Ben Frost explores new realms

The artist’s ambient and eerie soundscapes will chill you to the bone

From behind the mast of a U.S. Naval aircraft carrier, an X-47b drone drifts like a slow blade through the clear blue sky. It is unmanned and unfeeling, a stark and minimalist act of geometry coming in for landing. It is the paragon of modern death, and comes accompanied by the vicious, unearthly sound of engines and steel piercing through the cold November wind.

Death Is Elsewhere is an entirely wordless 8-and-a-half minute documentary film hosted on Vimeo, depicting the aforementioned aircraft touching down in slow motion aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Nov. 10, 2013. It was created by director/producer, Richard Mosse, cinematographer/editor, Trevor Tweeten, and sound recordist, composer, and designer Ben Frost. Your level of enchantment with the awful sound the drone makes as it descends and, in general, with the theme and emotional impact of the video is probably a good indicator of the potential enjoyment you’ll derive from the artistic efforts of this last.

Broadly, Frost’s music can be defined as “fearsome,” much like the prospect of a computer-operated killing machine hovering noisily outside your window. His soundscapes are dense and dynamic, rolling seamlessly from stark, minimalist landscapes to towering, jagged symphonies of abrasive catharta.

Most songs find their logical centre only at the far bottom of the mix, coalescing around a warped, broken rhythm, or otherwise at the very top, driven — or rather kept stationary — by a calculated metallic blink in the middle distance. It is ambient music at its very best: moody and hypnotic when it wants to be. It’s also more than able to lever your soul into a state of sustained chthonic euphoria when the sounds at work seem to come to that consensus.

Because that’s just it, Ben Frost possesses that rare genius for letting the tools he operates make decisions; apparently at their own volition. This is especially evident on his newest LP. A U R O R A is a consistently phenomenal work that feels less like an album and more like a tour through an icy industrial wasteland on some as-yet unknown deliriant drug. “Nolan,” the second track on the album, kicks open the door with all the reckless animosity we might expect from a hyperconscious cyborg of that name. It settles down or flourishes like the whims of a diseased and ambitious psyche confronted with the insurmountable laws of nature. We are filled with dread but also with a strange hope, derived from an inescapable emotional and physical sympathy. The beat works on our muscle memory as the spirals of beautiful noise turn our gaze toward the conditional worlds of the dream.

Frost’s live shows usually consist of him behind a set of laptops and keyboards with two full-kit drummers on either side and extensive lighting. That alone is enough to foretell an insane evening. He plays this Wednesday, Oct. 22 at La Sala Rossa.

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