Frequency Drift: Over
Bayreuth-based German band Frequency Drift will release their latest album Over on February 14th in the EU, and on February 18th in the USA. I immediately was interested in this release as soon as the band announced their new album would be forthcoming. After reading their press release, upon the receipt of the promo, I was even more eager to hear it. The press release teases: "The harp, the cello, the violin, the flute, the gemshorn – and all that in a rock band? Really? Yes!" And why not? Bands grow and hopefully diversify…and this band has done just that…perfectly.
Over features the extraordinary talent of new vocalist Isa Fallenbacher, who sings the majority of the songs and jazz trained vocalist Agathe Labus on the jazz-influenced tracks. The album artwork displays the inspiration and concept for this album featuring the unique photography of Ukraine native Alina Rudya. On the album cover, her photo artwork displays the will of nature to grow and diversify, despite the rugged terrain of her hometown of Pripyat, which has been abandoned since the Chernobyl disaster.
Frequency Drift was founded in 2007 by keyboardist and mastermind Andreas Hack, and it is his keyboards which again leave the most lasting impression from this masterpiece of change and musical evolution. Sibylle Friz, on cello; Andreas Hack, on keyboards; Christian Hack, on guitar, flute, duclar, and wavedrum; Jasper Jöris, on gemshorn and marimba; Ulrike Reichel, on violin and viola; Tino Schmidt, on bass; and Nerissa Schwarz, co-songwriter, acoustic and electric harp; are the musicians creating the soundscape for Frequency Drift's fourth album. On Over they add the collaborative talents of RPWL's Yogi Lang, providing sound mixing; guitar virtuoso Martin Schnella, of Flaming Row; Kalle Wallner, from RPWL, on bass; and drummer Phil Paul Rissettio, Ex-RPWL, to take this album above and beyond.
"Run" opens with deep strings and solemn, winter-like regalia. Isa Fallenbacher's voice is beautiful amidst the glorious sunrise that greats my sixth listen to this dynamic album. "Now running so slowly around. Not any frost could cool them now. While they still dance". The powerful bass and grinding electric guitars swarm as the keyboards and drums build a wall of sound behind them. The flutes and duclar add so much surrounding magic as the piano and viola softly fill the air, amidst the massive bass, electric guitars, keys and power drums that fill the soundscape. Isa's whispers send shivers down the spine. Excellent kick – off to this album. I'm in!
"Once" opens with beautiful soft plucked strings and those excellent Chameleon UK streams of guitar flowing behind; before more excellent electric lead guitar enters front and center. How could you possibly not be entertained by this? The magic keys of Andreas Hack return to create wonder as Isa returns: "Here I sing…In this huge world". Isa's voice is similar to Karen Peris of the Innocence Mission, only more symphonic and classic. Hack's haunting background keys sooth and create unique soundscapes of cinematic proportions. You just have to hear Isa since the word once…so slowly. Amazing.
"Adrift" opens with beautiful keys, strings amidst a great cinematic background presence. This time Agathe Labus sings lead vocals. Her voice is deeper than Isa's, and it works very well with the darker shades on this track. The flutes and strings take you back to early King Crimson, especially with the drums and percussion surrounding. The harps and horns create excellent mystery and a soundscape so original.
"Them" opens with deep keyboards, bass, and darker imagery. Agathe Labus opens the singing with Fallenbacher joining in to add her light vocals. Isa Fallenbacher sings with such confidence and poise. She can take it high and loud without piercing the ear drums. Perfect. Best new singer and early candidate for female singer of the year. One of the best songs on this album full of hits. The soundscape is electric and filled with original sounds and a dynamic presence of experimentation.
"Sagittarius A*" opens with spacey Vangelis-like keys that are otherworldly. The drums ring powerful notes as the soundscape fills with those Vangelis keys and Fallenbacher's voice rises, "Invisible, insatiable, invisible we are". The soft harp, keys and percussion create a wonderful presence.
Fallenbacher sings "Bold footsteps fall when we play. Curtains so steep hang in the hall. Flowers and trees asleep" as "Suspended" opens full of emotion and supporting keys, drums, bass and electric lead guitar. Fallenbacher fills the air with playful vocals that make you want to replay this over again. The cool keyboard innovations are excellent. The deep electric guitars and bass add a nice darker edge, just as the flute enters to provide a touch of Jethro Tull presence. Halfway through the album and I'm feeling like this will challenge for album of the year already…So innovative. At a little under eight and a half minutes, Andreas Hack adds his innovative keyboard notes to close this masterpiece.
"Wave" opens with rain and waves as slow strummed strings fill the air. Fallenbacher sings, "I stood on the bridge in the night as clocks were striking the hour and the moon rose over the city once more" How often I wished that ebbing tides would just carry me away. Like unleashed boats floating across the ocean surface so savage and raw". Yes, her voice and delivery can create that imagery so well. The harp, soft drums and innovative keyboard tones help to put you on the bridge with her. This track is one of the most cinematic on the album.
"Wander" opens with cool percussion, spacey keys and piano like rhythms. More ocean waves sounds and the kind of cinematic soundscape you just want to be immersed within. Fallenbacher and Agathe provide duel vocals which sounds so perfectly placed in between the keyboard "drips", like rain falling. Excellent idea. More deep Vangelis keystrokes which sound excellent against that deep keyboard moan which takes me back to The Cure's "The Same Deep Water as You", one of my favorite songs. A magnificent soundscape with Fallenbacher singing on top of it. What a treat.
Fallenbacher opens "Driven", singing, "Light and sound and sound and light" as Andreas Hack weaves a web of mysterious keyboard effects amidst Phil Paul Rissettio's drum innovations. Then Hack takes it up a notch with harpsichord and piano sounds which will make you want to place this track on repeat.
"Release" opens with deep chords and slow bass, as cinematic whispered narration fills the air before Agathe Labus sings. Her voice is perfect for the almost film noir backdrop that surrounds her. "Your dark eyes in the glare of a cold sky. All around the sound from caves of ice. Beneath a sinking boo…the breath of night soon took over…Night's dreams can't touch you now. We said autumn leaves will all float away from your hands and pat the mask of scars." Yah, intrigue…with deep piano accompanying. Then it gets even better with viola and violin crying loudly in the still of the night as drums and strings are slowly added building a Middle Eastern soundscape full of mystery. The keyboards, wavedrums, flutes and all remaining effects add to the glorious sounds building this impressive soundscape. This simply must be experienced.
"Memory" is the longest song at exactly ten minutes. It opens with impressive deep, dark bass and strings before Fallenbacher's beautiful voice with piano accompanying returns. Andreas Hack's flute work will make even Ian jealous. But his control of the keys is simply amazing. Some excellent Tony Banks - like keyboards follow along with that traditional Genesis "wall of strings and keys" sound. This guy can do no wrong! The electric guitar, drums and bass work are also impressive on this epic masterpiece. But as with the last album it is the keyboards that you will remember.
One final chance to appreciate Fallenbacher's beautiful voice on "Disappeared". Her voice dances on top of beautiful soft piano and harp. So clear and full of presence. Just like I remember from Innocence Mission and Karen Peris' best. Full of range and depth.
Isa Fallenbacher is already my favorite vocalist of this early part of this year. Andreas Hack wins the early award for keyboardist and flutist as well. But the year has just begun.
This band has set the stage for what should be a very strong year. Their desire and drive to create something original and innovative has been a success from my ears. This album is full of wonderful innovations and truly challenges prog to grow and expand, bringing together elements from the classics and the modern. This is a deep album worthy of your full attention. It is an album that you will want to get comfortable with and listen to in its entirety.
I look for this album to finish well on my list of the year's best albums. An early favorite for album of the year.
1. Run 7.05
2. Once 6.06
3. Adrift 4.39
4. Them 7.52
5. Sagittarius A* 5.50
6. Suspended 8.28
7. Wave 5.42
8. Wander 5.33
9. Driven 4.54
10. Release 6.47
11. Memory 10.00
12. Disappeared 4.22
Added: April 26th 2014
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: www.frequencydrift.com/
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|» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:
|Frequency Drift: Over
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-04-26 05:50:58
Returning after their much acclaimed 2012 release, Laid To Rest, German melancholic, melodic Progressives, Frequency Drift, have the unenviable task of living up to expectations, while losing a key member of their collective. For new album, Over, gone is singer and in many ways focal point of the band, Antje Auer, her replacement being Isa Fallenbacher; although this new front-lady is joined for much of the album by guest vocalist, Agathe Labus. It is a seamless change and one that may even have augmented Frequency Drift, for while Auer gave faultless performances, Fallenbacher grabs the otherwise gentle concoction FD create and raises the whole thing a considerably. This is a lady who possesses one of those rare things, a voice with fragile power, allowing the songs to feel vulnerable and timid one moment, masterful and all conquering the next. However she doesn't do this alone, with the band's fulcrum Andreas Hack (keys, guitar, bass) combining superbly with a wide cast of minstrels who between them bring the tones of harps, duclar, wavedrum, cello, violin, viola, gemshorn, marimba, and of course, more guitars, bass and keys. Straight forward Over is not, yet convoluted it evades. Instead this is an album of twelve tracks and nearing eighty minutes which runs the gamut between Progressive and Cinematic. Reference points do flit past; the odd hint of Marillion, a flash of Vangelis, a whisper of Panic Room, a suggestion of Pink Floyd. However no influence dallies too long, none dominate, leaving a fine blend of familiar and new.
Catchy motifs can appear, "Sagittarius A*" verging on sing alongable, "Suspended" the type of song that lives long in the memory. However, in the main Over lilts and flows through soundscapes which seldom rely on any sort of cliched Rock posturing or structures to get their points across. Instead "Once" floats by on an insistent piano line as a swathe of instruments construct washes of emotion, while "Memory", the longest track at ten minutes, politely wends its way through meanders of sound that transport you to other worlds. All the while Fallenbacher and Labus vocally soar, swoop and dive, ensuring that the tracks always have a way in and counterpoint to their more expansive reaches.
Over is the sound of a collection of musicians making the sounds they want to and captivating as they do. Cleverly the results are as interesting for those listening, as it is for those creating them. This style of Prog seems to be growing in popularity right now and while some who are lauded verge on boredom (Edison's Children anyone?), Frequency Drift strike almost the perfect balance.
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