Don't expect A U R O R A, but expect something great nonetheless.Bedroom Community, 2016
8.0 / 10
Without knowing anything about Ben Frost’s latest release, The Wasp Factory, the thing that struck me almost immediately was the parental advisory sticker it’s tagged with. Mainly because Frost is an electronic artist, and best I can remember, his excellent A U R O R A was a wordless affair. Well, The Wasp Factory isn’t Frost’s modern transition to using guest rappers to add more intensity to his ALREADY intense music. Instead, he’s upped the ante with a morbid narrative. And if you’re already aware of Iain Banks’ novel The Wasp Factory, Frost’s new album is the soundtrack to Frost’s operatic production of the novel1. What’s most peculiar is that we’re just now getting the soundtrack when the opera first debuted in August 2013 and ran for a short period through venues in Europe.
For those unfamiliar with the novel, the story is told from the point of view of a psychopathic teenager named Frank, who commits three murders before turning ten and has a brother named Eric that breaks out of a mental institution. It’s a bizarre story, but its narrative as presented here definitely leaves me intrigued in wanting to read the book. Frost’s presentation of the material is also told from the view of Frank, but Frost uses multiple female singers to play Frank, instilling a schizophrenic tone and emphasizing Frank’s madness. Even without its visual element, the auditory experience is quite engaging. After all, we live in the age of Audible. The vocalists’ animated performances give life to Frank while the album’s music consisting of mostly strings, ambient drone, and percussion create a grave atmosphere. Several moments are chilling such as Frank’s admission of killing as “just a phase I was going through” to the hissing at the end of “Blyth”. Listeners could argue this is only for the Frost hardcore, and maybe that’s true, but it leaves a sting felt long after it’s ended.
1. I had no idea of this opera or even the novel’s existence until listening to Frost’s album.