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Archives by month/year

Welcome to Freq in 2014

Freq has been online in various forms since 1998, and this iteration has been around since 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:
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His Name Is Alive – Tecuciztecatl

London London

His Name Is Alive - TecuciztecatlLoving the swagger of the guitars here, the knuckled licks swimming the percussive candour, that tasty swoon clinging to every note. That unmistakable Ft. Lake glow about its gills, the momentum itchy-feet switching, a Hendrix fixation swapped for a pantheon of ’70s muscle with dips into the Nice Day EP‘s “Crushed Upon The Corner” jives. If this was an anonymous white label, a question would be tickling my head excitingly with whispers of possibility — is this His Name is Alive? A question quashed by that unmistakable sweetness of vocal that sways the barometer completely in caps-locked YESes. I’ve been a fan of the band since their Livonia days, and I’ve got to say this is another feather in Warren Defever (a company’s) cap. Penned as a rock opera of sorts, it’s a Hammer

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Lutine – White Flowers

Front & Follow

Lutine - White FlowersFolk (and folk-influenced) art seems to inherently conjure ideas of both memories and a specific place, like the way that American hillbilly music calls up an image of the smoky green mountains of Tennessee, or the Delta blues recalls swamps, alligators, crossroads and dark deeds. Traditional music, whatever its origins, seems attached to earthy, tactile associations as well as personal memories, if one has attachments to that culture. When people begin to play with the formula, weaving folk music through with bolts of electronics, modern experimental music and other disparate musical rhizomes, the earth shakes, ideas go soft and runny around the edges — the aural equivalent of a psychotropic folk horror film from the early ’70s, with megalithic outcroppings filmed in Kodachrome and Rotoscoped to infernal and mind-melting effect.

With the initial strains of album

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Howlround – Torridon Gate

A Year in the Country

Howlround - Torridon GateIn which the affable retronauts of Howlround limber up their trusty reel-to-reel tape recorders and feed in the sound of the built environment in order to make a fearsome and at times gently life-affirming visit to pastures so old and venerable that they are of course back in style. And what a stye it is – lush reverb and rippling scurries of what sound like – but aren’t, probably – voices skirl and scree across the aether. It’s like finding the whole of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop special effects department from circa 1964 fiddling and experimenting with some new skiffy sounds to broadcast in glorious monochrome as backdrop to an eerie yet highly-influential series involving children, moors and probably some kind of mysterious contact from other worlds.

And otherworldy is the best adjective for

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Yob – Clearing The Path To Ascend

Neurot

Yob - Clearing The Path To AscendYob are a band I’ve been kind of meaning to check out for years, after reading about them in a metal mag years ago, so when this dropped into my lap it was — well, not quite a dream come true, but at least the fulfilment of a vague longing. It was also a relief to find that they don’t sound anything like Keith Allen (that’s a Comic Strip Presents gag. Ask your grandma).

Fulfilment of a Vague Longing would probably be a good name for an album by someone at some point, but very definitely not this one. There’s nothing vague about Clearing The Path To Ascend. This is a record that knows what it wants by a band that knows what it wants. And what they both want is to be HEAVY. Very,

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Ekoplekz – Rock La Bibliotek

West Norwood Cassette Library

Ekoplekz - Rock La BibliotekFollowing his recent albums Four Track Mind and Unfidelity, Ekoplekz has now released a six-track EP on the wonderfully-monikered West Norwood Cassette Library label. Rock La Bibliotek is in a different format and has a totally different vibe. On it he offers up a more minimalist sound, and while the richer radiophonic aspects of the albums has been put to one side, with some distinctly retro sounding bleeps and squelches, the Ekoplekz approach to production still renders tracks that are dripping with atmosphere.

At times quite dark, the collection also reaches into psychedelic territory through layered, progressive trancey episodes and some contorted dissonance. However, in throwing the more conventional sound palette out the window, Nick Edwards has nonetheless produced a collection that for the most part belongs in the club, albeit a pretty far-out

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Felix Kubin – Chromdioxidgedächtnis

Gagarin

Felix Kubin - ChromdioxidgedaechtnisCommissioned by the Deutscher Musikrat (German Music Council) for their edition elektronik series, Felix Kubin attunes his lateral ears to a subject dear to his heart — and with a title that translates to English as Chromium Dioxide Memory, it’s no surprise that its subject, sound source and (in part) medium is the compact cassette.

By contrast with the (allegedly) precise fidelity of digital recordings and the incremental uploading of humanity’s collective memories and cultural heritage to online repositories over the last couple of decades, the cassette has a unique place in audio history. Kubin’s contention is that analogue tape’s very fragility and low fidelity, as well as the democratic ease of use and availability of the cassette, makes it a unique format which has many affinities with human memory. This, he suggests, is especially the case since

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The Sevens Collective – A Too Much Divided Heart

Beta-lactam Ring Records

The Sevens Collective - A Too Much Divided HeartI love this, the way it spins your head in shape-shifting shadows tipsy with gypsy and Spanish flavours, a tangle of acoustic guitar couriers, whittled violins and word-wrought momentum conjuring, curling. divining. A Too Much Divided Heart starts with “Extraordinary Witch,” a Del Toro mystery remodelled in weaves of classical guitars, dust kicked in flamenco rifts, its passionate heart pointed in heel-stuck piano reverbs. A tense-wrought dervish, slipping its darkened centrifuge bowing out on a perspective-thrown scream.

It’s a great start that only gets better on the bodhrán-knuckled heart that thumps through “The Rose Room,” causally set upon by rattlesnake shakers and a dirge of strings, tramline zithers working themselves into a Pink Dots-like hallucination as words piranha the darkness enfolding it. A gloriously blurred nightmare of an insect Madonna, coming

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Purson – In The Meantime EP

Machine Elf

Purson – In The MeantimeIt’s 1967, The Beatles are No 2 in the charts with “Strawberry Fields,” Pink Floyd are playing The UFO Club, The Incredible String Band are discovering layers of the onion and Hapsash are designing posters to blow your mind. Fast forward 20 years and you have the Alice in Wonderland Club, The Dukes of Stratosphere, The Magic Mushroom Band and Freakbeat magazine. Now in 2014, yet another new wave of psychedelia has been making its way back into the underground clubs and venues for the last couple of years. One of the best bands to get the psychedelic/progressive tag is Purson and this new EP (OK, in my day a four track disc was called an EP) or mini-album shows just why.

The opening track is wonderful experience full of exotic musical colours. Its called

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Scott Walker and Sunn O))) – Soused

4AD

Scott Walker and SunnO))) - SousedIt’s been a good year for well-placed teasers and stealth advertising. Last week Mark Frost and David Lynch announced the return of Twin Peaks with simultaneous “That gum you like is going to come back in style” tweets, and everyone of course clocked it instantly. But the king of them all in 2014 was when Southern Lord just put out an image of the word “SCOTT O)))”. Because of all the Scotts in the world, there was only one it could realistically be. But could such a thing even be possible?

Yes. Yes, it could. It was, and it’s happened. Scott Walker and Sunn O))), two of the most uncompromising acts in the business, have gone into the studio together. And if you’ll forgive me for sounding like a Buzzfeed headline for a second or two,

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Zeitkratzer – Metal Machine Music/Zeitkratzer + Keiji Haino

Zeitkratzer (CD)/Karl (LP)

Zeitkratzer - Metal Machine MusicRight then. First thing to say is that this is an awesome achievement. And one that I’ve been waiting to have a proper listen to for a while. Metal Machine Music (MMM) doesn’t, perhaps, stand up as the finest noise/tape collage records, but it does have a high degree of cultural relevance — at least in terms of being a quite unthinkable gesture from a major label artist in 2014. A postcard from a time of excess in the record industry. An excess marked on one side by, y’know, awful sexual politics and criminal misogyny and, on the other, a record like MMM — the sort of preposterous self-indulgence that has merit artistically (I realise other records like this existed and were better, but not with MMM‘s breadth of reach) and the sort of artistic

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Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Singer’s Grave A Sea Of Tongues

Drag City (North America)/Domino (Europe)

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Singer's Grave A Sea Of TonguesWill Oldham has never shied away from revisiting the past. He updated the indie primitivist early work of Palace Brothers (and name variations thereof) from before he took on the Bonnie “Prince” Billy identity with a collection of veteran country session musicians on Sings Golden Palace Music (2004) to excellent effect. The album gave a polish and shine to songs which were only improved by the addition of high production values — which thankfully didn’t reduce Oldham’s off-kilter strangeness one jot in the process. Then came a few more more recent reworkings in curiously upbeat style of such classics as “I See A Darkness” or “I Don’t Belong To Anyone” on the Now Here’s My Plan EP of self-covers (which also accompanied a book-length interview with Alan Licht)

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Jex Thoth (live at The Boston Music Room)

Jex Thoth live October 2014London 8 October 2014

Jex Thoth are one of the names heralded as part of the new occult rock boom that has spawned so many great bands like Blood Ceremony and Jess And The Ancient Ones. They have produced two amazing albums; the last, Blood Moon Rise, was released last year. So it’s quite odd that the band is back for their second series of UK dates with really no new product to promote. Whatever the reasons, I’m glad that they have returned to the stage here to bring a little of their witchcraft to an October night.

Jex Thoth live October 2014

With a waft of incense billowing around the stage and an eerie chord hanging in the air, Jex takes to the stage and the band creepy-crawl into “When The Raven

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Erasure – The Violet Flame

Mute

Erasure - The Violet FlamePerennial problems of established bands — your new record is very good, but you also wrote… fucking hell, “Oh L’amour,” “Drama!,” “Ship of Fools,” “Blue Savannah,” “Victim of Love”… I mean, just the ornately extended “never” on “Drama!” is enough to merit a statue of Messrs Bell and Clarke on every street corner, let alone that they’re basically better than the Pet Shop Boys in terms of consistency, except God knows why, they’re not written about in the same terms (Erasure are more glaringly out maybe?).

Anyway, it’s not a competition, but Erasure are always worth listening to. And they’re doubly worth seeing live — last I saw them was… oh my word, yeah, that was awesome — Sophie Ellis-Bexter supporting and putting on the most amazingly awesome show of “fucking hell, she’s written loads of great

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Gerda/MoE/The Observatory (live at Felix Pub & Scene)

Gerda live October 2014 2Lillehammer 8 October 2014

My friends, rock music truly is in a good place right now; forget longing for the days gone by — what we have right now is incredible. I’m spending a lot of time in Lillehammer these days — usually I go outside town for my musical fill, but last night, quite luckily, I got smacked for weeks by three utterly thrilling musical rides. The pictures do not at all express the level of the performances I experienced yesterday, nor would a video; being there and having these refined artistic works unfolding right in front of you by the very hands that made them, that’s what it’s all about for me.

All three of these acts stretched the sounds and expressions of experimental and intense rock music into their own distinctive, individual forms. And if this

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The Legendary Pink Dots – Asylum

Jnana

Legendary Pink Dots - AsylumMore pleasures from the Legendary Pink Dots archives, re-packaged for your delectation in a lush gatefold slipcase, the original Stephan Barbery artwork given a soft silky sheen. Originally released back in ’85, Asylum was a double opus that almost never was, beset with bizarre dislocations, disappointments and judging by the liner notes threatened the band’s very existence. Luckily things worked out for the best, and out popped a great piece of work that exorcised frustrations and cut the Dots’ cloth for many years to come. It’s a collection that packs quite a depressive punch (as well as weirding you out) — corporal punishment, madness, drug addition, domestic abuse and even a gun-toting sociopath slip through its 78 minutes. But it’s far from GDR grey with Edward Ka-Spel (aka The Prophet Qa’Spel) at the helm playing mischief with

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