Music Moment: Ben Frost, “Black Marrow,” “FAR,” & “Sleeping Beauty”

21 Oct


(OR…. Werewolves gonna fuck your face all y’alls!!)

As the black doom of Airwaves draws itself closer and closer to a reality, I always seem to find myself drifting towards the music of Iceland’s premier contemporary music label/collective the BEDROOM COMMUNITY. I’m always up to my neck in doing interviews with one of the members, or listening to their albums and such. Funnily enough, I’ve never  been able to seen them officially at Airwaves, only catching the odd snippet at Kaffibarinn. Maybe that’ll change this yeah… or what will likely happen is that I’ll be forced to listen to some dreadful electropop on a laptop.

Oh well. While I’ve been dipping myself in the new album from DANIEL BJARNASON, one BC artist I’ve yet to have the pleasure of meeting is everyone’s favourite antipodean ex-pat, BEN FROST. The purveyor of superior glossy, metallic soundscapes that make directors of nighttime car commercials and moody neo-noir crime dramas go weak at the knees, right now he seems to be working the candle at both ends. Recently he was causing psychotic breaks in audiences all over Europe with his opera adaptation of ‘The Wasp Factory,” which by all accounts is as wild as the prospect sounds. But he’s also been keeping himself active with a whole load of soundtrack commissions for plays, films and dance performances. And he’s recently uploaded them all to his bandcamp for our listening pleasure. Well, pleasure is one way you could describe it….

The first album up on our list is the score to BLACK MARROW, a dance performance piece from Lazyblood matriarch Erna “Joan Crawford is my spirit totem” Ómarsdóttir. A piece about the trauma and pain in the creation of new life out of the poison of chaos, where “Humans are machines and it seems the end of life is near.” From that description, you can expect the score to be just as unspeakable and grisly. Hey, this is Ben Frost we’re talking about here! visceral is his middle name. In this score (With help from Oren Ambarchi, Borgar Magnason and Erna Ómarsdóttir) he takes the motifs created in ‘By The Throat,’ and amplifies them to reality-splitting levels, making sure you get the point by naming sections with titles such as “undulating Beast,” and “Carbon Vessel Motherfucker.” Heavy breathing humans transform into growling werewolf chimeras, red in tooth and claw. Cellos heave and surge, discordant instruments are plucked, and subatomic granular bass notes splinter bone, while the degradation of human machinery is laid bare in the sounds of industrial pig iron furnaces, clunking, smashing and scything across your ears. Music made from the black, putrid pus of the Earth. Sunn o))) would be proud.


The next piece, while sharing some of the same sound tools, offers a lighter, more contemplative perspective. FAR is in many ways a fairly orthodox album from Frost (Well as unorthodox as can be expected). Some of the tracks even contain lyrics and actual humans singing. But some things are still evident, such as the wobbling bass, the disturbing growl and digital engine noise blasts, alongside minimal piano/string lines and beats. Hints of Pan sonic are spring to mind in some places, Björk in others. Probably the closest Ben will come to an actual pop album, until that is of course, you have the moments when the cavernous drones make you wish for death!


Last up, is his soundtrack to the 2011 film SLEEPING BEAUTY. Compared to the previous two scores, this feels a little more like a coda, a short, sharp, but perfectly formed object of sound. Snapshots of twinkling notes and more grumbling drones and sustained string notes, that doesn’t outstay its welcome. the treated guitar howl on the track “Fear Of Death Is The Number One Hoax,” pretty much created a singularity in my frontal lobe and I was able to see all strands of time and all possible outcomes and permutations. The outcome wasn’t pretty.


I think that should be enough music to act as your soundtrack to your perfectly curated lives of of despair and quiet anguish.


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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in music


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