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Tom Abbs and Frequency Response: The Animated Adventures of Knox

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Tom Abbs first conceived The Animated Adventures of Knox cinematically. He translated the story (a description of emotional evolution) into musical structures, interpreted the musical structures with his band Frequency Response and then filmed images and edited them to fit the music he made. The process probably could create something fascinating, which is why it’s disappointing that it has created this specific music and film.

The music proceeds by the relentless accretion of individual outbursts, with precious little interaction between band members. Occasional halting attempts at melody get swept up in the resulting bedlam. Everybody gets the ugliest tones possible out of their instruments, apparently on purpose. (The never-ending high-pitched screeching of the violin represents “a shrill and doubting undercurrent,” according to Abbs.) Even the “Balancing” movement enervates.

It gets even worse when you watch it with the video, which features shaky handheld footage of such fascinating things as the sidewalk, endless colorful blurs with obscure connections to the music and grandiose yet semiliterate text introductions for each track (“forboding” needs an “e”). If this is the emotional evolution of Knox, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to meet the guy.