From Iceland — Airwaves Special: Ben Frost

Airwaves Special: Ben Frost

Published October 6, 2007

Airwaves Special: Ben Frost

Ben Frost originally studied music in Melbourne, Australia, and began making a career as a sound artist in the great down under. Of course with a name like that Iceland was the only possible destination for a change of environment. He has based himself here for two years now and developed a solid name for himself in the local experimental music scene. He signed with the Bedroom Community label, headed by Björk’s long time collaborator Valgeir Sigurðsson, and released one album under this label ‘Theory of Machines’, which is accessible everywhere and has achieved some amazing reviews across the globe. My favourite is “Arvo Part as arranged by Trent Reznor.”

He outright refuses to be categorised but could for these purposes be likened to a composer or sound artist, creating an aesthetic or an all encompassing environment rather than reproducing a specific sound or style. And he’s not afraid to use absolutely everything within reach to create his music, slamming together instruments, tones, timbres, rhythms, noise and silence from opposite ends of the spectrum into beautiful and haunting compositions. Expect more of a complete experience created during his gigs rather than a track-by-track set. He has said that since the move to Iceland, he has noticed some dramatic changes in his music.

Travelling halfway across the globe has provided his music, unsurprisingly, a more isolated quality. That is, isolated from genre borrowing, structural considerations, and other influences that have previously tainted his unique vision. Like every artist, Ben Frost is in a constant process of refining his sound into something more internal, essential and pure. “My music has become more of itself than of its influences. It has its own space, more whole. Not built from ten different things but from its own source.”

Expect tracks of indefinite length, played live by amplified musicians then sculpted live through a laptop to his own very specific and impeccable taste. The last time he played in Iceland was in Hallgrimskirkja. He brought six Marshall stacks into the church and had six equally ominous guitar players thrashing away for the whole 10 or so minutes. I was expecting the windows to explode but with all sound diverted through his laptop an unexplainable aching sound filled the space. It was sort of like a tsunami was being poured into a tiny funnel with utmost reverence and care; a truly unique experience.

I tried to tease out a hint of what his set is going to be like at this year’s Airwaves but all I got was “I’d like to have 5 vocalists and a piano, but it could change”. Whatever it will be you can be sure it will be something you are not expecting. You can see the show in a sort of ‘Bedroom community’ night at Iðnó on Thursday the 18th, along with some other artists from the label.

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