Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Bent Knee — Frosting
(Bandcamp Take This to Heart T3H2-096, 2021, CD / 2LP / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2022-07-15
Bent Knee has never been a band that stands still. Each of their albums has a distinct identity, and they’re always trying new things, incorporating new sounds into their toolkit. Frosting is the band’s sixth full-length release, and it sees the original six members still on board (perhaps for the last time). It has been said that this is not a band that follows the rules — they make up their own rules. I would add that once they’ve made up their own rules, they then proceed to break those as well. This album’s production is the first time that the members have worked apart from each other and not recorded at least some of the music together in a room. This was necessitated, of course, by coronavirus lockdowns, but in typical Bent Knee fashion, the musicians have taken the circumstance handed to them and turned it to their own ends. Freed of their usual methods, they have created a wildly diverse and unpredictable album, full of even more twists and turns than their previous twisty-turny efforts. Electronic manipulation of sounds has become even more a part of their identity, and the opening track, “Invest in Breakfast,” features Courtney Swain’s voice mangled by Autotune-like pitch-shifting. I’ll admit that this is a sound I detest, though in today’s world I feel like the proverbial old man shaking his fist at clouds when I complain about it. Squiggly robotic voices have become such a prominent effect in modern pop that maybe I should just get over my distaste and live with it. I’ll admit that the way it’s used on Frosting is much wilder than what’s heard in the average 2020s pop tune, but I’m still not fond of it. Luckily everything else going on is quite fascinating. There are crazy jump-cuts from quiet sections to loud, essentially the standard Bent Knee contrasts done digitally and on steroids. Some of the heavy parts feature crushingly distorted drums, massively fuzzed bass, and insanely processed guitars. These are contrasted by sections of meditative keyboards and intimate vocals, and the whole album feels like a strange dream-journey through a surrealistic landscape. It’s like an AI remixed a Bent Knee album under the influence of a random-number generator. Frosting will possibly polarize fans of the band, with some left confused by the turn away from music that sounds like a band performance and others intrigued by the further explorations of restless creative souls.
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