If you are of the faint of heart. If you like your music gentle and soothing. If you like to sit back in an armchair, with a cup of tea and listen to the mellow sounds of radio 2, then this record is just not for you. Opening track ‘Killshot’ should be enough to indicate whether you can handle this record or not. Its aggression, ferocity and tension are quite an incredible marker to lay down on any opening track. It is almost like Frost laying down the gauntlet to his listeners. Asking “ can you handle this?” And this record is without a doubt a challenge, particularly when listened to on headphones or a very loud sound system. In fact, a friend of mine saw Frost live in Stirling last year and said that afterwards he felt like he’d be assaulted, such was the ferocity of the sound generated.
This is a dark, dark record. Make no mistake. At times it’s thumping. At times it’s ear piercingly loud. It is a dense piece of sonic noise music with very little in the way of respite. No real breaks from the onslaught often found on such albums. In fact, just when you think that there is a pause for breath or a moment of calm, an unexpected deafening shock wave will thunderously appear from nowhere and the onslaught of noise will begin again.
I don’t want to single out Frost and say this is a masterpiece in the use of sound as there are other artists, Tim Hecker, for example who can also be as effective with their noise mongering. However, what I would say is that this record had an immediate impact on me like no other record that I’ve listened to for a long time. It’s a fascinating piece of dark, dense music.
As I’ve spent more and more time working with ambient/noise musicians, it has been really interesting for me to see where sounds come from. Basically, any noise can be made into a musical sound if you know how. This may sound obvious, but it’s actually amazing how some artists will be sitting listening to a track and say “you know, this needs a high pitched drill” or “this needs the sound of an earthquake”. The other night at a show at St Celia’s Hall I watched a man with a cardboard box and a cello bow create the most fantastic noises and turn it into a movement of music. Though at times painful, it really was incredible to watch. A lesson in sound.
On ‘By the Throat’ Frost samples the sound of wolves growling on more than one occasion. Brilliantly though, he also mimics this sound using a double bass and other assorted sounds as well as using the real thing. In fact, after the other night, it could even be a cardboard box and cello bow making the growling noise, trust me. But it’s this attention to detail. This completely astounding understanding of sound that amazes me. I mean, I think I have a good musical ear. But this whole thing has taken me way out of my comfort zone and opened my eyes in a major way.
By The Throat should be on anyone’s recommended music list. It’s not a new record, but it is definitely one that everyone should own. Even if it’s just for the quite incredible ‘Hibakusja’ then I’d say buy it and buy it now. Check out the work of Ben Frost here. Enjoy.