IQ - Frequency

Year of Release: 2009
Label: InsideOut Music
Catalog Number: INO 2804-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 62:00:00

While as of this writing, Frequency is not the most recent IQ release - that would be The Road Of Bones (2014) - it is where I am beginning to "catch up" on the IQ oeuvre (review-writing speaking). Frequency was released in 2009, and it has been in my playlist off and on from at least 2012 -- looking at an unfinished review of Dark Matter, I'm going to venture say it was purchased at RosFest 2012, at which the band played.*

Explanation of this delayed review out of the way, what strikes me about Frequency is that it seems to be a darker, tauter release (and in some ways, heavier). I won't say in comparison to any one particular album, but from my overall sense of the band. Whether that is down to the personnel change -- Mark Westworth (Darwin's Radio and once of Grey Lady Down) on keys and Andy Edwards on drums (once of Frost*, NEO), each taking over from the departed Martin Orford (in 2007) and Paul Cook (in 2005), respectively -- or just because the material worked out that way. Whatever the case, Frequency is seems a richer audio experience. I'll interject by adding that I don't mean better than past work necessarily, just that ... whatever went into making this album has yielded this result.

I hear more distinctly each instrumental element - from keys, guitar (Mike Holmes), bass (John Jowitt), drums, to vocals (Peter Nicholls). It sounds good both sonically and spatially, a great dynamic range which gives it an epic feel. So yes, taut and epic, which seem contradictory, but they're not. Taut in that there is not a lot of unnecessary noodling happening, where one goes off on a tangent that doesn't support the whole. It is epic in sound, in mood, and in the "storytelling" of the song. I don't think IQ has ever been extravagant and overindulgent, even if I found Subterranea overlong. Maybe I just connect with this album more than past releases. Or maybe it's just been way too long since those past releases have been heard that I'm hearing IQ with fresh ears, and I'll find little has changed beyond natural growth and evolution.

Lyrically, it's abstract, which lends itself to much interpretation. It is an album best understood by being felt, rather than being overly analytical about what Peter Nicholls is on about. That isn't to say the lyrics aren't unimportant, but they are more poetic and... as I said, abstract... that you are not going to be able to pin them down to something concrete. Much as our feelings about other people, and things, and ideas; and our observations about the world we inhabit are sometimes not easily defined. There is the sense of someone trying to make sense of the world after some epic change has happened... whether global, local or personal. And I don't really think it's just a shake-up in the band line up, though certainly that could be one of many subtexts here.

Impressions as I listen again: Two-thirds of the way through "Stronger Than Friction," an otherwise "typical" sounding IQ track (not a pejorative, but it did recall for me earlier albums), there is a frenetic passage that underscores the heavier feel the album has. Not metal or anything, just heavier, more intense. In contrast, there is the calmer, lighter "One Fatal Mistake" that follows; while not acoustic, it has an acoustic feel owing to the strummed guitars. The sustained keyboard atmospherics that conclude the track, overlaid with haunting choral vocalizations, becomes the intro to the, at first, spacey "Ryker Skies." From there, it's a strident, marching track that includes some signature proggy elements (parpy keys for one; sonic effects bubbling just below the surface), all leading to the expansive chorus. Here you find the dichotomy of taut and epic simultaneously. And speaking of epic, that would define the penultimate track "The Province." Only here do I think of Genesis in any form or fashion (for reference, to whom were often compared in the early days). I think this perhaps because it is a multi-movement epic and dramatic track or perhaps because there are some keyboard bits at 6-minutes or so that sound Genesis-like... A rhythm at the 8 to 9 minute marks that could be "Apocalypse In 7/8" inspired. And yet, for all that, these are passing resemblances, not even quite as definite as my comments might suggest. What it sounds more like is IQ - past and present. It is as times lyrical - delicate piano, fragile vocals - and times brutal and churning.

The track that stuck out most for me after many repeated plays at work is the album's closer, Closer. And particularly, the key refrain, "Hold on, when I'm dead and gone from you / Remember me as light breaking through..." While I won't go off on a tangent of personal reflection, whereas there is a sense of sadness, of being adrift (evident in all the lyrics), this passage -- and this track -- offers a sense of comfort, of grounding. Acoustic elements, tinkling piano... but for Nicholls' distinctive vocals, this track could be something from Bruce Hornsby. Which does suggest a bit more accessibility than other tracks on the album; it is more accessible. But this would have only cracked commercial radio if it were still some time in the late 80s/early 90s It doesn't sound dated in that sense, but it has just enough general appeal that it might have received airplay alongside... well, "Mandolin Rain" say. Well, but for it being more than 8-minutes long; commercial radio had... and has... short attention spans.

There is nothing that I dislike about this album. It is full of what attracted me progressive rock - atmosphere, drama, texture... It is an album that is solid from start to finish.

*as we have published no fewer than 6 reviews of Dark Matter, it may be a while before I finish that review (of which not much about the CD itself was yet written).
Frequency (8:29) / Life Support (6:28) / Stronger Than Friction (10:32) / One Fatal Mistake (4:54) / Ryker Skies (9:45) / The Province (13:43) / Closer (8:11)

Andy Edwards - drums, percussion
Mike Holmes - guitars, keyboards
John Jowitt - bass
Peter Nicholls - lead & backing vocals
Mark Westworth - keyboards

Tales From The Lush Attic (1983)
The Wake (1985)
Nine In A Pond Is Here (1985)
Living Proof (1986)
Nomzamo (1987)
Are You Sitting Comfortably? (1989)
J'ai Pollette D'arnu (1991)
Ever (1994)
Forever Live (1996)
Subterranea (1997)
Seven Stories Into 98 (1998)
The Lost Attic (1998)
Subterranea: The Concert (2000)
The Seventh House (2001)
The Archive Collection - IQ20 (2003)
Dark Matter (2004)
Frequency Tour CD 1 (2008)
Frequency Tour CD 2 (2008)
Frequency (2009)
The Wake: Live At De Boerderij (2010)
The Wake (Deluxe Edition) (2010)
Re:Mixed (2011)
The Archive Collection - IQ30 (2012)
Tales From The Lush Attic 2013 Remix (2013)
The Road Of Bones (2014)
Live On The Road Of Bones (2016)

Subterranea: The Concert Video (VHS) (2000)
Subterranea: The Concert DVD (DVD) (2002)
IQ20 - The Twentieth Anniversary Show (DVD) (2004)
Live From London (DVD) (2005)
Stage (DVD) (2006)
Forever Live (DVD) (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: November 19th 2016
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2445
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]