Ben Frost is a strange staple in the world of experimental music. His songs are, for the most part, something that would be considered danceable. The synthesiser-heavy minimalist pieces have been taken in by the world of dance culture despite essentially fitting snugly into the genre of ‘noise’; and so, the fact that this Icelandic noise artist has lent his pieces from his most recent album A U R O R A to several players on the EDM scene isn’t all that shocking. The EP, dubbed V A R I A N T, has pulled in artists from all over the world attempting to make Frost’s work their own, which begs the question: how can you maintain a track’s original integrity if it was minimalist to begin with?
V A R I A N T is a remix album of A U R O R A at heart, though the idea of remixing Frost’s work seems like an oxymoron at the best of times. The minimalist tone that he sets with only two synthesisers somewhat limits the direction of where a remix EP can go. V A R I A N T seems to prove this, with nearly every track following the same structure while the others struggle to try and create something at least somewhat accessible from the niche materials they must work with. There’s a build, a drop, a sudden blaring of harsh noise, and then, a repeat of that for five minutes.
This being said, all of the grime does have one segment of goodness to it, and that goodness comes through HTRK’s mix of the A U R O R A track ‘Venter’. The song plateaus fairly early on, with a melange of dark yet bubbling synths comprising most of the sound. However, in the background the track fizzles and morphs, gaining detail as it goes along. While the instrumentation still reeks of Frost’s touch, the arrangement itself is wholly similar to the rest of HTRK’s offerings, strangely floaty and yet still as dark as its original incarnation. Sitting comfortably in the middle of the album, the piece ends up an interesting intermission in a song we’ve all heard before.
That being said, the arrangements themselves are fairly interesting adaptions of Frost’s work. You can hear pieces of each artists’ influences within the tracks themselves, such as the dark ambience of Kangding Ray’s mix of ‘No Sorrowing’, which slides its way through all his works. Likewise, HTRK’s disconnected dream pop seeps its way throughout his contribution to the release. Dutch E Germ even manages to make the instrumentation go from an ethereal, haunting art piece into something that could be played between sets at Stereosonic, and while it’s up to you to determine if that’s something you wanted, Germ must be commended for proving that it is actually possible. Put simply – despite all of these little differences in instrumentation and tone and such; you can still see what is coming in the track from the very first note.
V A R I A N T was released on December 9th through Bedroom Community.