Sydney Morning Herald FEBRUARY 2, 2015 - by Annabel Ross


Ben Frost has visited Melbourne often since moving to Reykjavik ten years ago, but until now it's been mostly for leisure.

"A trip home is usually associated with time off," says the musician, who performed at Hobart's MONA FOMA and in Sydney earlier this month.

"I played at the Opera House... I think the last time I played in Sydney it was in a basement in Redfern, and then it's two thousand people at the Opera House. It's a pretty big jump."

You're not about to hear Frost on commercial radio (and neither would he want you to) but over the past decade the thirty-four-year-old has produced a series of acclaimed releases, written film scores and operas and been mentored by Brian Eno.

His music is often associated with violence, and the swathes of feedback, aggressive percussion and abrasive synthesisers heard on his most recent album, Aurora, are both unsettling and strangely beautiful.

Frost, who studied fine art after leaving school, says he's always been attracted to atypical sounds.

"I do have memories of always being very attracted towards extremities, whether it was a shift in volume or whatever it was, I always had an eye or ear that was drawn towards work that pulled away from the middle in one way or another."

When asked if he ever indulges in some of the "middle of the road shit" he was exposed to as a teenager, Frost quotes a German film director.

"I think it was [Werner] Herzog who said 'don't avert your gaze from the things that disgust you'. I tried to take on that, especially recently and kind of stare into the abyss and plough my way through a Taylor Swift record."


"I think there's a lot of lessons in pop music. It reveals a lot about people and reveals a lot about the state that we're living in and allows me in some way to turn that back on itself," he says.

"I think it's important to me to keep my ear tuned in to that if only to know that that's not the way."

The way, for Frost, includes a trip to the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo with photographer and filmmaker Richard Mosse. Frost provided the sound for The Enclave Project - an art installation that premiered at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and featured Mosse's hyper-real photography paired with Frost's recordings from the war-torn country.

It was while in the Congo that Frost also wrote Aurora, via "a series of stolen moments playing around in a laptop in the car".

"A lot of the time it was me burying myself in work for a little while as a way of distracting myself from what was going on around me," he says.

Some people have described Frost's music as cinematic, as "lost scores for unmade films." He says it's anything but.

"Good film music is by and large something that is missing something because it's part of a bigger picture; it's a counterpart."

"Something like Aurora, there's no room left in there for anything else."

In 2010, Frost was the recipient of a one-year mentorship under Brian Eno. The pair, who have become friends, ended up working together on a reimagined score and "film manipulations" for the 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky film Solaris, but it wasn't an exchange focussed on outcomes.

"That was always the funniest aspect of the whole thing, this almost automatic expectation that it would result in this kind of by-product, like of course there'll be an album, or of course they'll tour together and to me that's so unnecessary," says Frost.

"I think if Brian and I share anything it is a kind of economy of ideas... he encourages me to keep pushing the envelope."

Ben Frost plays at the Hi-Fi on February 5.