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V/A - Freq_Out

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Artist: V/A

Album: Freq_Out

Label: Ash International

Review date: Feb. 18, 2004

Freq_Out is otherworldly, conjuring mental images of interplanetary landscapes and extra-terrestrial forms of communicationnot bad for a mere sound art installation! The installation is part of Disturbances, an audio/visual exhibit based in Copenhagen, Denmark and this CD is the audio exponent. The premise behind the recording includes twelve sound artists, each assigned his own frequency range to work with as a constraint, from 0 to 25 Hz, all the way to 5000 to 11000 Hz. The resulting tracks were named after the artists. The results themselves come off as raw and basic, as if they were sound samples or building blocks that eventually form a larger piece. This is precisely what happens on track thirteen dubbed as the “Collective” piece that incorporates all of the contributions. The individual pieces, though basic, stand up on their own and makes for a satisfying and intriguing listen.

What is striking about Freq_Out is that the pieces are intended for stereo speaker playback and not through headphones as the sounds need space and high volume to be properly formed. This is one of the premises behind the recording, to “...find out how space-specific certain frequencies can be”. The differences between headphone and stereo speaker listening is amazing, like the difference between two dimensional and 3-D film. Some of the sounds are as much felt as heard, instilling an added level to the appreciation of sound.

All the tracks on Freq_Out are magnificent, but some carry a lasting impact such as the atmospheric and unconventionally musical piece by PerMagnus Lindborg. One may get the impression of air currents moving through vast, lonely antiseptic corridors made of glass and steel. An eerie tonal resonance is sustained throughout the track, resulting in a meditative listen. In fact, most of the tracks are fairly consistent such as drones or a continuous sound modulation, but some artists challenge this consistency. A case in point is the piece by J.G. Thirlwell which sounds like several different compositions glued together. Idling-engine-like sounds are interrupted by radio feedback noise and simple modulating sounds in turn are cut into by jarring beeps. Thirwell’s track is akin to wandering through a rendering of an alien ship and fiddling around with the controls, being startled by the noises corresponding to the item touched.

BJ Nilsen aka Hazard is somewhat the celebrity of the bunch and has produced a track reminiscent of the Round Four series with it’s rumbling bass lines that sound large and rhythmic like the churning of a vast washing machine. All that’s missing is a vocalist singing in Jamaican patwa over top. The “Collective” piece is beautiful, produced by BJ Nilsen who arranged and overlapped the various results to form a textural sound array. Where some pieces can only go so far alone, juxtaposing the works really enhances the impact of the sounds as they compliment each other. The combined hums, drones and high-pitched frequency emissions work cohesively filling the space and challenging the speakers as well as the ears.

Freq_Out challenges the listener to absorb sounds in various contexts rather than just passively. Those who put in the effort to reconsider the listening environment will be further rewarded by these adventurous sounds.

By I Khider

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