Press Reviews for BY THE THROAT
- All Music
- Bearded Magazine
- SF Weekly
- In Your Speakers
- Drowned in Sound
- The 405
- Headphone Commute
- Forest Gospel
- The Silent Ballet
- The Silent Ballet
- Everything is Chemical
- The Milk Factory
- Word - Like a Scientist
Maybe it's By the Throat , the savagery-suggesting name of the fifth LP by Australia-born, Iceland-based producer Ben Frost, that gives the album its menacing reputation. Perhaps it's the three wolves stalking its cover, the threatening title appropriately scrawled above in a slanted, action-film font. Or it could simply be the music, which doles out new anxieties with each turn: The harsh noise and dissonant strings lashing above and around the beat of "Peter Venkman Pt. I". Or, on "Leo Needs a New Pair of Shoes", where howling wolves surround and overtake the rustle of a gentle chamber ensemble. Wolves again harmonize against the screech of a violin on "The Carpathians". From aggressive visage to animal vocals, By the Throat is, as another reviewer said, "dread-inducing music."
No equivocation necessary, By the Throat is a sinister album, full of moments that rattle cores with sound (play it loud) and sound effects (beware those wolves). But Frost's work is more than a hall of terrors: These vivid instrumentals, which seem menacing at first, also feel somehow triumphant when heard again – new details becoming more crucial. By the Throat might frighten on the first listen, and it might shock by the 12th. But, somewhere in between, Frost – both a compelling new musical dramaturge and arranger – might just show you the silver lining of all these fears.
Blending musique concrète samples with exorbitant electronic production and the guest work of string quartet Amiina and composer Nico Muhly, Frost pulls ideas from sources far and wide-- his instrumental work bears traces of radio rock, heavy metal, rap. The closing triptych moves between metal, dark-wave, hip-hop, and harsh-noise influences, cycling them all through a bustle-and-collapse template that has as much to do with Aphex Twin as it does experimental composer Anton Webern. So, if "Through the Glass of the Roof" first sounds like a busted jungle track, it sounds more like black metal deliverance by the time "Through the Roof of Your Mouth" begins. That midsection, in turn, suggests Cluster, Radiohead, and Merzbow. And when it collapses into a sheet of harsh noise, Frost restores the bassline for the finale, "Through the Mouth of Your Eye". He isolates the bass, slows it down and eventually lets it drift away under cover of a few shrieking string parts, again deflecting the question of what matters most.
Nowhere is the push and pull between muted triumph and tempered menace more apparent than on "Peter Venkman Pts. I and II", named for Bill Murray's Ghostbusters character. During "Pt. I", a chorus of horns and voices rise and fall through that razing static, moving in uneven arcs through broken rhythms. In "Pt. II", though, the voices grow and overcome the noise. The horns stretch out like steady winds, sometimes foreboding and low; loops of dulcimers, banjos, and bells float over the long tones, battling through wolf growls and bass throbs to float, at last, above the horns. Frost leaves it to the audience to pick favorites and winners.
Listeners often relegate instrumental music into a series of intrinsic, reductive modifiers-- a drone is meditative, you know, and harsh noise is just mean. Post-rock is cinematic and sweeping, while finger-picked acoustic guitar music is nostalgic and ruminative. Unfairly, pop songs alone get the privilege of simultaneous juxtaposition. That is, Elliott Smith and Brian Wilson can sing heartbreaking words above bright, shining music, and we laud its bittersweet complexity. But when's the last time you heard someone argue for ecstatic noise (consider Fuck Buttons) or busy drones (see Rhys Chatham's A Crimson Grail)? Probably never. By the Throat demands those kinds of complex distinctions, though. Its radiance is a dark one, and its most sinister moments lead to deliberate calm.
Pitchfork (March 5th 2010)
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BY THE THROAT
Released on 9 November 2009
Theory of Machines
Released on 5 February 2007
On the web
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