During the big dance boom of the early ’90s, a prejudicial theory floated around that went a bit “well it’s all going to sound dated in few years, isn’t it?”. There was, and to some extent still is, a lingering idea that dance music is somehow disposable, has a sell by date, whereas rock and roll, that’s timeless isn’t it? It is now a full 20 years since Warp Records released LFO’s immense Frequencies, a record, that more than any other, cemented their pioneering reputation, and ya know what, it sounds like it could have been released yesterday – which is a lot more than can be said of the Spin Doctors or such like. Case closed.
Listening to Frequencies now, what is most immediately striking about it is the audacious prescience of its legendary intro that declares ‘house’ as the future, then name-checks a list of storied electronic pioneers from ‘The KLF’ to ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’. If LFO’s Gez Varley and Mark Bell were slyly aligning themselves with such giants, they can consider that prophecy well and truly fulfilled. The opening oscillations of ‘LFO’ that follow are now well and truly stamped through the DNA of techno music, and, before the beat drops, can raise the pulse of any dance fan of a certain age through sheer Pavlovian conditioning.
While Frequencies is justly remembered for its monster moments such as the aforementioned ‘LFO’ and ‘We are Back’, what might be more important about it in retrospect is how it plays out. More than just a collection of warehouse-ready singles, Frequencies is an album in the no-filler sense. As such, it dovetailed with a number of other early Warp albums that positioned techno as music that could, and should, be enjoyed in circumstances divorced from its sweaty function. These records included Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Autechre’s Incunubula among others. The dread term IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) emerged around these albums, somehow implying that functional dance music was not smart. Yet, who can dance to Autechre? The really ‘intelligent’ thing about Frequencies is the fact that you can dance to it. You can dance like an absolute pilled up nutter sucking a soother to it. But you can also take it for a walk in a park or a lie down on the couch, and it will reward your attention just as satisfyingly as it will reward your inner rave-monkey.
This double vinyl reissue of Frequencies does not come with any extra bells and whistles, just two tracks that were only previously available on the CD release, ‘Groovy Distortion’ and ‘Track 14’, but it satisfies a demand among vinyl junkies who have not been able to buy the album in that format since the mid-’90s without taking out a mortgage. Regardless of the lack of extras, this reissue deserves a full score because it is a timely reminder of a hugely important work, and indeed of the label that spawned it. In short, it’s essential.