29 March 2009

The Low Frequency In Stereo – Futuro

Rune Grammofon (2009)

Getting some FACT-age up pon de blog...

Another couple of months, another great Rune Grammafon release. The label should hook up my bank account to their headquarters, intravenous-style, and constantly drip, drip, drip-feed their luscious black wax into my house. Kim Hiorthøy, I think I love you.

I don’t believe any member of Low Freq (as we have taken to calling them in the virtual FACT Towers) has been in Jaga Jazzist, which is probably a first in Norwegian non-black metal bands I have happened upon. I might be wrong. What is becoming commonplace with this current scene of bands is how consistently good they are.

Every song here is a self-contained gem, blessed with hooks and great sounding instruments. The enigmatic producer ‘Sir Duperman’, of Duper Studio, has much to be proud of. As with most things Grammafon, Futuro has a crystal clear mix, through which you can hear the varied sounds.

‘Geordie La Forge’ manages to stand out, not just due to its titular homage to the blind Star Trek character. Male vocalist (there is a man and a woman, though the sleeve notes credit the whole band with ‘voice’) Per Steinar’s delivery softens the edges of what would otherwise be quite a Queens Of The Stone Age song, replacing that band’s inherent ‘cool’ with more of a ‘cute’.

‘Starstruck’ marries latter-day Screaming Trees soft psychedelia with indie pop, hooks assailing your cerebral cortex. The band knows that effective melodic simplicity is key, so you quickly remember the rhymes of ‘Sparkle Drive’ with ‘45’. You’ll pause for thought, wondering exactly what that’s supposed to mean, but you will soon be swept away once more in the unabashed enthusiasm of the album.

On rare occasions the spell slips and you wonder quite what it is you’re listening to. ‘Texas Fox’, a sonically well constructed song, has absolutely horrible lyrics. You give a little leeway to bands whose first language isn’t English, but this is a ham-fisted attempt at surrealism that falls flat, regardless of good intentions. ‘Me and the farmer have to figure out the cow / The cow is the farmer, I really don’t know how’: it’s hard to be kind to that couplet.

Such stumbles are soon forgotten when you consider the relatively epic concluding song, the nine-minute ‘Solar System’. Its intro puts you in mind of the musical leg-stretching Kyuss would engage in when beginning their longer songs. But the mess of gleeful chaos and saxophone that unfolds is more reminiscent, again, of QOTSA, on ‘I Think I Lost My Headache’, or perhaps Radiohead’s ‘National Anthem’.

These aren’t lazy comparisons: this album, just like Kid A and Rated R, is a concise meditation on rock’s past and present seen through a very particular collection of eyes. It revels in generic hallmarks, but the band executes these with such personality and natural-feeling eclecticism that you forgive without a second thought.

Regardless of whether any of these players have worked with Horntveth, Munkeby or Qvenild, Low Freq have clearly established themselves as a band to be reckoned with. Futuro, while it nods blatantly to the past, is the place to be right now.

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