❉ Ange Chan reviews the synth duo’s highly accomplished debut album.
Electronic synth duo The Frixion (Gene Serene: lyrics and vocals, Lloyd Price: keys, programming and production) return with the much anticipated, arrival of their first full-length album, To Hell and Back on June 26. Their first release since December 2020’s We Should be Dancing (“a slice of positivity that we all need right now” – We Are Cult), the band’s debut long-player is a culmination of their work to date, presenting a diverse mix of new tracks and refreshed versions of existing material, including some interesting remixes by synth scene contemporaries. It’s also the first time the band’s material has been available on vinyl format, but they assure me, it won’t be the last.
Gene, singer with The Frixion, sheds some light on the process that led up to this album:
“This release has been a long time in the making and it means a lot to us both to release everything the way we want it to be heard, especially to have it on vinyl. We released all our songs before playing them live, and they tend to take on a life of their own on stage; suddenly you get extra ideas, melodies, harmonies – you find the song actually works better live at a different tempo, or with an extra drum pattern – it’s pretty amazing. With all this knowledge we returned to each track and updated them. Tim Dorney (Republica, Tin Gun) really helped us navigate that process and give the whole release a universal sound. We have a distinctive sound I think, aside from our musical style – it’s easy to recognise The Frixion when a track comes on. I think this release is really diverse and for us it draws a line under four of our most incredible and challenging years together – To Hell and Back.”
A vinyl release marks a long-standing personal goal and a landmark moment for the band. “When I started buying music it was always vinyl” says Lloyd. “I loved going to my local record store and digging for hours with friends; and now having my own album on the format I love is amazing. Placing an album on the turntable and dropping the needle just feels RIGHT! You’re locked into it then for 40 minutes. No skipping after 10 seconds… it’s the way music should be heard.”
Gene adds: “Our music being on vinyl is the ultimate. There is nothing like the sound, the feel, the weight or the journey. Vinyl is special – I spent so many years of my life visiting Rough Trade in Portobello Road annoying Nigel who worked there. They had everything you could ever want and the record shop was just where you went on the weekend before taking your records home and disappearing into the world created by the music. My vinyl collection in my formative years was an extension of my body and even today I am still known to DJ on vinyl occasionally!”
The vinyl edition also includes a bonus download of extra material and remixes by synth scene contemporaries which is a nice addition to this package. The album opens with the eponymous title track and gives a rich flavour of what to expect of the album; complex, mellifluous layers of rich synths sounds, coupled with Gene’s sweet but strong vocal input.
The next track Cannot Play These Games, recently spotlighted on BBC Music Introducing in Essex (12/06/2021), offers a highly danceable track with a rhythmic funky beat that is sure to get you dancing, and there’s a Warboys (Club DJ) Remix of this track in the additional material, offering a different perspective on an already great song.
From Dawn to Dusk is my favourite track on the album. The opening segue is reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s Waiting for the Night but, with the addition of Gene’s vocals, moves into a perfect Ladytron-esque classic with Mode’s Behind the Wheel aesthetics in the background. What We Gonna Do is what ABBA would sound like with a more contemporary cloak on bedecked in synthesizers with rhythmic melodies that are sure to provide an ear worm, while Deceive a Believer takes you to another experience with references of the grand cosmos, giving off ethereal vibes.
Magic is yet another high octane, danceable track, giving off Princess of Disco, Kylie vibes. I hope you’ve got your dancing shoes ready when you listen to this album because here’s another song that will have you twirling round the kitchen table; We Should Be Dancing was their last single and largely speaks for itself!
Moving seamlessly into We Walk A Line, the mood is punctuated with a slower more reflective track, observing a mark in the sand of a relationship where the participants sit back to take stock of where they’ve been, how far they’ve come and more importantly, where they are going. An extremely relatable track. Meanwhile Heartbroke Disco continues the Ladytron vibe, with a hint of Goldfrapp thrown in for good measure.
We then have the bonus remixes and B sides, boasting a roll call of highly respected artists within the genre: one track alone (Cry Cry Cry) features Roi (Mechanical Cabaret), Benjamin’s Plague (a Dutch dark electro act), and Nude Sound System aka NSS aka the alter ego’s of DJs Rob Green (The Department) and Lynda K Bennett, and that’s just for starters!
They also received remix treatments from Vieon’s lead member Matt Wild whose individual style ensures that the track sounds very influenced by synth deity, John Michel Jarre, whilst other luminaries include Bob Earland (Radiophonic Workshop) and Lloyd’s old bandmate, breakbeat artist Bobalino. Finally, Dpplgngrs, an Essex based dance act completes the impressive list of remixers.
All in all, it’s a well rounded and highly accomplished album, which delivers a developed and highly cohesive long player and which deserves to do extremely well.
❉ Ange Chan is a Freelance Writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry. A prominent contributor to Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon) and lifelong lover of music, Ange is also We Are Cult’s Social Media Administrator.