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Frequency Drift - Letters To Maro CD (album) cover

LETTERS TO MARO

Frequency Drift

Crossover Prog


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kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars Only two years since their album, and there have yet again been some fairly significant changes in the Frequency Drift line-up. Lead singer Melanie Mau and guitarist Martin Schnella have both departed (they can be found in Gray Matters together, as well as other projects individually), as has bassist Rainer Wolf. But Andreas Hack (keyboards, guitar, bass, and mandolin) has been there since the beginning, as has drummer Wolfgang Osterman while long-time member and songwriter Nerissa Schwartz (quick aside, if you haven't heard her solo album you owe it to yourself to do so) on harp and Mellotron is still there. The line-up is completed by new singer Irinia Alexia, and let's hope that she lasts longer than just the odd album as she has a presence, range and clear singing voice which totally fits the music.

Musically the band are quite different to many, due in no small part to both Andreas and Nerissa having such a strong song-writing relationship and they are both keyboard players while the use of the harp is also quite different. They layer the music so that the arrangements are complex and quite dense in some ways, but then produce it so that the vocals are always first and foremost, rising clearly above everything else. There is a professionalism and restraint within the music, each note clearly having an important part to play in the whole proceedings. They may not all be playing at the same time, and the use of space is also important in everything they do, with bass pedals and keyboards often taking the part of the real instrument, which also has an impact on the overall sound. The warmth and "heaviness" of certain parts of the arrangements are in direct contrast to the clarity and "lightness' of the harp and vocals, which provides a neat counterpoint. Let's hope we get another album out of them before they change the singer again.

Report this review (#1919651)
Posted Friday, May 4, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars I just got my CD in the mail today, and I must say this is another excellent release from Frequency Drift. I would first like to mention that Irini Alexia is the new vocalist for the band. All of the women that have fronted Frequency Drift had excellent voices with unique phrasings and abilities. Irini has added some personality to the vocal arrangements, along with her excellent voice, to make Letters To Maro a unique experience from past offerings. There are times when you feel like you are listening to a Broadway play, where the performance ropes you into the storytelling. I have been a fan for some time now, mostly because of the way that Andreas Hack is able to create very moving compositions that have subtle textures to keep it interesting. While this is not an album with the epic scale of Ghost, it still has songs with many layers and progressions. Of course Nerissa Schwarz ads another dimension with her abilities on harp, and that may be what sets Frequency Drift apart from other bands. I always consider a Frequency Drift release to be an adventure, because it takes several listens to fully appreciate the complex arrangements. Electricity is an excellent first single on the album, but it is best listened to in it's entirety. I also love the stellar album cover. This is a highly recommended release. 4.5 stars.
Report this review (#1936741)
Posted Saturday, June 2, 2018 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars German band FREQUENCY DRIFT have been a steady provider of their own specific brand of progressive rock ever since 2008. dropping new albums on regular intervals - and fairly frequently switching labels as well. The band appears to have settled with current label Gentle Art of Music now though, although the band itself appears in a new guise for their latest album "Letters to Maro", which was released in the spring of 2018.

To my mind, Frequency Drift is a venture that have found, explored and settled in a musical landscape very much their own. With strong ties to futuristic landscapes as well as more ancient music traditions, this is a meeting of different times and different eras, kind of a musical equivalent of Tolkien and Asimov joining ranks. If this is a description that comes across as tantalizing, then I suspect you will find this album to be rather enjoyable.

Report this review (#1953365)
Posted Monday, July 30, 2018 | Review Permalink
FragileKings
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Frequency Drift appeared on my radar a few years back with 2014's "Over" and I had decided back then to get that album and even placed it in my standby cart on Amazon. But as my musical interests changed and changed again, I eventually removed the CD and decided that it would be at some future date. Then in one of the Facebook prog groups I follow appeared this album cover with a woman with long, black hair in a striking red coat. One glance at the background scene and I immediately recognized that the photo was from Japan. A closer inspection revealed a sign on the left of the photograph that read "Cleaning" in Katakana. Who was this band with this album cover? Frequency Drift!

Almost two months later, the CD was in my hands at last and the music went into my ears the next morning. After the first listen I knew that I had a lot of positive things to say about the album. The second listen confirmed that. A third complete listen to the album is partially done. There are three comments I'd like to make about the music here.

First, this is an album of slow to mid-tempo songs ranging mostly from five to six minutes but with two shorter tracks and one track running at 9:17. This is a song-oriented album with one instrumental to close it off, but the songs themselves permit stunning instrumental moments. The music is mostly peaceful and beautiful with some parts moody and atmospheric, mysterious and haunting. What I appreciate the most about the music is how many tracks will conclude the lyrical part with a gentle bed of music which will then change and begin building a new mood, and then new sounds will join - acoustic, electric, electronic - and deliver an enchanting arrangement of notes. "Neon", and "Deprivation" are both songs that had me checking the track titles because of such lovely instrumental closures to the songs. "Izanami" gets a little harsh with some heavy guitar playing near the end, while "Electricity" features a triple-part vocal harmony to conclude the song.

All this wonderful music and these delightful and appealing sounds are captured in a splendid mixing and mastering job that delivers high sound quality. I really love this clean, crisp, and yet warm recording. I want to hear each instrument distinctly, and this recording is a sheer delight!

The song lyrics often create vivid images of scenes, and Irini Alexia uses her voice at times almost theatrically to bring across the emotions. Listening to Alexia and to the band's music in general, I'm reminded of artists like Thieves Kitchen, Magenta, and White Willow. I like Alexia's enunciation and phrasing. I find there are many prog singers, male and female, who sound like they are all trying to sing in some predetermined vocal style for modern prog, so I am glad to hear someone who is putting her own personal stamp into the vocal delivery.

This is an album that I'll be playing a few more times before new acquisitions will nudge it aside; however, I am sure to be bringing this album back to my ears from time to time and I will be looking at the band's back catalogue and thinking about picking up another album. Perhaps either "Ghosts" or "Over" will be good to get next.

Report this review (#1955127)
Posted Saturday, August 4, 2018 | Review Permalink

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