Ben Frost Finds Music in the Oddest Places
by Larry Murray
It is like origami, but in reverse. His music doesn’t just play, it unfolds, revealing earthy sonic soundscapes. The works of Ben Frost is not easy to peg. It contains musical elements drawn from contemporary, classical, punk and rock. Yet is not truly any of these, it stands by itself as unique. Resonating with the chords of a piano….is that a whale you hear? Or a pack of wolves? Maybe both. Ben Frost’s compositions are always surprising, and while he may not fill a stadium, there’s a small studio at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that is soon to be filled with like-minded listeners looking for new experiences. They will not be disappointed when Ben Frost presents a rare live US performance in EMPAC’s Studio 1—Goodman on Thursday, February 7 at 7:30 PM.
I’m smitten. And others who make a point to share the excitement of his latest works are also likely to be swept away. Listen to his tribute to the songs of whales above, or the gritty composition suggestive of the deep woods just below.
Ben Frost’s music is not just heard; it’s felt. Influenced by classical minimalism as well as punk rock and metal, he creates monolithic sounds that command attention through their visceral intensity. Frost exploits every extreme of pitch and volume as he pushes the sound of electric guitars, drums, and laptops out from a wall of speakers and amps. As the music unfolds, overlapping layers and elongated structural forms emerge from within the encompassing sonic space.
For this performance, Frost will perform recent material never before heard in the US.
“…The emotional power of Frost’s music comes precisely from the stark contrast between extremely basic musical material and the deadly virtual instruments he invents to perform it… This is Arvo Pärt as arranged by Trent Reznor.” — Wire Magazine, 2007
The music of Ben Frost is about contrast; influenced as much by Classical Minimalism as by Punk Rock and Metal, Frost’s throbbing guitar-based textures emerge from nothing and slowly coalesce into huge, forbidding forms that often eschew conventional structures in favor of the inevitable unfoldings of vast mechanical systems.
On albums like Steel Wound, released on the Room40 label in 2003 (Pitchfork: “An exemplary ambient experience”), Theory of Machines on Bedroom Community in 2007 (Boomkat: “The Future of electronic music…”) and 2009’s BY THE THROAT (NME: “a hollow, unforgiving, brutal yet utterly beautiful record, full of deep intricacies that won’t let you go.”), Frost’s music is more than a cerebral exercise and has an undeniable visceral presence, felt as much as heard. His compositions are created with an acute awareness of the listener and their comfort thresholds, exploiting every extreme of pitch and volume. His notorious, building-shaking performances at international festivals including Montreal’s famed MUTEK combine amplified electronics with the furious thrashing of live guitars. Frost himself has been described as “one of the most interesting and groundbreaking producers in the world today” (Boomkat). His music’s intense physicality has filled gallery spaces and driven contemporary dance productions by Chunky Move, the Icelandic Dance Company, and the acclaimed choreographers Erna Ómarsdottír and Wayne McGregor.
Tickets are $18 general admission; $13 non-Rensselaer students, seniors, and Rensselaer faculty + staff; and $6 Rensselaer students (must provide ID for discounted tickets).
More information can be found on the EMPAC website: empac.rpi.edu. Questions? Call the EMPAC Box Office: 518.276.3921.