Sounds of rapturous tension: Ben Frost

Fresh off his latest album for Mute Records, The Centre Cannot Hold, we’re taking a look at some of the artist’s countless works and projects before he takes stage at Salon IKSV Istanbul and at this year’s Le Guess Who?.

Text byLeyla AksuIllustration byBerkay Dağlar

Flooding listeners with intricate and engulfing minimalist electronic constructions of sound space, Australian composer and producer Ben Frost has been captivating with amorphous experimentations since his debut release in 2001. Now based out of Rejkjavik, Frost has continuously participated in collaborations and partnerships across various disciplines of art, weaving his sounds into the worlds of photography, dance, television, film, and opera, with provocative and disruptively visceral projects. Fresh off his latest album for Mute Records, The Centre Cannot Hold, we’re taking a look at some of the artist’s countless works and projects before he takes stage at Salon IKSV on November 1 and this year’s Le Guess Who?.

— Coming to music from a visual arts background, Frost shared his first EP, Music for Sad Children, back in 2001. With his instrumental takes, equal parts industrial, ambient, and classical, initially more traditional in structure yet marked by his signature sonic tension, Frost then relocated his creative home to Iceland shortly after.

— Frost’s evolving aural experiences, each with its own accompanying visual palette, came to greater attention with 2006’s Theory of Machines, followed by 2009’s widely acclaimed and snarling By the Throat, displaying a shifting balance between the synthetic and organic with each subsequent release.

— Seemingly continuously productive, he has collaborated with a wide array of diverse musicians to date, including Nico Muhly, Thor Harris, Tim Hecker, Colin Stetson, Greg Fox, and Shahzad Ismaily. Taking part in a most fitting and intriguing pairing in 2010, Frost also embarked upon a yearlong mentorship and inspirational partnership with legendary producer, musician, and artist Brian Eno.

— Commissioned by Unsound Festival, also in 2010, Frost then got together with Daníel Bjarnason, a fellow artist from the Icelandic music collective Bedroom Community, to create the audio-visual experience SÓLARIS. Taking a morphed, adaptive, and internal approach to the Stanislaw Lem and Andrei Tarkovsky classic, their new soundtrack was accompanied by the Sinfonietta Cracovia, as well as tampered visuals by Brian Eno and Nick Robinson.

— Over the years, Frost has created work for pieces performed by the Icelandic Dance Company, Chunky Move, and for choreographer Wayne McGregor, his soundscapes melting into movement and experimental multimedia experiences, such as with FAR and Black Marrow.

— A couple of Frost’s other regular visual collaborators now include photographer Richard Mosse and cinematographer Trevor Tweeten. Travelling together to the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo for the striking video installation The Enclave (2013), Frost’s captured and manipulated sounds bleed over startling images utilizing jarring infrared film stock, a technology initially developed for military use. The trio would come together again the following year, embedded on a US aircraft carrier for the Channel 4 documentary Bombing Isis.

— Frost also resultantly started working on his follow-up album, 2013’s A U R O R A throughout. Marking a distinct shift in sound, with a new set of influences ranging from biology, astronomy, alchemy, and the synthetic visual designators and bioluminescent color palettes of raves, jelly fish, and data visualization, Frost’s audial offensive on dance music was followed by a release of his “V A R I A N T” EP of remixes.

— Making his first foray into stage direction that same year by adapting and inverting Iain Banks’ first-person horror novel The Wasp Factory, Frost wrote and staged the original opera with librettist David Pountney. Accompanied by Reykjavík Sinfonia and released as a recording in 2016, the project again brought on one of Frost’s previous collaborators, this time, fashion designer Boris Bidjan Saberi.

Over the years, Frost’s sounds have also made their way over, expanding into world of television and film, as he scored 2011’s independent Australian feature Sleeping Beauty, and more recently the foreboding soundtrack’s of Iceland’s The Deep, and the UK television series “Fortitude.” In 2017, Frost also lent his hand to the soundtrack for the newly released feature film, Super Dark Times.

— This year has also seen Frost partnering with Richard Mosse and Trevor Tweeten once again, this time for the engulfing and monochrome video installation Incoming. Utilizing thermal military surveillance technology, Incoming, shot across Libya, Syria, the Sahara, and the Persian Gulf, enters the ongoing refugee crisis, capturing a disorienting and harrowing view of reality.

Finally, given a glimpse of his work to come with the “Threshold of Faith” EP and an introductory video doused in luminescent blue earlier this year, Frost just recently released his latest and fifth full-length The Centre Cannot Hold. An unsettling, expanding creation soaked in building tension, the album was recorded with producer Steve Albini in Chicago over the course of ten days.

Ben Frost performs at Le Guess Who? on Saturday, 11 November, together with Pharoah Sanders, James Holden & The Animal Spirits, John Maus, Shabazz Palaces, Moon Duo, Avey Tare and many more. Full line-up and tickets can be found at the festival website.