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Press Reviews for BY THE THROAT

By The Throat is why I want to spend the rest of my life writing about music. There is an incredible feeling that comes along when you hear an album that you don’t want to put into words, not because it is some

euphoric, beautiful or joyful experience but because it literally pins you to your chair and does not let you come up for a breath. This is an album to be lived in. Avant-garde composer Ben Frost has completed something that is as equally terrifying as it is breathtaking, as claustrophobic as it is expansive, and as squarely rooted in the 21st century as it is timeless.

An Australian native, Ben Frost has been channeling the frozen expanses of his adopted home of Iceland for four years now. Frost is easily one of the most creative forces working between the margins of classical music, electronic and noise. Following his critically-lauded 2007 release Theory of Machines, and a Risk-like takeover of almost every continent, Ben Frost returns with a diverse list of sonic co-conspirators ranging from NY Golden-boy Nico Muhly to Swedish Death Metal band Crowspath, as well as Arcade Fire drummer, Jeremy Gara, and Iceland¹s best string quartet, Amiina. Ben Frost returns to thickly processed waves of brutal noise processed through the nihilism of Black Metal over classical compositions and ephemeral electronics. Sort of like Machinefabriek remixing a Sunno))) track, or Swans recording with William Basinski.

Images of teeth-baring wolves stalk the front cover and provide moments of loaded punctuation to an equally teeth-baring screed of processed noise. By The Throat never really lets you come up for air. Compositions move from ominous to downright terror-inducing in the blink of an eye. The album opener, ³Killshot² starts with layers of skittering electronics until a tidal-wave of harsh noise overcomes your headphones. The move is so deliberate and ferocious you literally feel the sound being sucked in from all available outlets to announce the initial noise burst. The most ominous and understated track on the album is ³The Carpathians,² a three-minute ambient piece punctuated by howling and snarling wolves, manically bowed

strings, and waves of thick processed guitars over the low rumble of pounded major chords on a deeply buried piano. The cacophony gives way to the repeated motif of a field recording of someone gasping for breath, while an EKG machine beeps menacingly in the background on the following track, ³O God Protect Me.² The breaths become more labored as the electronic beat, slowly pulsing as a heartbeat, eventually becomes more sporadic until it stops dead.

'Hibakusja' starts with a slight reprieve of mournful trumpets and plucked/strummed claviers before surrendering to darker territory. This track is the most evidently influenced by Neo-Classical composer Nico Muhly. The collaboration is spot-on with Muhly directing the repeated themes in the style of classical minimalism while Ben Frost layers heavily-processed Cellos and field recordings of fractured breathing and harsh feedback. Of everything that Nico Muhly has contributed to this year‹from Antony & the Johnsons, to Mew, to Grizzly Bear‹his collaborations with Ben Frost, not being restricted to pop music, have allowed his sophisticated melodies run their full course

Ben Frost has the uncanny ability to clearly announce his intentions, while leaving you completely stunned in the process. A super-low electronic bass hit introduces, without fail, when the track is about to make an abrupt shift between themes. Between the two tracks ³Peter Venkman Pt I and Peter Venkman Pt II,² there are about a dozen tempo changes, introductions of various instruments/sounds, and a vocal choir that comes lapping in and out of the audio field like waves. Every such change is marked by a similar low bass hit‹a pretty gutsy move seeing that most musicians shock by pulling a weak sleight-of-hand before switching up a tempo. The effect is not unexpected, but it is still awe-inspiring.

I compare this album very favorably to Sunno)))¹s last track “Alice” on Monoliths & Dimensions. ³Alice² starts off as a metal track and ends as a piece of classical music; the change comes about so subtly that it takes a few minutes to realize it has occurred. Ben Frost follows a similar course; a track that thirty seconds before was so brutal and terrifying gives way to a beautiful coda of classical music before you gather your battered senses and begin to recognize what is happening. Ben Frost moves between genres with apparent ease, and his virtuosity is displayed in each of the chosen genres, as well as in his ability to re-contextualize disparate parts into a distinct patchwork of 21st century ideas. This is minimalism for the post-apocalypse. This is the best album of 2009.

Ryan Hall

In Your Speakers (November 1st 2009)

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