Ben Frost expands on the claustrophobic menace of his brilliant fifth album A U R O R A with the remix EP V A R I A N T, which features reworkings by HTRK, Kangding Ray, and Evian Christ. While the collaborators bring their own touches to the proceedings, each track here remains faithful to the dense darkness of Frost's originals. Regis' "Self-Medicating" take on A U R O R A's lead single "Nolan" tears away much of the song's pageantry, but its skeletal clacking is just as ominous in a more understated way. Conversely, it would be difficult to make music any sparser than the original version of "No Sorrowing," so Kanding Ray transforms the track's suffused tension with a jittery house-influenced beat and mechanical percussion that pays tribute to the album's industrial music underpinnings. However, much of V A R I A N T revolves around reconstructing A U R O R A's centerpiece, the equally morose and suspenseful "Venter." Evian Christ kicks off the EP with a sleek restructuring of the track that gives equal respect to the original and his abstract, hip-hop-inspired style, while Dutch E Germ's murky remix borders on shoegaze with its hypnotic drones. Meanwhile, HTRK's trip-hop-tinged, downbeat reinterpretation is almost a relief compared to the rest of V A R I A N T's intensity. Ultimately, the EP lives up to its name, offering reflections on A U R O R A that enhance that work and are compelling in their own right.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares