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20 Best Avant Albums of 2014

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

Best Avant Albums

On the fringes of 2014, Ben Frost made suffocating electronic noise that was greeted like an expressionist rock records, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith continued his role as jazz's longform boundary pusher and Stine Janvin Motland made electric improv without holding an instrument in her hands. 

Ben Frost, 'A U R O R A'
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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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