Ben Frost at St John-at-Hackney Church
24 hours before the show, Ben Frost tweeted he was “humbled and excited at the prospect of sharing the stage with Tony Conrad and John Chantler”. A surprisingly jam-packed and sophisticated crowd clearly felt the same way, and tonight wasn’t only about the Australian visionary and his intimidating sound fields. The St John Sessions are a celebration of the experimental and rule-breaking scientists of ambitious electronic music. It was an alternative concert experience that rebelled against the need for social interactions, expressions of gratitude, costume changes or pauses during compositions – an exhibition of uncompromising, brave musicians, both Frost and his support, who believe in their own musical vision (successful or not).
Abstract artist John Chantler confused ticket holders with his minimal stage presentation, and failed to completely keep them intrigued with his noise jungle that hatched blips and helicopter engines, and then bloomed into a rainforest, complete with bird whistles, insects buzzing and orangutans. Pioneer Tony Conrad received stronger praise, though it was premature – presumably due the audience’s knowledge of his movie catalogue.
All this was an accurate taster of the main course of the night: Ben Frost and his rendition of latest album Aurora. After a moment of silent darkness, Frost caught the audience by heart-stopping surprise when he suddenly blasted loud energy. It was the first test in a night of shocks that bombarded the senses. The structure of the church appropriately intensified the sonic experience as vibrations coursed rapidly through the body, accompanied by pulsating lightning, sessions of violent steel drumming and synthetised waves.
Though the majority of the soundscapes were repetitive and tiresome, there were some engaging moments when Frost’s soundtrack capabilities expressed a Vangelis-influenced science-fiction affiliation, caged inside a vociferous destructiveness. Although unpleasant, unique effects evoking a devilish beast sleeping, snoring and sneezing, every exhalation more terrifying, expressed the power of the venue. Even if it was sometimes difficult to enjoy the magnitude of such explosive experimentation, the consistent raw energy was truly admirable.
Matt Taylor Hobbs
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information about Ben Frost and future events visit here.
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