20 Best Avant Albums of 2014

The year's best in noise, out-jazz, contemporary classical, ambient, drone and more

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Ben Frost, 'A U R O R A'
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1. Ben Frost, 'A U R O R A'

Composer Ben Frost — who has built a decade-long career on Swans-indebted deep drone and brittle orchestral mutterings — launched himself into a noisy, chaotic, deeply layered sound world for his Mute debut. A U R O R A, an album of melancholy, future-shocked robo-noise, thrusts nostalgic textures into bold, overwhelming, future-minded arrangements. There's a VHS familiarity in the industrial crunches, hissing steam, radar pings, sizzling static and slurping slurps. But the sounds collide and explode in suffocating blasts that alternate between heart-warming (the orchestral-bell-pounding astro-shoegaze of "Nolan") and the heartbeat-raising (the 91-second "Diphenyl Oxilate" can only be described as "Tim Hecker grindcore"). Existing on its own plain between noise album, ambient boundary push and cinematic foley work, A U R O R A is like a flickering TV wall from Blade Runner blasting a scrambled signal, a float through Alien's Nostromo or a subterranean sewer dancehall record for C.H.U.D.s.

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