A cinematic sensibility pervades this album, whose darkly surreal sound- world owes as much to David Lynch as it does to David Lang. However the word “cinematic” is used to describe music so lazily and so often that it requires narrow definition before saying that Ben Frost’s BY THE THROAT is HIGHLY “cinematic.”
This album is expansive and borrows from the grandeur of cinema but stops short of using the clichéd symphonic gestures of hollywood in order to make its emotional points. Instead it is “cinematic” in the sense which harmonies are designed not to call attention to themselves, but to create an atmosphere of unease while focusing the audience’s attention on a whole other level of drama.
Aside from the purely musical language of harmony and melody, like Amiina’s strings on “Leo needs a new pair of shoes”, there’s the level of musique concrète; the weaving of nonmusical sounds into the musical fabric. We hear the snarling of wolves and the groaning of lions in “Killshot”, the microscopic clicking and whirring of hunting killer whales in “Through the roof of your mouth” and the unmistakable sound of a human gasping for breath in “Híbakúsja”. Then there’s the sheer physical experience, the literally visceral effect of Frost’s seismic rhythms and high-pitched shrieks on your body. These extra-harmonic elements are not just effects to punctuate the musical narrative in BY THE THROAT, but are integral, unifying motifs.
Borgar Magnason’s menacing doublebass growls throughout BY THE THROAT, and is often so distorted it transforms the instrument into pure bestial noise, the brass choirs of “Peter Venkman” are recorded so closely that they almost transform into pure human breath. And just as these voices slide away from “notes” and “harmony” to become concrete sound-images—the meanings of these images rattle around and collide into each other, never truly representing each other or any one simple thing, but instead form a whole language of gasping and howling, gut-punching bass snarling metal.
And using this language—the way that, for instance, an auteur of surreal cinema might use a similarly layered, not-quite-distinct vocabulary of literal, symbolic, and abstract imagery—Frost tells a story we can’t quite articulate, but which we can feel, profoundly and unmistakably.
-Adapted from liner notes by Daniel Johnson
Ben Frost took the spotlight and smashed it to pieces in 2007 with his breathtaking and critically acclaimed Lp Theory of Machines. Wire Magazine said “it is simply awesome— this is Arvo Pärt as arranged by Trent Reznor”, the BBC’s Mary Anne Hobbs called it “arresting and exquisite”. Boomkat named Frost “one of the most interesting and groundbreaking producers in the world today” and even went so far as to call Theory of Machines “the future of electronic music”.
3 years later, Frost has returned with his second Lp for Bedroom Community, BY THE THROAT. Where Theory of Machines came sterilized in fluorescent light, BY THE THROAT is blood red and cloaked in shadow.
BY THE THROAT Produced by Ben Frost and Valgeir Sigurðsson (Björk, Coco Rosie, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) Features performances by Amiina, The Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara, the Swedish metal outfit Crowpath and composer Nico Muhly.