Ben Frost


I think Ben Frost has change my basic constitution tonight. The Iceland-dwelling-Aussie delivers a show that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go of you until the very last shaking note. It’s quite the experience, and throughout the evening I’m never really sure whether I’m enjoying it or not, it’s so intense that it’s impossible to relax into it, and it’s so incredible loud that it’s impossible to take everything in. Oddly, for what is to follow, the music they chose before he comes on is the absolutely gorgeous new album from Grouper, and album consisting just of Liz Harris’ voice and a piano. Frost’s show couldn’t be more different, maybe he’s luring the gathered throng into a false sense of security.

His set up, to the eye, is relatively simple. Heavily hipster-bearded and floppy of slicked back hair, Frost stands in front of an array of electronic gear, a guitar casually slung around his back, whilst a live drummer sits across from him waiting for his queue to unleash a barrage of rhythm at any given time. They open with an extended intro which mainly consists of alien noises that sound like human voices twisted into dog barks against oddly soothing synths, with a strobe light flashing intermittently in the background; it’s a disconcerting start that sets the tone. From there on in, the word ‘intense’ doesn’t really do it justice. ‘Onslaught’ might be a more appropriate word, because they blow through most of Frost’s new album A U R O R A’ with barely a pause, lurching from one ear-splitting, core shaking noise collage to the next.

It’s difficult to distinguish the individual songs from each other, as they all blend into one wall of noise, expertly teased out from the machines set up in from of Frost. I can pull out ‘Venter’, a highlight from said album, with it’s cut glass synth stabs and it’s build from ‘quite loud’ to ‘fuck me loud’ towards the end, it’s twice as punishing as it is on record, and it’s monolithic to witness live. ‘Nolan’ is another one I can pull out of the mire, pulsating across its 6 minutes, twisted out of the speakers as the strobe again goes mental. I have to close my eyes to the intensity of the light show and try and take it in blind, which only adds to the sense that the music has crept into my very soul and taken up residency. Even when Frost pulls his guitar from his back to play, it’s only to add unrecognisable processed textures to the swarm of sound in his intricately created soundscapes.

As the show comes to an end, I feel exhausted. My ears and eyes have been through the mill, and it’s really difficult to say whether or not I actually enjoyed the experience. What Frost does is incredible, and in the right mood A U R O R A can be in my top ten albums released this year. I think the crucial thing is that on record, you can have a rest, get away from the harshness of the tunes Frost makes, but here, stood in Gorilla’s bunker, there is no escape and no one can hear you scream. I’m glad I was there and I’m glad I saw one of noise’s most prominent figures live, but it was hard work on a Friday night. I’ll carry on listening to his albums, but I might give his next tour a miss; to experience this once is probably enough for me.

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