Thursday, January 7, 2010

Frequency Theater

Yesterday, Nate Butler, aka Frequency Theater, requested that I listen to his music and review it on my blog.  This being the first time I’ve received such a request, I was both elated and daunted.  On the one hand, I was flattered that Nate thought so much of my writing.  On the other, I worried I might not like the music and would have to either write a negative review about somebody who’d been very nice to me, or lie and make only really positive comments I didn’t actually believe.

Thankfully, I didn’t find the need to do either.  In fact, after sampling a couple tracks at Frequency Theater’s MySpace site I went to iTunes and downloaded the debut release, Fly GalleryFly Gallery is a powerful, driven and passion-filled collection, full of extramusical surprises and artfully layered sonic tiers which I’ve found more intriguing through multiple listenings.

In terms of musical style, as with many artists, it would be far too easy to categorize FT within some easily digestible genre (say, Electronica or Industrial), then carve away what’s a bit different and allow that to dangle out there as the one identifying factor making this act stand apart from every other that’s doing roughly the same thing.  In this case that different ‘something’ would be Nate Butler’s upbeat lyrical approach - a style that stands in flagrant contrast against a backdrop of troubled and downward gazing cohorts.  

Frequency Theater’s own website rhetoric describes the act as one that “strives to inspire the audience to believe in themselves, to push to become their best version of themselves and to doubt their doubters.”  Further, a review also posted at the site quips:  “Music fans wondering what Trent Reznor might sound like on a happy day, look no further.”  In all honesty, after first reading these I feared the songs would be too simplistic and naive or vapidly didactic.  (Yes, alas, I am one of those who often confuses woe with depth).  And honestly, who wants to hear Trent Reznor on a good day?  Isn’t it his job to suffer for our listening pleasure?  And what is one to expect after such a comment?  July Andrews singing “I want to f*ck you like an animal?”

But these songs are not simply a sea of loud samples and bangs with cheery, Pollyanna lyrics floating on top.  Indeed, aside from the song The Charismatic, I found the lyrics subtle, complex and enigmatic - driven by the same intensity and misgiving one might expect of the more nihilistic offerings from Trent Reznor or Robert Smith.  

What I do find most compelling in all this is Nate Butler’s daring to rub that industrial angst against the grain a bit by infusing that rage with a bit of hope, conjuring something fresh and new that is brash and nuanced; full of anguish and inspiration.  


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