Published May 27, 2014For Ben Frost's earlier albums, the experimental guitar/piano-based composer was happy to work from the safety of recording studios in his native Australia and Iceland, his home since 2005. The comfort started to chafe, and so Frost left the studio for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and wrote most of A U R O R A, his new album and first to be released in conjunction with Mute Records, on a laptop. According to Frost, it was a necessary artistic decision.
"The record really began, in many ways, with the removal of certain crutches that I felt I was beginning to lean on, probably from the records previous to this one," Frost tells Exclaim! "Sitting down with the guitar or the piano, it immediately felt wrong. It felt too easy. At that point, I'd done what I could with those elements, and I wanted to be uncomfortable again."
Going to the DR Congo wasn't a vacation, though. Frost went there with photojournalist Richard Mosse, who was to shed new light on the perpetual conflict and inhumane brutality that plagues the region with the use of infrared film. Frost was there as a sound designer, capturing field recordings for use in their subsequent audio/visual installation The Enclave. But, while he was there, with his laptop plugged into a diesel generator, he created the bedrock of A U R O R A.
"I didn't want my understanding of the world to come to me from a BBC news feed," Frost explains. "If only subconsciously, reaching out to Sir Richard in that first instance was probably some attempt at that, trying to find a way out of this fucking safety net I feel wrapped up in. And largely self-imposed. I'm fucking lazy. We all are."
While the facts of its creation sound dark, the goal of A U R O R A isn't to bum you out. There is a kind of duality, a balance. Frost considers himself to be an optimist, although he was aware that the minerals in his recording device were mined from the very ground he walked on.
"I want something bigger, something that celebrates the completely fucked nature of our world for all of its inherent beauty, violence and terror. If you can't take something from that, and wrestle with it, and find a sliver of light in there, it's just too much to deal with," he says. "I need to feel that, even in that moment where music feels like it's swallowing you whole, it can kind of hold your hand at the same time. That's okay."
A U R O R A is set to swallow you whole and hold your hand today (May 27), Mute/Bedroom Community.
Read our full interview with Frost here.