Red Filter Sounds loves covering up and coming artists, allowing them a chance to be heard and be found. But there comes a time when we have to highlight established performers who simply put, make amazing music. Consequently a regular feature here will be RFS Profiles, a chance for us to remind the world of musical excellence by someone you may or may not already know.
There’s something intangibly appropriate about Ben Frost leaving Australia for Iceland. Maybe it’s because his name is Frost. Perhaps it’s because Iceland has produced some of the most unique recent musicians , such as Sigur Rós or Björk. Simply stated, it’s easy to imagine Iceland’s cold beauty as the backdrop to each of Frost’s songs. Frost himself has told the Reykjavík Grapevine that his emigration, as much as anything, a fascination with the culture of northern Europe combined with the opportunity to work with a future collaborator, Valgeir Sigurðsson. That, and the fact that Melbourne was “too f*****g hot.”
Frost is the epitome of the modern experimental musician. His work is constantly evolving and reflective of a person who frequently finds himself intrigued by something new. Consequently, he is the rare listen where you might see classical minimalism juxtaposed against metal and punk music.
Born in 1980 in Melbourne, Australia, Frost first made himself known by self-debuting his first EP, Music for Sad Children. After working with the School of Emotional Engineering, a steady rise lead him to join the record label and collective Bedroom Community in Iceland.
Over the course of his career, Frost has released three major LPs, in addition to other collaborative efforts. The first was the well received Theory of Machines. It was delicately arranged and featured a variety of guitar textures, vintage rhythms and a heavy, ethereal intensity. The title track that leads the album off ended up setting the standard for compositions.
Two years later, Frost increased the level of intensity with By The Throat. The aptly titled album has some teeth to it, along with a level of eerie-ness that will make you shift uncomfortably in your seat. It’s as if Jack Nicholson’s Shining character joined Leonardo DiCaprio in the Revenant, to serve as the latter film’s surprise antagonist. It’s a brilliant bit of instrumental, textural doom that is well groomed by Frost’s further fascination with sound art and design.
After the success of By the Throat, Frost explored the world he created and decided to expand upon it. He was mentored for a year by synth great Brian Eno and collaborated with Daniel Bjarnason to create Solaris, a pseudo-soundtrack to vintage sci-fi reel of the same name by Andrei Tarkovsky. This led to soundtracks for In Her Skin and Sleeping Beauty, both brooding psychological dramas, in 2011. By the time 2012 had rolled around, Frost was on his way to the Democratic Republic of Congo to document its blood feud as part of an art/sound installation with Richard Mosse. It was exhibited at the Vienna Biennale in 2013.
The time off between LPs shifted Frost’s sound. By the time he returned to the studio, this time for Aurora, he was focused on African percussion and the hand of Eno’s synthesizers. Aurora is more streamlined, percussive and electronic than Frost’s previous works, but just as heavy a listen. Musical meta-presence AllMusic considers it his finest work to date.
A U R O R A aims directly, through its monolithic construction, at blinding luminescent alchemy; not with benign heavenly beauty but through decimating magnetic force.
This is no pristine vision of digital music, it is a filthy, uncivilized offering of interrupted future time where emergency flares illuminate ruined nightclubs and the faith of the dancefloor rests in a diesel-powered generator spewing forth its own extinction, eating rancid fuel so loudly it threatens to overrun the very music it is powering.
If you want the chance to catch Frost live this year, you only have a couple of options in the US, currently. Both occur in the middle of May, where he will appear in Chicago and then hop over to Durham, Illinois for MoogFest.