Listening to Ben Frost’s last album, Aurora, is something like the sonic equivalent of enduring a punch in the gut. Its thundering drums and claustrophobic noise may not be easy for the ears, but there is no denying the colossal vision within Frost’s production.
For something as ambitious as Aurora, it’s fitting that Frost has recruited some heavyweights for its remix EP, Variant. Evian Christ’s remix of Venter begins with long, drawn-out sounds that build and drop, seeding anticipation. It comes as a surprise, then, that the next two songs, credited to Dutch E Germ and HTRK, only seethe under the surface without amounting to anything more.
While the tracks still retain Frost’s unmistakable flavour, the original’s piercing, often ugly synths are pared back for a more familiar, club-driven sound. Perhaps the most divergent is Kangding Ray’s remix of No Sorrowing; seven minutes of sparse techno that segue beautifully into Regis’ edit of Nolan, where everything escalates into faster perpetual motion before crashing back down in a catharsis of ambient noise.
As a whole, Variant is fragmentary at times, as is often the case with remixes. But what it lacks in structure it makes up for in its individual moments and the artists’ intelligent treatment of Frost’s material: a clean polish to the harsh ambiguities of his sound.