Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Ben Frost / Khate

By The Throat – Ben Frost

Pareidolia - Khate

It’s very dark around here, sonically-speaking. I like it that way.
This is predominantly electronic music, but sewn into the frabric of both albums there are strings, flutes, horns, bowed cello...clanging bells...voices (one in a foreign language, another as if calling on the radio from out in space)...and howling wolves, snarling wolves, which on Ben Frost’s ‘The Carpathians’ create a mood of terror that fully exploits our fear.
Despite the title, Frost’s album does not grab you by the throat. It stalks like that pack of wolves, and when it erupts into aural violence, it's like something crawling out of the dark rather than flying, fangs bared, at your face.
What you learn after one listen is that even the gentler sounds of a simple harp or piano riff are lulling you into a false sense of security because no sooner have you been allowed to relax than something raw and evil creeps out of the undergrowth.
Frost has not created a diverse selection to savour, but more of a complete concept involving recurring sound motifs and that atmosphere of solemn dread. Sounds re-emerge in mutated forms...persistently preying on our preconceptions, our expectations, perhaps, of what an album should offer. This one is all the better for presenting one very menacing vision.

Likewise, Khate creates a unified concept of sound which refuses to be bright, merry, rhythm-driven or corralled into a generic cliché of electronic music. Her darkness may, in one sense, be lighter than Frosts, but only in that it’s not as caustic. The mood throughout, though, is joyously downbeat, which is not to say dull or depressing.
Cheekily, she contrasts the cavernous heartbeat and solemn tones of ‘Love’ with what sounds like the sampled, looped guitar riff from Marley’s ‘Could You Be Loved’ around the halfway mark. It’s the closest this album gets to being light-hearted or ‘funky’.
As the strings of the last track, ‘Comforting The Meat’, float free of harmony’s gravity whilst metal clangs in the distance and digital beasts chatter, I can think of no finer testimony to the pleasure of exploratory sound.

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