Frequency Drift return with their latest album, Letters to Maro. The band was formed in Bayreuth, Germany by classically trained keyboard player and multi-instrumentalist Andreas Hack, releasing their debut Personal Effects, Part 1 in 2008 followed by a list of other acclaimed albums. The current musical vision is given direction by both Hack and Nerissa Schwarz, along with long time band member Wolfgang Ostermann.
Since the last album a few things have changed, notably the arrival of new vocalist Irini Alexa. Irini has an classical operatic background and her vocal style fits the direction of the music so well. The band’s previous album, Last, was an excellent dark and guitar heavy album, but here there is less reliance on guitars, keyboards being the order of the day, lovingly supported by Nerissa’s electro harp. Indeed, they have changed their musical palette to suit the direction and sound of these current songs.
The songs here have a cinematic feel and the change away from the guitar sound has given them room to breathe, expanding the melodies and allowing them to become more focused, if that was at all possible. The songs were originally conceived as loosely connected stand alone letters, telling the story of someone returning to their past, realising that it cannot obliterate the ghosts of loss. It would be easy for the subject matter to drift into total melancholy, but there is a lightness and positivity contained within the music which counterpoints this. Add some amazing vocal performances from Irini, which gives added textures to the songs, at times beautiful, heartfelt and unsettling, delivered with an extensive range. Irini’s vocals are complemented by some excellent and beautiful harp throughout, provided by Nerissa.
The album’s eleven tracks range from three to nine minutes, giving a running time of around sixty minutes in total, none of which appears to have been wasted. The opening track, Dear Maro, has a bright and positive feel to start, the melodies sweeping in before things get a little unsettling, with Irini’s vocals matching this, demonstrating her wide vocal range. There is variety here, from the almost electro pop start to Underground, through the catchy, bubbly and infectious Electricity to the sinister feel of Escalator.
For me one of the outstanding tracks must be Sleep Paralysis and Who’s Master. For the former the music builds some tension with Irini’s vocals helping to add almost a sense of panic. It’s beautifully paced and holds the attention for its six minute duration. This leads into the longest track here, Who’s Master, with a bright start of piano accompanied by guitar which leads to ominous and sinister undercurrents, again excellently paced with another towering vocal performance from Irini.
Throughout, the standard of musicianship is excellent, the keyboards providing atmosphere and melody with the drums giving the drive and direction, along with Nerissa’s harp playing which at times offers an almost ethereal feel. Irini’s voice manages to easily convey the emotion of the pieces through her extensive range.
This is another excellent release from Frequency Drift, compelling, imaginative and multi-layered, the music being both cinematic and almost ambient at times yet still retaining those unsettling moments that the band can do so well. This is a carefully thought out album with hidden depths which will give rewards for repeated plays.
01. Dear Maro (6:22)
02. Underground (5:02)
03. Electricity (4:52)
04. Neon (6:09)
05. Deprivation (3:35)
06. Izanami (5:09)
07. Nine (6:10)
08. Escalator (4:26)
09. Sleep Paralysis (6:03)
10. Who’s Master? (9:16)
11. Ghosts When it Rains (3:05)
Total Time – 60:14
Irini Alexa – Vocals
Andreas Hack – Keyboards, Synthesizer, Guitar, Bass & Mandolin
Nerissa Schwarz – Electric Harp, Mellotron & Synthesizer
Wolfgang Ostermann – Drums & Wavedrum
Michael Bauer – Guitar (1 & 10)
Record Label: Gentle Art of Music/Soulfood
Catalogue#: GAOM 056 (CD Digipak), GAOM 056LP (Double vinyl, 180g)
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 13th April 2018