Album Review: Ben Frost - Threshold Of Faith
At least on A U R O R A - Ben Frost’s last proper album – he gave us a moment to brace ourselves through the slow build of opening track ‘Flex’ before the pulverising impact of ‘Nolan’. His latest release Threshold Of Faith might not be an album, but it’s not to be overlooked either, as it makes abundantly clear within the opening seconds, as a sledgehammer of noise embraces your eardrums, curdling quickly into feedback. It’s an unforgiving beginning, and a sign of what’s to come on the EP, which will likely perturb fans hoping for more of the tribal percussion and fluorescent synth melodies of his last album, but thrill those who come to Frost’s work for the noise.
As a partner in crime for Threshold Of Faith, Frost enlisted infamous Shellac frontman and producer Steve Albini. Albini is famously known to produce dozens of records a year, not being too picky about who he works with, so whether he had any particular inclination towards working with Frost (or knew of him at all) is unclear, but the partnership is a fruitful one. Frost certainly knew what he was getting himself into when he booked two weeks of studio time with Albini, and has used the seasoned producer to help him cultivate pulsating and imposing caverns of sound. With Steve Albini “BEHIND THE GLASS… COMMITT[ING] LIVE PERFORMANCES TO TAPE; SLASHING AT THEM INTERMITTENTLY WITH A RAZORBLADE,” Threshold Of Faith manages to be monolithic, despite its relatively slight 27 minutes.
On the opening title track and the following ‘Eurydice’s Heel (Hades)’, the melodious elements of his previous releases have been pushed right to the peripheries, where they glint like the moon peeking out from behind an iceberg. ‘Threshold Of Faith’ sounds like a highly pressurised room that might blow at any second, with synths being throttled and loosed, like a sinister gas leak. ‘Eurydice’s Heel’ sprays harsh streams of synthesizer and guitar feedback across the canvas, but as the noise pushes outwards you can hear the sweet, high-pitched twinkle that adorn the edges of the sound – so pristine is the focus on the contours of the production. ‘The Beat Don’t Die In Bingo Town’ is one of the most interesting pieces here, as it plays with the texture of the undercurrent of synths, subverting their smoothness for something grainy; the hypnotic effect makes the two minutes pass all too quickly. Even amidst the relaxed glimmer of ‘Threshold Of Faith (Your Own Blood)’, it is the guttural bass breathing quietly that forms the centre of the song, with the reverberating notes being scattered to the outside.
The most spacious sounding tracks on Threshold Of Faith come from the couple of outsider mixes of ‘All That You Love Will Be Eviscerated’, where Frost has put his work in the hands of others. First up is the ‘Albini Swing Version’ of ‘All That You Love Will Be Eviscerated’ (a title worth writing out in full again), which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t swing whatsoever, but rather floats past on a subtle string of feedback, adorned with gleaming chimes all about. The result is akin to floating slowly down a stream at night, with only fireflies and the odd lantern illuminating the way. The second version of ‘All That You Love Will Be Eviscerated’ comes as a remix from Texan producer Lotic, and it sounds wholly different to Albini’s version. The same chimes can be heard in the mix, but the main focal point of the song is the chopped and splattered percussion that Lotic brings to the song – the only real drums to be heard on the entire release. This doesn’t make the Lotic remix feel out of place, as the luminous and sky-searing elements of Frost’s sound are still well intact amidst it all.
Threshold Of Faith is an odd release in Ben Frost’s catalogue at this point, as more music from the sessions with Albini is likely on the cards (apparently there are at least two hours of recorded material). Whether it will be another EP release like this, or whether this is merely a precursor to a more album-oriented release is unknown, and makes it hard to know how to place this in his oeuvre. That’s not to say that Threshold Of Faith is not worthwhile, as it absolutely is – engrossing you from first hammer blow to last squeak – but rather on the contrary: it just increases impatience for more music from the Icelandic composer.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 4th August 2017.