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Press Reviews for Theory of Machines

It's funny how Theory of Machines seems to be all over the place, yet the music itself remains very homogeneous and the artistic direction is as precise as can be. On this album, it sounds like Ben Frost is drawing from tons of influences, which means that each listener will hear in it different things related to their own musical experience. The title track opens in post-rock style, down to the impending climax six minutes in. Yet, Theory of Machines is not a post-rock album. You might also hear death metal threads laced throughout the five cuts, and ambient stylings, Sonic Youth-esque guitar textures, a Björk-like fragility in the arrangements, an occasional surge of rhythm akin to late-vintage King Crimson, a level of intensity reminiscent of Swans, and so on. Frost does make an explicit reference to Swans' Michael Gira in the track title "We Love You Michael Gira," but the tribute is more subtle than what you might expect. The music in this track (as everywhere else on the album) is not that close to Swans' output, but it does share a common spirit, a certain understanding of the power of music. This entirely instrumental album seems to balance itself over two extremes: the assured thickness of noise guitars vs. the fragility of a string quartet (particularly in the shyly beautiful "Forgetting You Is Like Breathing Water"), and the warmth of both guitars and strings vs. the clinical, mood-killing feel of electronic sounds, especially life-support equipment (the unmistakable "beep" of the latter surfaces in two tracks, imposing a drastic change of atmosphere). An easy album this is not, as it willfully (and playfully) antagonizes the listener, but it contains unsuspected moments of beauty.

All Music (March 5th 2007) ★★★★★★★

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