[sic] Magazine

Ben Frost – A U R O R A

Where to begin with Ben Frost? His 2009 landmark statement in menace By The Throat remains unrivalled five years later. And, since then, the polymathic Australian has composed an orchestral film score and is currently touring his own adaptation of Iain Banks’ dark tale The Wasp Factory. A U R O R A, in turn, was mostly written on location in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the company a small film crew who would later provide the album’s abstract promotional shorts and cover art.

Those hugely atmospheric howling wolves were unquestionably By The Throat’s takeaway so, if Frost were predictable, you might expect A U R O R A to stifle in sounds of the jungle by extension. Instead he brings his textural arrangements inside the walls of heavy industry. Gone are the guitars. The strings too. In their place brutal synth fuzz and the monumental percussion of ex-Liturgy drummer Greg Fox and Swans’ Thor Harris who dominate the post-everything, neo-nothing onslaught. If By The Throat was snow-driven purgatory then A U R O R A is the fires of hell.

The foreboding synth and crackle of static in the opener “Flex” frame the violence that is to come in “Nolan”, a track in which the claustrophobic midsection crumples with decaying tone generators. Harris’s rattling percussion and bell chimes can’t help but recall The Seer (a record on which, incidentally, Frost is credited with “fire”). Tim Hecker provides “sound design” and post-production for A U R O R A as a whole and, by happenstance or design, it shows here.

The pure noise of the 91-second raver “Diphenyl Oxalate” (glowstick juice to you and me) brings to mind the likes of The Haxan Cloak, its black jazz screeches from somewhere unholier still. Led by Richter scale drumming and more of those defining chimes the masterfully composed “Secant” reels from acerbic doom-techno to peels of elemental feedback. Equally cleverly constructed, “Sola Fide” fizzes like a live jack port as compressed detonations and blunt force drums devour any hope of escape, while the undertow of sub-bass and frenetic percussion in “A Single Point of Blinding Light” climax like the height of battle between good and evil.

A U R O R A is a record that makes you feel tiny, yet for all its power rarely does Frost let the handbrake off. There’s as much measure and thought here as anything he’s done before. Think of what he could have done if he had really wanted to wake the dead.

Best tracks: “Nolan” and “Secant”

~A U R O R A is out now on Mute.~