By August March
Ben Frost’s compositional style has been called minimalist, noise and ambient among other appellations. In fact, he borrows freely from the respective canons of these genres to create soundscapes that are pulse-driven renderings of the angst, emptiness and cacophony of the postmodern world. Frost’s latest recording, A U R O R A begins as a slow ascent from the complacence of the dream world and all of its subconscious nuance. It builds into a compelling roar of consciousness and wide-awake anxiety. A U R O R A is all about the creation and destruction of structure; as sonic output grows in complexity, it also begins to fall apart. Relentless drumming throughout seems to signify a human heartbeat buried in the stark industrial world imagined by Frost. While the composer eschews melody, there are suggestions of such on the second track, “Nolan,” which lend a human perspective to a collection of narrative sounds that, though darkly enigmatic, indicate struggle is something to be overcome.
Röyksopp’s new five-tune collaboration with Swedish pop ingénue Robyn, Do It Again, is a bright, pulsating thing, full of sparkling yet lusty vocals and rippling keyboard flourishes, even if the lyrics on the title track border on insipid. This minor fault is more than compensated for by the inclusion of “Sayit,” a track best described as a danceable, hypnotic tale of restraint and desire with possible robotic overtones. “Monument” contains an introduction full of spectral grandeur that skips and flutters into haunting melody as Robyn’s vocals come into focus ... only to disappear beneath waves of electronic hoopla. The saxophone interlude halfway through seems counterintuitive but adds organic nuance and a shrewd counterpoint to the singer’s wandering voice. Music like this has never been terribly popular in America because it speaks to a culture that is awfully concerned with its own beauty; amidst all the ugly challenges our culture faces, such explorations seem trite, but they're fun to soak up on the dance floor.
Sleaford Mods ain’t really punk, hip-hop or anything else—pretty or anxious, nuanced or vacant. The group is a pair of angry working-class fellows from Nottingham, England who are busily defining postmodern Euro-rage through a type of music that uses a wicked combination of complex, unrhymed flow and deceptively simple musical back-story for an effect that’s as disturbing as it is compelling. There is absolutely no pretense involved, and the duo, consisting of singer Jason Williamson and instrumentalist Andrew Fearn, engages dissolving reflections and explores the brutality of our age on Divide and Exit. This album is crude and urgently poetic. It’s disarming stuff with a rocanrol beat that drives like hell at 90 miles an hour, trying to find a reason for the failure of capitalism, the plague of poverty and the vulgarity of pop culture. As Williamson utters savagely on “Tied Up in Nottz,” “You gotta be cruel to be kind ... The green light don’t stop.”
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Jenna Dunlap • singer-