Formed in 2007 by composer, keyboard player and multi-instrumentalist Andreas Hack, Frequency Drift are a unit that have crafted their art, producing more and more assured albums with each outing. This, their fifth studio recording, finds them throwing the net out further and the list of instruments used and the calibre of musicianship is impressive. I’ve often seen the title “cinematic prog” attached to this band and although not one for simple tags it does, in many respects, capture the band’s persona. So mention here of Andreas Hack’s careful choice of keyboard sounds, atmospheric approach and the ethereal treatment of the more percussive sounds. Along with the cinematic notion we might also add ‘music theatre’ to this album, as, on occasions, it can be detected within the arrangements.
At seventy five minutes plus, Over is a lot to digest in one sitting, however their rather unique way of combining traditional, acoustic and folk-like instruments amongst layers of keyboards and more strident guitar passages maintains a balance and flow. To complement this music Frequency Drift have once again found a vocalist of quality in Isa Fallenbacher, who to the best of my knowledge makes her debut with the band here. Her voice is crystalline and befits the music. The only comparator I might offer at this point is that of Claudia Uhle, however suffice to say that Isa’s performances on Over should firmly place her within the current crop of progressive rock female singers.
At this point it would be customary to offer an analysis of the music but there’s so much on offer it is difficult to know where to start. So I’ll backtrack slightly and say that Over comes across as a bringing together of all of Frequency Drift’s previous works – a consolidation if you like. Those familiar with the band will therefore have little to worry about.
Frequency Drift have always approached their music from a concept base however this latest album seems to be the exception. The cover pictures for Over by Alina Rudya form the basis – perhaps best expanded on by the following:
“The work of the Ukrainian shows the photographer’s hometown of Pripyat that has been abandoned since the Chernobyl disaster and where nature continues to make its way – despite all existence-threatening conditions. Corresponding to those aesthetics Frequency Drift, through their soundscapes, create a surreal atmosphere of loss, decay, abandonment but also liberation. The fact that the generous use of effects often leads to space-ish sounds only adds further to that impression.”
For those less familiar with the work of Frequency Drift I’ve elected to look at just a few of the tracks from Over which will hopefully illustrate what you might find.
We open with an engaging string arrangement (the real thing) before the band move in, initially a fairly simple mix of keys, bass, drums and a few more exotic inclusions. The delightful Isa Fallenbacher enters early in the piece and it doesn’t take long to realise what fine voice she has. Delicate at first, but more than capable of delivering the power needed for the beefier chorus. As the track moves forward we drift into a delightful keyboard, woodwind and piano movement before metallic riffing guitars and a driving rhythm are employed to bolster the music once more. This in turn takes us into a floating atmospheric section before the vocal chorus reappears…
As Run closes out with the chorus… we drift into the bluesier opening of Once. The stately pace, along with an ebb and flow arrangement, creates the setting for Isa Fallenbacher to give another impressive vocal performance. The following track, Adrift is one of the more theatrical songs and here Agathe Labus steps up to the microphone delivering a strong performance with images of Clive Nolan’s recent Alchemy project coming to mind. And across the album there are some impressive vocal sections, notably in Them where Fallenbacher and Labus work together.
Musically Over came across as well constructed with the arrangements placing their allegiances to the whole rather than the individual. So there were no elongated, solo instrumental sections, although there were sections when the band did cut loose – Sagittarius A* being one such example. The middle instrumental displaying some fine flute work and a nifty guitar solo.
Another track that captures the essence of Frequency Drift was the brief but enjoyable Wave. A powerful ballad with yet another superbly delivered vocal melody, nicely underpinned by instrumentation that is rich in texture, and it is the sounds used throughout Over that capture the imagination and adding that extra sparkle. I didn’t have a breakdown of who plays what, where and when, but Wave is full of great performances and sounds – whether it be well the chosen synth sounds or the cello or the electric harp – all can heard in this short song.
Memory, the longest track on the album, was always the most likely candidate to encompass the best of Frequency Drift and it pretty much has all those ingredients previously mentioned. What extra it has is, a great Tullian flute break (circa Roots To Branches) – a Tony Banks flavoured keyboard solo – along with oodles of rich textures and another fine guitar break.
If all this wasn’t enough Isa Fallenbacher saves her best performance for the album closer Disappeared…
It seems a little unkind to “mark” something down just because there’s so much of it, but at seventy five minutes plus, this is a long album. So I split it into two – pretty much like a double album of the past and it worked better – for me anyway.
So if you have an inkling towards atmospheric “cinematic” prog, with great sounds and fantastic singing this could well be the album for you in 2014.
01. Run (7:05)
02. Once (6:06)
03. Adrift (4:39)
04. Them (7:52)
05. Sagittarius A* (5:50)
06. Suspended (8:28)
07. Wave (3:42)
08. Wander (5:33)
09. Driven (4:54)
10. Release (6:47)
11. Memory (10:00)
12. Disappeared (4:22)
Total Time – 75:25
Andreas Hack – Keys, Guitar & Bass
Isa Fallenbacher – Vocals
Nerissa Schwarz – Acoustic & Electric Harps
Christian Hack – Guitar, Bass, Flute, Duclar & Wavedrum
Tino Schmitd – Bass
Sibylle Friz – Cello
Ulrike Reichel – Violin & Viola
Jasper Jöris – Gemshorn & Marimba
Agathe Labus – Vocals
Martin Schnella – Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Steve Hohenberger – Guitar
Phil Paul Rissettio – Drums
Kalle Wallner – Bass
Released by: Gentle Art Of Music
Release Date: 14th February 2014
Personal Effects [Part One] (2008)
Personal Effects [Part Two] (2011)
Laid To Rest (2012)
Over (14 February 2014)