buzz going around about Siena Root and this whole gig. Swedish bands do seem to be leading the way with the retro/occult rock vibe over recent years and have produced some outstanding bands, so this seemed to be the place to be as the winter nights begin to creep in. The Black Heart is a tiny venue and is prone to getting rather hot in there, but, for me at least, they do serve decent cider which will helped keep me cool while trying to get as near to the action as possible at a packed gig.

Tornet are the first band on and one that I have been looking forward to seeing. Singer Martina Svard adds plenty of passion to her vocals, with the songs

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Various Artists – Strange-Eyed Constellations

Disco Gecko

Various Artists – Strange-Eyed ConstellationsI’m a sucker for this kind of thing. I totally bought into the Planet Dog/Shamanarchy angle as a teenager and still buy in now. This compilation has been put together by Toby Marks AKA Banca de Gaia, one of the heads of the scene in the ’90s, a guy who used to be everywhere, whose music was played at and defined by West Country beach parties and forest raves, who always seemed to be spinning. I liked most of his stuff – a lot of it I loved – but it was the kind of music (along with Zion Train, Eat Static, Astralasia, Transglobal Underground etc etc) that never really managed to dig itself out of a genre hole and never really got the credit it deserved.

Strange-eyed Constellations by Andrew Heath

The genre thing helped

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Gary Numan (live at The Forum)

Gary Numan live at The Forum October 2015

London 23 October 2015

Can you imagine how hard it was being Gary Numan in 1989? A decade earlier, shortly after “Are Friends Electric?” had been released in May 1979, Tubeway Army made their triumphant appearance on Top of the Pops, and the sound of a generational gasp could be heard all the way from Truro to Inverness. Punk’s white light had burned away so much dead wood, reinvigorating youth culture and opening the door for those with the boldness of vision to step through it. Now, a new dream of futurism seemed completely embodied in Tubeway Army’s woozy Polymoog synth wash and Numan’s cold, android stare. Like the Apollo space programme earlier in the decade, Numan’s emergence into the musical firmament promised a new dawn that felt so close you could almost reach out and touch it.

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SK Kakraba – Songs of Paapieye

Awesome Tapes From Africa

SK Kakraba - Songs of PaapieyeOh, liner notes! I get that some people just want the music to speak for itself, but, frankly, that’s nonsense. I want someone to put it in a context, which is what Awesome Tapes From Africa have done here; thanks, ATFA. We learn that SK Kakraba comes from a line of gyil players, and we learn that the distorted buzzes on the slats is caused by silk walls of spiders’ egg sac and is called paapieye in Lobi.

When you’re groping around trying to write about something — or just get your head around it — these sorts of details are really important. That little bit of colour from the paapieye, the rattles that have a decay pattern slightly longer than the note itself on the xylophone-alike gyil, make for the sort of

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Morton Feldman – Clarinet and String Quartet


Morton Feldman - Clarinet and String QuartetComposition’s kind of ridiculous to write about in that you have to write about (broadly) two things — the composition and the delivery — and differences between various recordings can be relatively minimal. Usually, the appeal of composition from about the ’40s onward is that it falls into one of two categories — shit, therefore over-recorded (Phillip Glass, most Americans) or amazing, therefore under-recorded (usually by Europeans). Morton Feldman is an anomaly in that he’s an American composer who isn’t shit and is relatively well-recorded.

Feldman’s also an anomaly insofar as he makes some gruelling, implacably tense music that has an appeal that’s relatively broad. He’s sometimes termed a ‘minimalist’, which is true in a fairly flat sense and not true in another. Some of his works (perhaps not this one) have a parity of

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Vessels / William Arcane (live at XOYO)

London 21 October 2015

I have found it quite dispiriting lately to read so many”death of live music” pieces when my experience is of a scene that is exciting and fresh as ever. I can only surmise that the people who write this stuff are not going to the gigs I’m going to, because I’d defy anyone to go to a night like this and not come away with a sense of optimism.Vessels live October 2015

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor (live at The Roundhouse)

London 30 June 2015

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the once-elusive collective from Montréal, are now becoming an almost regular fixture on the live circuit since reforming in 2010. In addition to live activities, we’ve seen them almost double their late ’90s / early ’00s recorded output with the dual whammy of Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend (2012) and Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress (2015).

Godspeed You! Black Emperor live at The Roundhouse

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Half Man Half Biscuit (live at The Forum)

London 15 October 2015

OK, I’ll start with the controversial part, just so as I can get that out of the way and you can decide for yourself whether you want to read any further in this review. Nigel Blackwell of Half Man Half Biscuit, for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, is one of the finest living British lyricists currently working. New Model Army‘s Justin Sullivan‘s another, and you could also add The The‘s reclusive genius Matt Johnson, if you could go back in time to the last time he released any songs. Some people would argue Morrissey, but again you’d have to go back in time to the last time he was producing quality work and wasn’t being a twat, which is… hmm… quite a long time ago.

Half Man Half Biscuit live October 2015

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ESB – ESB (Y. Tiersen / L. Laquerriere / T. Poli)

Bureau B

ESB - ESBESB’s album lands on my doorstep at the same time as the first pictures of Pluto filter through the cosmos and are shown for the first time for all humanity to see. Somehow the music created by the trio of Yann Tiersen, Lionel Laquerrière and Thomas Poli is fitting as its soundtrack.

“Market” is the album opener, and it’s full of glistening synths that seem to recreate Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in musical form. When the pounding rhythm hits in I’m reminded of John Foxx’s Metamatic album. There is a sheen to the music, its tall tower constructions hover around you as your monorail train moves through the landscape. Sci-Fi music? Not quite, as ESB has more to offer than this. “Spoon” has that wonderful feel that only early Human League albums offers, the electronic crash of rhythm sending

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