Review Summary: Wrapped in your own monochordic chaos.
Music producer, multi-instrumentalist and soundtrack composer. Ben Frost is all of the three, so from here one can definetely verify that Frost is a hard-working, varied artist, capable of writing diverse compositions and creating different soundscapes, as well as a very busy man. Mentionable and respectable are his credits on the production of Swans' 2012 album "The Seer", as well as various film soundtracks he's been making throughout the 5-year gap between his 2009 outing "By The Throat" and his new full-length record, "A U R O R A".
The question here is, what does "A U R O R A" sound like?
This album showcases a different compositional capacity from Ben Frost. As "By The Throat" was a record that dabbled in the syles of chamber, experimental, minimalistic, ambient and drone music (a style remniscent of artists like groundbreaker Tim Hecker), and ranged from intricate musical compositions to abrasive noisiness, it's successor is stylistically much more narrow and less diverse than BTT, swelling with synthetical and harsh elements of Ben's compositional skills. Embracing heavy sounds and influences ranging from noise, to break and industrial music, the Australian producer's music seems to lack a melodic sense in "A U R O R A", making for a one-dimensional atmosphere composed by gritty production, fat and noisy synthetizers, as well as heartless electronic music.
The problem does not reside on this formula. There are tons of electronic music acts that use this formula, along with incredible textures and melodic layers found on these projects' work. But "A U R O R A"'s sound gets suffocated in all it's noise, all it's darkness and all it's fuzz and distortion, not allowing any of these mentioned textures and layers occupy space into the album's music. And a one-dimensional album can become underwhelming, as well as really, really tedious.
For an experimental/ambient record, there are very few moments where the listener can feel engaged, mystified and take part in an out-of-body experience. "A U R O R A" is harmless at occupying the listener's subconscious and taking him/her to different places, and it is completely transparent in relation to what it really is. The sounds brought to you by Ben Frost in this record mostly lack a sense of coherence, catchiness or colourfulness that was evident in the composer's last record 5 years ago. For example, the song "Nolan", is unbelievably spazzic and chaotic, as well as composed by different instrument sections: hard-hitting drums, synth leads, bells, a drone hanging in the background. But the mix of these sounds ends up being monotonous and incoherent. And about coherence, "A U R O R A"'s album flow is nearly unexistent: there's nothing significant in the complementary function of these songs towards one another (like a football team composed by individualist MVP's that don't pass the ball to one another and that don't have any sort of game tactic or strategy plan); it's too all-over-the-place and uncohesive, making an even more awkward and tedious experience brought to you by a mixbag album that doesn't take the listener's emotions anywhere.
Taking in count that "A U R O R A" is a mixed bag of non-diversified ideas, there are actually some bright spots here (although not brilliant by any means). For example, the song "Secant" is one of the more focus-sounding songs in "A U R O R A", outshining most of it's material with the song's massive drum beats, dissonant and fat bass lines and the exploited and gloomy reverb. But as the song progresses and gets louder and more intense, we end up getting a track that is shrill, ear-piercing and, once again, tedious. Or "Venter", "A U R O R A"'s most valuable song: slow-burning, tension-building, atmosphere-generating, a pace remniscent of some moments of the Ben Frost-co-produced Swans album "The Seer", climaxing in a noisy ending that sounds much more focused than everything else in this album.
Unfortunately, the bright spots of "A U R O R A" ultimately fail in the task of saving this record from it's own darkness, and with this metaphor written, there is no bright enough light at the end of the dark, fuzzy and contentless tunnel that is Ben Frost's new effort. The ideas are all here, but this time they're not dabbling through your Ben Frost electronic symphonies and soaring through while creating different soundscapes and brilliant ideas applied flawlessly; this time they're buried deep under the Australian producer's now-solid ground.
Please, don't let them rot, Ben.