Ben Frost, Cleared | Constellation | Experimental | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Fri., Oct. 31, 8:30 p.m. 2014
Price: $18
Iceland-based sound artist Ben Frost made his latest album, Aurora (Mute/Bedroom Community), not long after returning from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he was working on a soundtrack for The Enclave, a video and photo installation by documentary filmmaker Richard Mosse that addresses the long, bloody conflict in the region. In a recent interview for the Wire, Frost recalls his experiences in the country’s urban areas, where makeshift sound systems powered by diesel generators push their playback violently into the red: “The sheer volume at which the music is played seems to be a way of drowning out the sound of the very thing that’s powering it,” he says. Frost’s work has always relied on extremes in dynamics, but in the past each component (guitars, environmental recordings, prepared piano) rang out with piercing clarity. On the new album, though, the influence of those Congolese sound systems makes itself felt, transforming his visceral soundscapes into sheets and pulses of blown-out distortion, fiery smudges, and programmed beats that feel like blows to the solar plexus, all layered over furious, rumbling acoustic percussion from Greg Fox (Guardian Alien, Liturgy) and Thor Harris (Swans). Frost uses the synthetic washes, rhythms, and melodies of electronic dance music but detaches them from the usual club-ready percussion—his squirming, writhing masses of noise forgo body-rocking buoyancy in favor of death-march propulsion. As usual he shapes his materials with the patience and precision of a conductor, sometimes building excruciating swells of sound from distant tremors or dropout-pocked tape hiss and sometimes throwing open the floodgates just as rapidly as he slams them shut. Frost’s music can convey horror alongside a sense of triumphant, cathartic release, in part because you can never hear the next change coming from around the bend. That might sound easy enough on paper, but it takes an artist to achieve it so consistently. —Peter Margasak
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