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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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Charlemagne Palestine + Grumbling Fur Time Machine Orchestra – ggrrreeebbbaaammmnnnuuuccckkkaaallloooww!!!

Important

Charlemagne Palestine + Grumbling Fur Time Machine Orchestra - ggrrreeebbbaaammmnnnuuuccckkkaaallloooww!!!Boasting one of the more amusingly unpronounceable album titles of recent years, ggrrreeebbbaaammmnnnuuuccckkkaaallloooww!!! puts on record the performance of Charlemagne Palestine, Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan (of Guapo, Ulver and Æthenor) at Café Oto in London during Palestine’s two-night residency there in June 2013.

As it turns out, the title is an onomatopoeic rendition (see also Palestine’s equally evocative and slightly silly Ssingggg Sschlllingg Sshpppingg on Idiosyncratic) of some of the sounds that the trio emit across two sides of vinyl, which are also graced by the presence of a virtual orchestra of farmyard animals mooing and baaing their accompaniment to rollicking piano rounds and an accreting, droning hum of electronics. While such sound samples could be considered either arch or trite (perhaps both at the same time), Palestine and The Time

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Blues Pills – Live

Nuclear Blast

Blues Pills - LiveBlues Pills are one of the best new bands to emerge in recent years that very generously tip their hat at the great heavy rock and psychedelic music of the late sixties. This limited release album by Nuclear Blast finds them performing live at the Freak Valley Festival (and what a great name for a festie) in May 2014.

OK, let’s start off with the cover; its another fantastic reworking of one of Marijke Koger of The Fool’s ’67/’68 posters in its full-on psychedelic loveliness with the name of the band subtly added to it; this is Blues Pills statement of intent, straight away nailing their (multi-)colours to the freak rock wall.

“High Class Woman” kicks in with pounding tribal rhythmic drumming and chugging guitar which builds up nicely to the entrance of Elin Larsson’s powerful vocals,

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The Orb (live at The Oslo Club)

The Orb at The Oslo Club March 2015London 13 March 2015

Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future.

H G WellsThe Time Machine

The Orb are celebrating 25 years of making music that has headed for the outer reaches and then spiralled back to Earth again. Seeing as the band normally play at fairly large venues, it’s good to see them in the intimate surroundings of The Oslo Club, even if there is a yellow line on the floor around the stage that no one is allowed to step over. A bouncer watches this space intently, as if by crossing it you are breaking into some

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Earth / Black Spirituals (live at Komedia)

Brighton 24 February 2015

Last time Earth came to Brighton they played The Haunt, a tiny space which scores highly on the intimacy scale, but you couldn’t help feeling a band of this stature deserved a bigger stage, both literally and metaphorically. It’s pleasing then to see them upgrading to the Komedia, but before the main event we have the intriguingly named Black Spirituals, who turn out to be a duo from Oakland, California.

Black Spirituals Komedia February 2015 2Zachary Watkins, on guitar and electronics, provides a hazy mid-range backdrop over which drummer Marshall Trammell improvises ever-changing percussive patterns, like an expressionist painter daubing Miro-like pictograms over his bandmate’s canvas. He’s a superb drummer – I was repeatedly reminded of Rashied Ali’s playing on John Coltrane’s ‘Interstellar Space’, and while I hesitate to make such an exalted comparison, I’m guessing it’s an apt one,

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Hey Colossus – In Black And Gold

Rocket Recordings

Hey Colossus - In Black and GoldOn In Black And Gold, various intersections between the hypnotic grooves of space rock, kosmische music and freewheeling ’70s hard rock — a template already successfully mapped out by the likes of Circle in their several incarnations over the years — are held up to be examined with curiosity by Hey Colossus and weighed carefully in the balance. The band set about their task with suitably hefty percussion and some occasional guitar fireworks, the title track in particular providing an excellent way to kick the jams out hard and with a monomaniacal purpose.

At just over forty minutes long, it’s handily vinyl-sized and content to make its voice heard without the need for sprawling into CD-length vistas of splurge. It’s not that more wouldn’t be welcome, but that here Hey Colossus have kept themselves

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-b0̷b- – The Technical Academy Plays -b0̷b-

Fixture

The Technical Academy plays -b0b-Remember when any miffed wannabe-Luddite music fan could be relied upon to heap opprobrium upon electronic music with the assertion that “it’s just push-button music”; “the synths are playing the songs” or dismissive words to that effect? That’s essentially what Bob Lee attempted to do, more or less, a quarter of a century ago with his cybernetic alter-ego -bøb-. Recovered from the only remaining recording Lee had in his possession, this Fixture re-release — also on cassette like the original home-made tapes — commemorates a unique experiment in machine music of the 1990s.

Lee programmed a series of bots on his Atari ST home computer to each play a virtual instrument within boundaries and parameters which included knowledge of chord progressions, how to make a groove work, reading music and a certain amount of artificial intelligence which

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Nurse With Wound – Lumb’s Sister

United Jnana

Nurse With Wound ‎– Lumb's SisterThere’s definitely a sense of deadly nightshade woosh(ing) through this baby, a poisoned chalice dripping with moans, groans and mysteriously creaking paraphernalia. The Chris Wallis film it was intended to — but eventually never did, according to the sleevenotes for this disc — soundscape was/is a juddery super eight exploration of the Irish potato famine mixed with a healthy dollop of ancient folklore, a journey into undiscovered realms aided by the delirium of starvation. Perfect material for Steven Stapleton‘s rabid grey cells, and possibly provoked further by the fact that by 1989 Stapleton and family had already successfully relocated to Cooloorta farm in southern Ireland – a departure promoted by a nasty mugging incident back in his native London. He even played a starring role in the actual film along with his family and a

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The Lonely Life / ((SOUNDER)) – The Howlingest Call

Monofonus Press

The Lonely LifeThe Lonely Life is a 27-minute film written and directed by Mike Aho and starring Will Oldham, the erstwhile acting persona of the musical genius also known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy. The film was crowdfunded using Kickstarter in 2012 and filmed just outside Austin, Texas.

Billed as “A low-fi sci-fi psychedelic journey of a man trying to understand his past,” The Lonely Life contains animations by artists Travis Millard, Mel Kadel, Jeremy Fish, Michael Sieben and the Okay Mountain Collective and was made on a shoestring budget of $9,305.

It is a delightful visual spectacle from the outset, filmed on hand-held cameras and utilising the exceptional natural light of the region, creating a dreamy delicacy that offers a pleasingly jarring contrast against the themes of the story. The film is punctuated with animations both rich and strange,

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Papir – Live At Roadburn

El Paraiso

Papir - Live at RoadburnThe list of Roadburn live albums seems to grow each year. The festival itself always manages to get the cream of the crop of alternative musicians to perform, and when you listen to the likes of Earthless and Bong’s live albums from there you can tell that you are really missing out on something special if you don’t attend. This release comes hot on the heels of Papir and Electric Moon‘s Papermoon live at Roadburn set, but stands alone as an entity within itself.

“Lykk Trep-r Hi-Losé” is a full steam ahead rocker with big chords that come crashing down around your head. The drums pound out complex rhythms that complement the urgent nature of the track. It sort of reminded me of Sonic Youth on acid, with visceral chops that aim straight for the third

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Ghold – Of Ruin

Ritual Productions

Ghold - Of RuinIt’s made abundantly clear across Of Ruin‘s 45 minute running time that this is not a record for listening to at a desk, probably not really on headphones and certainly not on tinny laptop or mobile phone speakers. No, it needs — demands and commands, even — blasting out from the sort of huge stack of amps found at the average metal gig, but only so long as it’s being held in a sweaty underground black-painted box, preferably lit solely by heavy strobe lighting and drenched in dry ice and smoke — if only perhaps to cover up the stench of the crowd after they’ve got suitably filthy stage-diving to the six tracks on here and the rest of what is already developing into a fearsome Ghold back catalogue.

Taking their cue from doom as much

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Various Artists – God Unknown Singles Club Vol. 1

God Unknown

God Unknown Singles Club vol 1This review is based on seven of the first 7″s released in the God Unknown Singles Club Volume 1, of a total of 10. What is most apparent is the variety musical output on these tracks. No specific genre is represented, rather it seems like a selection of artists from some underground, more than half of whom I had never even heard of. They vary very much, not only in style or attitude, but there is also a bit of variety in the quality of the recordings. As a compilation, the collection of artists and tracks works quite well together, but mainly I will say something about each single individually.

Gnod / Eternal Tapestry

Gnod / Eternal Tapestry split 7″ (GOD001) by God Unknown Records

Gnod + Eternal Tapestry
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Gong – I See You

Madfish

Gong - I See YouIn light of Daevid Allen’s recent terminal cancer diagnosis, this album seems to be an elegy of sorts, full of flashbacks and slurry psychedelic fingers, a precious chance to snapshot a life lived to the full before his ultimate adventure into the unknown. That being said, this is far from miserable, rippling with usual rhythmic goods, the sensuous syrup that’s been scooping our ears for years, not to mention the snake-charming spirals whirring into your brain box like a hot buttered croissant.

Gong’s ringleader is front and centre throughout, dispatching his whimsical wisdom whilst still owning the knobbliest knees in rock. His songs are wonky conduits of magical transgression, astral fairytales occasionally snared in a whispering cosmos. It’s great unpretentious stuff, loosely stitched together in bassy action, unicycling curves and of course that Omni-present glissoooooooid glisten.

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Peter Christopherson – Live at L’Étrange Festival 2004

Black Mass Rising

Peter Christopherson - Live at L'Étrange Festival 2004The music on this album feels quietly all-encompassing; you can tell immediately that it’s Sleazy because over time he’s developed true signatures; there’s sounds here that are indistinct and yet unmistakable. This could be Coil because, in many ways, it is Coil. I mean, we know that sometimes Coil’s music was just Sleazy don’t we? We know that Balance is on this album in a way he was on every track that Coil produced and that it really doesn’t matter if he’s literally on the album because he’s, à la Jack Torrance in The Shining, always been there. He’s in amongst the sounds, the sighs, the loops. He’s where he isn’t. Is especially there. And, if there’s any doubters, there’s a kind of instrumental, extra-wooshy version of “Sex With Sun Ra” on

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Kammerflimmer Kollektief – Désarroi

Staubgold

Kammerflimmer Kollektief - DésarroiThis creaks and groans at you in satisfying amounts. The double bass player pushing against the instrument’s confines in fricative flurries, like somebody scrambling over the tuneful core whilst struggling with an Ikea self-build. Detailed acoustics eating at that see-sawing harmonium, a Klezmer colour sway agitated by electronic mites or a sudden rush of guitar. A vibe that dissolves, tourniquets some tasty twilights. Apertures that sink into a horizon of notching machinery, steadily expanding into some rich sleazy juju. A lovely concoction of oblique guitar, sliding cello and regular mid-tempo drums bounding into an uncertainty of creaky floorboards and twisting willow.

It’s brilliantly realised stuff, with “Free Form Freak-Out” clawing an altogether darker hue which reminds me of the unnerving ambients of Throbbing Gristle’s Third Mind, but with more scenic contrast. Harbouring some lovely chaotic colour, full

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Papir meets Electric Moon – The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014

Sulatron

Papir meets Electric Moon - The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014After their planet-building collaborative album The Papermoon Sessions, the lucky people at Roadburn last year got to witness the glory of both Papir and Electric Moon sharing the stage together for the massive psychedelic wig-out that is captured on this disc.

Two tracks sit upon a disc that feels so light but musically weighs more than Saturn. “Powdered Stars” starts with pure space rock cosmic wibble and big, heavy chord structures that glide over taut rhythms. It is here that both Papir and Electric Moon show their chops, battling it out in a massive Pelinor Fields fantasy-fuelled attack. As the track begins to slow, we get something more eerie and ethereal; the music becomes more like starlight travelling fast over the skyscape as we watch the Milky Way circuit overhead

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