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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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Frank Benkho – The Revelation According To Frank Benkho

Clang

The Revelation According to Frank BenkhoFrank Benkho takes us on a voyage down starry rivers and beneath obsidian deserts, using a daisy chain of synths and sequencers on this gem from Clang.

For the longest time, it seemed like electronic music and improvisation were mutually exclusive. This was the day of the push-button performance, where electronic artists were basically just playing their records off of stored patterns on their machines or DJs concocted carefully constructed breezeblocks, with every transition being staged and perfectly polished. The very act of building music out of samples meant your sonic palette was limited; some improvisation was possible, but it was more akin to shuffling Lego blocks around, trying to create replica masterpieces with a few basic shapes and hues.

The fields where electronica and improv did coincide were typically highly abstract, academic exercises, in styles

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Blown Out – Drifting Way Out Between Suns

Riot Season

Blown Out – Drifting Way Out Between SunsRight, you know that moment in sword and sorcery films where the hero climbs to the top of a peak to see what’s going on and his jaw drops because in the valley below is an orc army thousands and thousands strong? Well, this album would make a great soundtrack for one of those moments.

Two spiralling tracks of unashamed freak out make up Blown Out‘s Drifting Way Out Between Suns that will lead you towards worlds where ancient civilizations once existed and where the black lotus leads your mind into a drug-fuelled fug.

Side one’s colossal title track already hints at its cosmic expanse from the opening few seconds and from its title. This is trip-out music, a mulch of Acid Mothers Temple and early Hawkwind mixed into a blissed-out, space-trucking guide

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Ekoplekz – Influkz EP

More Than Human

Ekoplekz - Influkz EPBoard a hovercraft to ride the autobahn of yr dreams on this lovely fissure from Ekoplekz, via the good sonic alchemists at More Than Human Records.

2014 has been a big year for Bristol’s Nick Edwards, following two of his highest-profile — and highest production value — releases on the braindance juggernaut Planet Mu. Mike Paradinas, AKA µ-Ziq, worked head-to-head with Edwards in sequencing the material, then presenting the material with a nice lustrous sheen of a mastering job and coating each in saliva-inducing artwork. It was Ekoplekz at his glossiest and most accessible, although the sounds in the grooves were still signature.

On the Influkz EP it seems that Ekoplekz is getting back to his roots; back to the grimy grotto of basement laboratory workstations and mossy garden sheds. It’s a relief, although I truly

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Blues Pills / Vintage Caravan (live at The Dome )

London 18 November 2014

Vintage Caravan The Dome November 2014Seventies-inspired heavy rock is slowly making a comeback at the moment, with several new bands strapping on their guitars and playing like it was 1972 all over again. Two of the finest exponents of this revival of great music are playing tonight, so it was time for me to pull on my patchouli oil-soaked jeans and cowboy boots and get ready to shake my head.

Vintage Caravan hail from Iceland and are full of the kind of riffs that would make Bandolier-era Budgie jealous. Singer and guitarist Óskar Logi Ágústsson not only has a powerful voice that conveys the songs with mammoth energy, but his guitar playing is both forceful and subtle as and when the songs need them. The other thing about him is that he looks damn happy to be onstage playing

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The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing / The Cesarians (live at The Garage)

London 14 November 2014

The Cesarians at The Garage November 2014The Cesarians and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing together at last! Finally London’s finest purveyors of punked-up big band music are sharing a stage with its premier gang of Victorian anarchists, and it’s a wonder it’s never happened before. Also a wonder that it’s happening at all, Men frontman Andy Heintz having only recently been given the all-clear for throat cancer. To mark this special occasion, there are tribute beards everywhere, which is kind of odd.

Sadly by the time we arrive we’ve missed the first band, False Flags, who by all accounts were storming. I shan’t be making that mistake again, for sure. But we are, thankfully, in time for The Cesarians, who I haven’t seen in maybe three years. And they’ve changed, shifted their sound a few

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Various Artists – Fractal Meat Cuts Volume 1

Adaadat

Various Artists - Fractal Meat Cuts Volume 1The Fractal Meat on a Spongy Bone show has been running on NTS for around three years now; a platform for the musical outer limits run by artist and musician Graham Dunning. The show is fortnightly and is basically the breakfast show for every other Friday (noise in your cornflakes?).

Dunning is a sound artist who is gaining a lot of recognition of late. His exploration of the turntable-as-instrument involves solo gigs, where he creates techno from a layered cake of record players, contact mics and an array of clamps that would not be out of place in a science lab, or in collaboration with others, such as his excellent improv work with saxophonist Colin Webster, where they emit restless bursts and splutters with a minimal setup. The guy is out there working rapidly

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Northumbria – Bring Down The Sky

Consouling Sounds

Northumbria – Bring Down The SkyUsing only bass, guitar and slew of effects, Dorian Williamson and Jim Field‘s second release as Northumbria starts as it intends to finish, declaring at the outset that it is time to soar and glide. It seems to be just about fuzz o’clock as far as the guitar is concerned, and while the bass is set to Northumbrian winter time, its low-end rumbles are equally content to give direction to the pedals which set its deep heart a-coruscating.

Textural more than tuneful for the most part, Bring Down The Sky sets out to cover its allotted ground with a comprehensive blanket of sound, sweeping across the frequency spectrum with an implacable determination to fill space and overcome time. While the bright chimes and searing, controlled feedback from the guitar is frequently piercing in the penetration

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Frizzi 2 Fulci (live at The Barbican)

London 31 October 2014

It’s Halloween and the streets are bustling with people dressed as various horror icons and kids trick or treating on their neighbours. Revelling in the air of spookiness, I’m heading out to the concrete Logan’s Run-looking Barbican Centre to witness a horror icon, the wonderful Fabio Frizzi. The venue is packed with horror film aficionados from what sounds like all over Europe. Most wear t-shirts showing their favourite slice of gore portrayed on the front, eagerly awaiting the return to the stage (it was last Halloween that Fabio was over) of the mæstro of nightmares.

Frizzi2Fulci The Barbican October 2014The band enter the stage first and there’s quite a few of them, including two keyboard players and a string section. A rousing cheer erupts as Fabio Frizzi takes the stage. He comes across as warm and friendly and intersperses

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Trans Am / Gum Takes Tooth (live at Green Door Store)

Brighton 11 November 2014

In one swift motion I will disperse any notions of latent ’90s cool – I’d never knowingly listened to Trans Am before. I didn’t even know if it’s Tram Am or Trans AM, an automobile or a radio station. Entering the venue I was immediately struck by the very particular nature of the audience – not a one under 30, few over 40 — the vast majority of them looking slightly out of place, emblematic of an audience who only frequents gigs of bands they liked as teenagers.

Gum Takes Tooth Green Door Store November 2014Gum Takes Tooth Green Door Store November 2014Rather than linger on ill-informed judgements as to the audience’s tastes and motivations, let’s get straight to the point – Gum Takes Tooth are phenomenal. Within minutes of mounting the

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Trans Am / AK DK (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

Trans Am Baba Yaga's Hut November 2014Elektrowerkz, London 8 November 2014

One can learn a lot about two bands from their inter-set changeover. Here in the black box of Elektrowerkz, surrounded by dressed-down men with beards and a few women too, we are watching AK DK remove a lot of equipment.

There are two drum kits in there, a couple of synths with reassuringly wooden sides on tables covered in lots of other associated junk; and then behind them there’s that big modular system with a fetishistic dial-like module that has been cycling all through the set. We’re not even sure that it did anything but it looked kind of cool, so you definitely would leave it running if you’d bothered to drag that piece of furniture along to a gig.

For a duo it’s a lot of equipment, but that’s what you expect

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K-X-P – The History Of Techno

Öm

K-X-P - The History Of TechnoIt may seem ambitious to propose a histoy of techno in only four parts on one 12” single, but if there’s anyone who can do so, it’ll be the two drummers, bassist and one-man soul sonic force of K-X-P — Timo Kaukolampi (of Op:l Bastards), Tomi Lepannen (also of Circle and Pharaoh Overlord, among many others), Tuomo Puranen, also of of Op:l Bastards, and Anssi Nykänen. K-X-P are Finland’s première exponents of the current wave of drummers mixing up with synthesists (see also Zombie Zombie, Gum Takes Tooth, Temperatures and Jakob Skøtt for starters) taking trance music to some pretty far-out, analogue-worshipping places; and their dedication to the endless groove, the timeless Öm (which they reflect in the name of their own label on which this single is released, though being big Motörhead fans, they add

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Faust – jUSt

Bureau B

Faust - jUStAfter the joys of Something Dirty comes this new nugget of curiosity from the Péron/Zappi side of the Faust spilt. Entitled j US t (clever typographic minimalism for Just Us), it’s a twelve-track sketchbook of improvised flavours and some full-bodied wallop that Faust say should be taken, absorbed and remixed into your own musical endeavours.

There’s certainly plenty of fertile nooks and crannies to get your teeth into after all, lots of diverting schismatics to bend your grey cells around, rich pickings that fire on all cylinders from the offset as “Gerubelt”‘s bass(y) tensions and percussive bankings exploding in a colourful peacock of sliding angles, at its heart a strange germ of melody trying to hold on for dear life as crowning guitars dart in stratospherics wounded in swiping pepper-crank smarts.

An opener that sends your

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Electric Wizard – Time To Die

Spinefarm

Electric Wizard – Time To DieDo I believe in witchcraft? What kind of witchcraft? The legendary witch that rides on the imaginary broom? The hex that tortures the thoughts of the victim? The pin stuck in the image that wastes away the mind and the body? The massive maw of pure sludge doom is back. Electric Wizard return with a line-up that won’t go beyond the release of this album to produce probably their most psychedelic, nihilistic album in a while.

“Incense For The Damned” (the title is taken from a ’70s vampire film featuring Peter Cushing) opens with eerie organ chords over the sound of running water, and after a voiceover about a “heavy metal” occult crime, the riff hits in. This is where the bludgeoning of the senses starts, the riff is massively powerful and, dare I say it,

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Concretism – Town Planning

Concretism

Concretism - Town PlanningThis is an exception to my general rule that music sounds better when it’s slightly wrong. This sounds exactly as it is intended to be. It feels commissioned, considered, skilful. This isn’t normally regarded as a virtue in my world; I’m suspicious of technical brilliance and musicianship seems like a terrible blind alley, redolent of the kind of people who bring those small guitars to parties, ruining it for everyone. But I’m also utterly suspicious of my own entrenched opinions and Concretism has been winning me over for a couple of years now.

For one thing, he’s actively co-opting Hauntology as a genre at a time when almost everyone else is running away from it (sometimes in almost comical fashion), when it’s become in my circle a kind of H-bomb. I like that Concretism is kicking on

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Bohren & Der Club Of Gore / Stephen O’Malley (live at St John at Hackney)

London 8 November 2014

Stephen O'Malley live at St John at Hackney

Stephen O'Malley live at St John at HackneyIt’s almost as if they planned it. It’s pissing it down. Absolutely fucking pissing it down.

Exactly the sort of weather that makes you want drone doom. Which is just as well, because doom legend Stephen O’Malley‘s playing tonight, and he’s supporting doom jazz maestros Bohren & Der Club Of Gore. The line of bedraggled amplifier worshippers stretches back from the church almost to Hackney Central, and the beleaguered door staff are doing a sterling job of cramming everyone in as quickly as possible. We take our seats and wait for the Sunn O))) dude to come out and breathe some life into the impressive collection of amps that are lined up near the altar.

Bohren & Der Club Of Gore / Stephen O’Malley (live at St John at Hackney) […]