What’s your favourite double-album? Physical Graffiti? The White Album? Something by Mike Oldfield? Fair enough. Now what’s your favourite double-album specifically from the noise music genre? Merzbow’s Frog? Skullflower’s Strange Keys To Untune Gods’ Firmament? The New Form Of The Organic Machine by the gimp-masked Finnish electro-deafener Grunt? It’s hard to choose, isn’t it? That might be because often the best thing about any given noise record is its brevity. Prurient, however, is no ordinary noise musician…
Frozen Niagara Falls starts as every respectable double album should, with a ten-minute medley of ominous synth notes, heavy breathing, sampled background chatter-gabble, random cymbal crashes, nihilistic shouting and countless blown cheekfuls of static raspberries. You might find that surpasses the innuendo blues-rock of Led Zep’s ‘Custard Pie’.
Prurient is the brainchild of Dominick Fernow, a noise-music maverick who, if a quick Google Image search is to be believed, wears an awful lot of black and doesn’t smile. Although Fernow dabbles in variety of different solo and collaborative projects, from the industrial techno of Vatican Shadow to the unsettling ambient minimalist of Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement, this is his first Prurient-branded release since 2013’s Through The Window, a three-track EP that suggested Fernow was travelling in an easily-comprehendible linear progression away from abrasive noise and towards more palatable dance-music territory. Unlike that release, Frozen Niagara Falls is more contrary and complicated. It looks both forwards and back, the diversity of its tracks and the sheer number of them suggests that this double album may purely be an outpouring of literally every trick Fernow has up his leather-jacketed wizard’s sleeve, much like Aphex Twin’s classic double-opus Drukqs.
Among the tracks that gaze in the direction of the past, ‘A Sorrow With A Braid’ is a five-minute slab of white-noise squeals and echoed fuzz that recalls the work of the Midwestern noise stars Wolf Eyes and Hair Police. Similarly, ‘Falling Mask’ is a short, ugly and extreme concoction of fizzing and shrieking. And there is so much noise, so many layers of sound, in ‘Poinsettia Pills’ that it’s nearly too much to take. That’s even before Fernow starts screaming phrases like “TERRORISM!” and “JESUS IS KING!” These might be the most immediate tracks, proving that Fernow hasn’t lost the ability to create the indescribably ghastly aural equivalent of Eli Rothian torture porn, and they merit their place here by adding their own special sandpaper texture, but they’re not the record’s most stimulating pieces.
The thumping industrial mega-noise of ‘Traditional Snowfall’ is also very busy and fierce, albeit with what appears to be Jean-Luc Picard’s Captain’s Log theme floating quietly below the surface. Its ferocity is then undermined further by the slapstick sound of someone tipping a drawer of cutlery onto the floor. Closer still to Through The Window’s style are the twin numbers ‘Dragonflies To Sew You Up’ and ‘Every Relationship Earthrise’. Here Fernow roars further silly (and perhaps purposefully juvenile) phrases like “LUCIFER”, offsetting his own bellowing, in a potentially comic manner, with the incongruously sparse, minimalist, twinkling techno of the backing tracks.
The two biggest surprises occur in the album’s second half. ‘Greenpoint’ begins with a Michael Nyman-ish guitar intro which gives way to minimalist artificial high-hat sounds amid a backing synth bed and mashed-up noise-fuzz, which in turn gives way to a seemingly sincere narrative about scattering a friend’s mother’s ashes in the East River. It’s far more fascinating than the prior Messiah-baiting screamathons. The final track is even more of a departure, even if it is titled ‘Christ Among The Broken Glass’. This time the guitar remains present throughout, as Fernow veers into his own idiosyncratic take on the more classical end of post-rock. It’s almost like a one-man Godspeed You! Black Emperor or an acoustic attempt at John Murphy’s 28 Days Later soundtrack – although Fernow does include some obligatory whispering and background crackles. This aural Rennie tablet is exactly what you need after the barely digestible 15-course sonic banquet that’s just been force-fed into the pit of your ear-holes.
What’s your favourite double-album? It’s this one, you masochistic lunatic.
Written by JR Moores @spinal_bap