Ben Frost does frightening and hypnotic and frighteningly hypnotic on Black Marrow, another album from the Australian-born, Iceland-based ambient/electronic producer/composer/performer. It’s been a busy few years for Frost, making dance music – as in, actually scoring music for rehearsed dance pieces, creating soundtracks and sound experiments – mostly focussing on music that sits away and outside of the album format. Black Marrow is a return to the strengths and menace he offered on 2009’s By The Throat. It surges and creeps, in much the same way as recent nocturnally stirring music from Chris Abrahams of The Necks, Tim Hecker and The Haxan Cloak – forget Burial, this is the sound of the buried, as if Lustmord was asked to provide his ideas to score a new version of The Howling.
The snarls of wolves across the opening brace of The Lake and Undulating Beast is most unsettling, disturbing, disquieting – in fact it’s not until a third of the way into third track, Carbon Vessel Motherfucker, that some relief arrives, icy particles of sound, frost-bitten shards of guitar-shapes cut into the music with glistening keyboard lines and harp, Penguin Cafe Orchestra reinterpreting the music of Sigur Ros perhaps.
And then to a mechanical lurch for Metal On Skin, a stomping march, that is Reznor-like in its intensity and razor-sharp before we move toward the Eno-like strokes that are always somewhere inside Frost’s work.
Finally, some respite, the final three tracks of the album offer hope, a clearing, survival; they seem to soundtrack the nauseous, anxious moments on the other side – through the horror, away from the scene, waiting now for the rescuers, hanging on, hoping, breath gathering itself back toward the normal rate.
This is a stunning piece of dark ambient mood play. Ugly and beautiful in equal measures.