LIVE REVIEW: Ben Frost, Tim Hecker @ Sydney Opera House (11/01/15)

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Experimental electronica, avant garde, instrumental composition, sound art… all these and more were at play when Canadian Tim Hecker and Australian native, now based in Iceland, Ben Frost brought their immersive and extreme synthetic music to the magnificent surrounds of the Sydney Opera House as part of the Sydney Festival.

Tim Hecker performed his set in near darkness, the only visible objects were two red guitar amp lights and two faint spotlights pointing upwards, intersecting in a swirl of fog high above the audience. The lack of lighting gave weight to Hecker’s collage of textures that were built on dense and grainy drones, swelling and retreating in his on-stage mix. The volume was possibly the loudest I’ve heard at the Opera House, another key factor in translating Hecker’s music from headphone listening to a primal and physical sensory experience where the actual shifting of air was important as the fragmented melodies and screes of interweaving digital noise. Over the space of an hour the impact of Hecker’s set became diluted by a lack of variation. There was little sense of narrative or journey and that combined with the darkness resulted in quite a claustrophobic mood.

Ben Frost’s career has seen him rise from independent releases to internationally acclaimed albums, soundtrack and theatre work in the space of a decade and it was that inter-medium experience that gave his performance such expansive and detailed qualities. Twin towers of guitar amps, one guitar and a table of laptops and other digital ephemera were Frost’s instruments as he set about creating a journey through sci-fi, cinematic composition. There were percussive explosions that rippled through the audience’s bodies, bass drones that blurred vision and layered on top of those weapons were sharp hi-res detailed snatches of sound, rippling keyboard notes, and genuinely disturbing snarling wolves. Frost’s use of sustained tension combined with hypnotic repetition made for a cerebral experience where the listener could be willingly disorientated by 60 minutes of strobe lighting or close their eyes and be transported elsewhere. Either way Frost’s was a majestic and magnetic display of sensory overload, right on the cusp of art, rock and futuristic experimentalism.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

Favourite Electronic Albums of 2013

DS 2013 elect favesIncreasingly electronic music is reasserting itself as a viable album length genre. Sure it still thrives on the single and the remix but more and more there are albums, primarily from the UK scene, that manage to straddle the headphone and dancefloor worlds or in some cases they work most effectively as immersive home listening experiences. Here are the albums that we found ourselves returning to most often in 2013.

Special mention to Burial’s Rival Trader EP which dropped late in the year and on first listens it sounds excellent. I decided to keep this list focused on albums but Rival Trader is no doubt one of the finest releases of the year and a great way to round out 2013.

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1. The Haxan Cloak – Extinction

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2. DJ Koze – Amygdala

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3.  Zomby – With Love

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4. Forest Swords – Engravings

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5. Fat Freddy’s Drop – Blackbird

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6. Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle – Perils From The Sea

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7. Depeche Mode – Delta Machine

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8. Special Request – Soul Music

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9. Machinedrum – Vapor City

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10. Atoms For Peace – Amok

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11. Disclosure – Settle

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12. Darkside – Psychic

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13. The Field – Cupid’s Head

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14. Holden – The Inheritors

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15. Four Tet – Beautiful Rewind

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16. Jon Hopkins – Immunity

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17. Tim Hecker – Virgins

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18. Daniel Avery – Drone Logic

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19. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

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20. Logos – Cold Mission