Monday 25 February 2013

The Frozen Orchestra - Freak Control

Album review by

It sure as hell will be frozen in Russia right now so it's hardly surprising these guys chose to name themselves The Frozen Orchestra. The St Petersburg group's name is fitting in more ways than one. 'Freak Control' isn't a warm album to listen to; it's not particularly accommodating, giving off an aloof air and an often frosty response. This isn't a criticism, merely an observation, as not all music is designed to be a warm blanket for the soul. There are lighter moments aplenty and these are also characterised by an icy cool, but this is more akin to the beautiful landscapes that snow and ice can create; The Frozen Orchestra turn these visions into musical soundscapes. Glacial is the journalistic cliche we're looking for. They also have the middle ground covered, whether you call it trip-hop or alt-pop you'll be familiar with the direction taken by 'Overjoyed' or 'Tricks'.

'PingPong Girl' starts things by showing the full range of what they do, from the spine-tingling female vocal to the industrial blast of the second half and the electro-rock stylings they use to bind the sounds together. The Frozen Orchestra have just about encapsulate themselves in a single song. From there we get electro-rock with songs like 'Russian Slurs' which is what the last Garbage album should have sounded like had it not been a damp squib, and it hurtles to a terrific and tumultuous ending. What prevents this album from being just too cold to feel much emotion for are those vocals and the experimental style they adopt on the likes of 'Dirt' and 'Games' which, while they won't win international acclaim, definitely indicate that The Frozen Orchestra have some ideas and they're not afraid to use them; you could call them uncompromising.

Those tingly, snowflake-pretty, fragile guitar and voice tracks are easier to absorb. Head for 'Never Ending Fall', 'Water' (although this almost breaks into 80s soul so be prepared), or the gorgeous 'Une Fille'. 'Rollow' somehow manages to fuse synth-pop with mariachi and rock which is odd and impressive simultaneously. The title-track is also concocted from an unusual combination which could easily go wrong yet they just about manage to pull it off. Seven-minute closer 'Autumn' is something of a journey, from a humble opening passage to more icy melancholia, some classical guitar and brass-powered middle section; it all goes a bit prog. 'Freak Control' isn't the easiest of albums and this is in part down to it being, at over an hour long, a bit of a slog. Given time though, it will unveil itself to be an accomplished record.

The Frozen Orchestra's website

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