Ben Frost - A U R O R A

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  • Ben Frost's new album is markedly different from his previous records. Instead of the studio setup he's used to, Frost wrote most of A U R O R A on a laptop while on assignment in the Democratic Republic Of The Congo. The result is the darkest and most powerful recording of his career. As he recently told The Quietus, "It was confounding to me how aggressive and dictatorial it was. It was like I created a monster." It's indeed a monster: mechanized and powerful, A U R O R A takes the booming sound of dance music and twists it into something evil. Where Tim Hecker's Virgins (which Frost had a hand in) saw him home in on the power of live instrumentation, A U R O R A does just the opposite. Blindingly bright synths wheeze over the top of "Nolan," the album's quivering first act. These digital gusts feel powerful but illusory, just like the natural phenomenon the album's title refers to. They shimmer and float above a formidable rhythm section, which sounds like Frost's older work but fired up with newfound conviction. Collaborators Greg Fox, Shahzad Isamily and Thor Harris (of Swans fame) reinforce A U R O R A's computer sheen with real sweat and blood. It sounds like they're trying to fight off the swarms of artificial noise with their bare hands, like on "Nolan," which strips down before its skeleton is overrun by synths that wrap around the drums like barbed wire. Frost's music might have changed, but it hasn't lost any of its theatricality. In fact, Frost's career as a film composer is more relevant on A U R O R A than ever before. His recent compositional work (for films like Black Marrow) has been haunting and minimalist, the stuff of arthouse cinema. A U R O R A, while still pretty abstract, is more Hollywood in scale. Just as blockbuster movies like Transformers take heavy dubstep and EDM's guttural sound design, Frost channels similarly intense midrange textures into searing blasts of noise that feel like they're meant to punish listeners (or at least frighten them a little). Electronic music doesn't get much heavier than "Secant," which heaves à la Southern sludge metal, snarling and buzzing as it pulls apart fragments of piano. "Diphenyl Oxalate" is a grindcore band playing through a chemical fire, while "Venter" hurtles towards you in slow motion, sucking in syncopated percussion and tubular bells along the way. That last one is almost graceful, standing poised in contrast to the brute force you get everywhere else. It brings to mind Frost's talk of fighting to contain his compositions on A U R O R A, and that struggle shows. Where 2009's By The Throat was ruthless but exacting, this one feels genuinely unhinged—and that unpredictability makes it far more thrilling than any engineered suspense could have been.
  • Tracklist
      01. Flex 02. Nolan 03. The Teeth Behind Kisses 04. Secant 05. Diphenyl Oxalate 06. Venter 07. No Sorrowing 08. Sola Fide 09. A Single Point Of Blinding Light