Review Summary: Captivating stuff , experimental, dark and brooding. Fantastic
Icelandic music seems to be taking over my life at the moment. Ok, Ben Frost was born in Melbourne so isn't technically Icelandic. He has, however, lived in Reykjavik for over two years now and some of that Scandinavian magic must have rubbed off in him. It was in Iceland's capital that he met "Theory of Machines" collaborator Valgeir Sigurðsson. Coming to prominence through the severely limited "Steel Wound" LP, and thrust into the limelight via remixing duties for Björk, Frost has created "Theory of Machines" and it is a jaw-dropping effort that ambigiously mixes noise-rock, dirty and distorted electronica and apocalyptic synths. Released on the close-knit Bedroom Community label, Boomkat recently hailed "Theory of Machines" as 'the future of electronic music'. For once believe the hype, Frost is the real deal.
The 10 minute title track sets the tone immediately, summoning Aphex Twin's non-conformist spirit as slow drones drip from your sound system, they are over-lapped with cascading string arrangements. Layers upon layers of distortion are heaped into the mix, like the sound of a million machines about to wage war on all mankind. We get our first taste of Frost's fragmented programming abilities around the 5 minute mark with some immense hazardous, broken beat work. "Stomp", meanwhile, comes across like Autechre on anti-deperessants. Its all clicks and cuts and dynamic basslines. Some Thurston Moore style lo-fi guitar work edges its way in with those fragmented beats, before subsiding. Leaving us with an ominous sounding build-up of synths that evokes images of barren wastelands.
The stunning "We Love You Michael Gira", a tribute to the Young God Records owner (and former Swans member), follows and displays Frost's arbitary approach to making music. The rule book is completely torn-up and shredded during this pioneering track. Ill-boding synths slowly unfurl as obscured noises and bleeps float around them. A lonely piano note can be heard in the distance as ear-shredding static scratches across the mix. Those scratches develop into crashing waves of ruptured beatwork and interference, like the sounds of ghosts trying to break free from your sound system.
The noise-rock interlude of "Coda" offers only a brief respite, as "Forgetting You Is Like Breathing Water" throws the listener straight back in, head first. Returning to the dark and epic terrains of previous tracks, it comes across like a more subdued version of that collaboration between Japan's Mono and World's End Girlfriend. The brass section towards the end provides a fitting climax to this spectacular album. In the early 90's Autechre redefined the boundaries of electronica, through "Incunabula". With "Theory of Machines", Frost has smashed those boundaries into a million little pieces.