peteg's blog - noise - music - 2014 10 31 Cleared BenFrost

Constellation: Cleared and Ben Frost.

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I paid $21.79 = $18 + $3.79 in fees to TicketWeb. I could have paid $22 at the door, and would have if I hadn't expected it to sell out. Hosted by Empty Bottle, though I heard about it from the Constellation's regular mailout. That and the freebie track Venter on Frost's bandcamp page provoked me to buy his album A U R O R A off iTunes, and a ticket to this gig.

I left work a bit early on this Halloween quasi-holiday as no-one else was left, and my brain had exploded. It had been snowing and/or sleeting the whole day — apparently more than a tenth of an inch settled at O'Hare, which marks the threshold for measurability, and this was the first such Halloween ever. I note that Sydney was and perhaps is experiencing a heatwave. The problem with my woollen jacket is that the snow sticks to it and melts in place, i.e., it gets quite wet as I go in and out of heated spaces. In any case, getting to Constellation without a bicycle is challenging: I took the Brown Line to Belmont, and with careful timing, schlepped down that street via Osmium (for a hot chocolate, very Intelligentsia hipster), and to the House of Sushi and Noodles, where the made-up-for-the-day girls ably fleeced me with their all-you-don't-want-to-eat sushi menu. I saw no evidence of the noodles that I was dreaming of. It's a strange place, like it's in a subway. The walk kept me outside for about half an hour.

I got there stupidly early, at 7pm, as the doors were supposed to open at 8.30pm, which eventually became 9.45pm. In that time I had a couple of beers, and the barmaid was right: the Founders stout is superior to their porter. Ben Frost stopped off, and got told by a pair of droll groupies that the 312 on the beer he was drinking is the area code. The other room had a dance performance thing on with the bloke-to-girl ratio outsize in the opposite direction. I got talking to an alpha music geek just before they unpenned us, and so ended up sitting near him at the front right speaker for the warmup act. He talked labels. I couldn't keep up.

Cleared are a pair of presumably-local kids with some guitars and a drumkit, and a violin bow, and too much electronics. They started with washed out ambient before launching into massive, free-standing cliff-like power chord things towards the end. It's hard to appreciate what is standing between you and what you came to hear, especially when it invariantly lacked something to focus on.

At the break I ducked out for another stout, and on my return parked myself close to the front left speaker. A modern Prometheus was trying to light something with his phone. Frost played on the floor, not the stage, and was quickly surrounded by the curious. Near as I could tell nobody was dancing, but it still got hotter; his music mainlines the metabolism, perhaps. Things ground to a halt after a few tracks, and ultimately it felt like half a gig, perhaps because the house music came on at sudden power failure number two, or that some people left at the first cut-out. God knows what they were expecting. The third signalled the real end, I think. There was no audience abuse, apart, perhaps, from the strobe that provided the entirety of the lighting where he was working.

Frost evokes for me the 1990s dance anthems without the Es, and soundtrack snippets looking for a movie ala Barry Adamson. All of it put me in that sound-of-the-future mood evoked by Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre in times past. Of course their futures never came, and Frost's probably won't either; just as well, for then I would probably have to interpret things that I can presently relax to. None of it is excessively counter-intuitive, and he is gifted to be able to put a centre to this much noise. Some of it nags at me, like emotions mislabelled for a lifetime, especially when the shorter-in-one-leg mountain goat rhythms get going. These are not mammalian heartbeats.

I walked home afterwards, as the night had morphed into a clear, crisp windless thing that brought out many young Halloweenies. Some were deluded enough to think that the more outré the costume, the more peril there'd be to their virginity. I got back at 1.30am.

The Reader has two goes at summarizing Frost's style on A U R O R A. The blokes at Pitchfork loved it, making it the worst of the 50 best albums of 2014.