Posted on Sep 25th 2009 01:05 am
By The Throat
Bedroom Community 2009
11 Tracks. 45mins53secs
It is really a case of Frost by name, Frost(y) by nature when it comes to Australian-born musician Ben Frost. Currently living in Reykjavik, Iceland, Frost has been spilling his chilling blend of decaying electronica and processed electric guitars since 2001 and has released music on Room40, Dreamland Recordings and Architecture. In 2006, he joined the ranks of Valgeir Sigurðsson’s excellent Bedroom Community and released his third album, Theory Of Machines, an icy collection of battered metal heavily processed through razor-sharp electronics and field recordings.
Three years on, By The Throat throws this broken world on its head and plunges into a dense, dark and threatening network of subterranean galleries, almost permanently subjected to destructive quakes. Even more so than on Theory Of Machines, Frost expertly manipulates moods on this album, moving from menace to fear, tension to oppression, with great dexterity, building dense layers of sounds to serve his narrative threads. Right from the opening moments of Killshot, with its heavy slabs of abrasive processed guitars, distortions and deafening bass, Frost sets the tone. Below the decomposing top layers though is a strangely ethereal little melody which appears totally unexpectedly and becomes for a short moment the focus of the piece. Things take a much darker and more chilling turn with The Carpathians. Echoing the album cover, which depicts two wolves caught in headlights, a human figure hunched behind them, distorted wolf howls are brushed over the growing hum of an orchestral drone to create a disturbingly oppressive and cold sound piece. On Leo Needs A New Pair Of Shoes, Frost applies even more pressure, but instead of doing so in obvious fashion, he uses anticipation and frustration to feed the tension. The piece starts gently enough, with a circling melody played on the piano and echoes of an acoustic guitar being plucked, occupying the space for a while, with ominous string work woven into the piece later on. It all threatens to break apart at any moment to let a torrent of noise and distortion in, but it never happens. Instead, Frost teases the mind to build anxiety, and then freezes the mood with the sound of howling wolves, brought much closer to the surface, again.
This tension build-up is found on other piece here, but it often leads to some kind of release. This is particularly the case on Hibakúsja, which goes from a brass and guitar opening sequence into much denser clusters of noises and distortions, paced by the erratic breathing of a human being gasping for air. Emerging out of this chaos are the soothing sounds of a cello and a violin, bringing some kind of normality back for an instant. Strings are at the heart of Peter Venkman Pt. 1, arranged in angular shapes, augmented with what sounds like a ghostly choir, that are somewhere between electro-acoustic and musique concrète abstraction. On the second part, a gentler guitar motif slowly rises amongst the musical debris and appears to progressively guide the instruments back onto a more peaceful path. The last three pieces work together, as their main environment, built from arid and sterile noises and processed sounds, gets constantly redefined, at times pushing into pure noise, at other bringing back some musical elements, but never settling for long on any particular shore.
For this record, Ben Frost has brought a number of collaborators on board, including composer Nico Muhly, Swedish metal band Crowpath, Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara and all-female Icelandic string quartet Amiina, each bringing their particular universe, from which Frost feeds freely to construct his own paranoid world. Over the year, he has been pushing increasingly towards these murky grounds, finding his way where others would lose themselves forever. If Theory Of Machines was the sound of engineering gone wrong, By The Throat is that of nature shutting down, bringing all life forms down in its fall.
2 Responses to “BEN FROST: By The Throat (Bedroom Community)”