Aurora is the latest album by Australian native/Reykjavik resident BEN FROST, an artist whose work in experimental electronic noise has been making waves steadily since 2003. A man with his fingers on many buttons, FROST has previously collaborated on multi-disciplinary art projects with video artists, stage productions and dance groups. Aurora continues this trend, being a nine-track album coupled with a series of videos of the same name.
Although perhaps informed by knowledge of his earlier collaborations (FROST worked with Brian Eno on Sólaris, a re-scoring of the Tarkovsky sci-fi classic, and composed for an opera based on a novel Iain Banks) but the soundscapes presented in Aurora are evocative of many elements of science fiction. The sense of awe and wonder at the massive distances of space and the powerful phenomena that lurk between stretches of stillness, the juxtaposition and conflation of organism and technology.
Trevor Tweeten and Richard Mosse are the team behind Aurora‘s accompanying video series. Together they create an impressive visual companion to the music, with vivid contrast of neon colours and dark shapes, wavering between tension and explosion. They find the perfect expression of profound, icy vastness in the depths of a glacier, letting sound fill the layered, frozen space.
Opener Flex begins with the ominous mechanical chopping of rotor blades cutting through thick, mounting tension. But before this dark, militaristic direction can explode into violence, it dissolves into trickling water and makes way suddenly for the bombastic Nolan which begins like a grandiose, pompous parade march before evolving into a hypnotic, tribal heartbeat, undulating walls of noise lashed with traces of trance. The quiet, atmospheric The Teeth Behind Kisses relieves the pressure as the pulsing beat slows down collapses and fades into nostalgic, far-off clanging bells reminiscent of the previous track.
These first few tracks set the pace of Aurora‘s dynamics. The music builds tension around a stark, driving rhythm and accumulates layers of noise and power punctuated by minimalist, atmospheric segments that strip down the sound before it threatens to lose control. Standout track Seacant exemplifies this, slapping down forceful, tense beats, easing off for a moment before returning with redoubled, distorted power topped with a triumphant melody.
The gleeful Diphenyl Oxalate tears the album straight down the middle, accelerating and exploding into a joyous cacophony of noise. But it also introduces a chaos that re-surfaces in the closing tracks. Sola Fide has its stability threatened but not overcome by the application of elements of distortion and dissonance.
‘Aurora’ by BEN FROST is a dynamic, intensely structured album of electronic noise that as a whole never succumbs completely to harshness but stays positive and danceable without losing its industrial grit.
NBHAP Rating: 4/5
Review by Nicholas Montegriffo