As "Swarm" fades in and slowly meanders on, I can't help but picture a slow moving aerial view of the Pyramids. Their ancient bodies sticking up from the lightly waving sand, worn by time and the elements, lonely in an empty desert. Simple, slowly changing notes that evoke emotion so easily are only reminiscent to the extremely similar Playthroughs by Keith Fullerton Whitman. But where Whitman hits his notes perfectly to amazing effects, Frost wanders with more of a patterned, looping structure, with less powerful results. Frost's ambience is less about melody and completely about texture, and although he excels at this, it calls for many uninteresting moments throughout Steelwound.
Fortunately, when Frost does hit his stride, it is truly moving. The amazing highlight "You, Me and the End of Everything" shows the addition of soft, haunting female vocals to the usual guitar only composition. As the guitar reverb swells as it loops forwards through ten minutes of worldly destruction, it really feels like the world is slowly getting smaller. The progression of the track is similar in feel to the recent wonder Disintegration Loops by William Basinski as the loop accumulates grit and imperfection, yet where most of the Disintegration Loops fades off into the distance as they die away, "You, Me and the End of Everything" swells louder and louder until finally, everything has ended. And, in the end, with reasonably simplistic composition, Frost has pulled off an epic comparable to GYBE's "East Hastings" (who can forget the barren London landscape the song so perfectly augmented in 28 Days Later?).
Frost is more complex than both Whitman or Basinski, and what he lacks in strength he makes up for with skill. His well-built textures prove his skill as an artist, but even with the occasional heart-wrenching moment, Steelwound, like any other ambient album, occasionally falls into boredom. Where the album stands strong, it still seems to lack the originality, ingenuity, and occasional distant percussion that kept Loscil's Submers and First Narrows constantly interesting. Hopefully, before his next release, Frost will delve even deeper into his music and focus some more of his effort towards consistency.
- Andrew Wexler
- ...I Lay My Ear to Furious Latin
- You, Me and the End of Everything
- Steel Wound
- Last Exit to Brooklyn
- And I Watched You Breathe