Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls 2xCD / 3xLP Profound Lore Records 2015
From a personal perspective I have never become holistically acquainted with Prurient, which is mainly due to Dominick Fernow’s hyper productivity and the sheer volume of Prurient releases issued in the last 17 years (…well over 130 releases to date and not counting additional releases via his dozen or so side projects). Consequently I have only sporadically dipped into Prurient’s discography over the years, but from these cursory explorations it revealed an artist pursuing many tangents within the broader scope of noise, industrial and power electronics. Yet despite the harder and harsher spheres displayed on early works, more recently it has involved forays into programmed and synth driven material (including 1980’s horror soundtrack keys, through to electronica, dark-wave and techno), and in the process displaying varying degrees of success and failure (depending on the release).
But to speak of ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’ it is an album a number of years in the making and makes a strong statement of intent of where Prurient is at in 2015. Specifically what is meant by this is that it feels as if Dominick’s current agenda is to (rather ambitiously) bring together the multitude of sonic directions and divergent stylistic threads previously explored. Interestingly Dominick has also employed the inputs of a drummer and guitarist to obtain usable source material (…where evidently the guest musicians recorded their inputs separately and were kept entirely in the dark of how their inputs may be eventually utilised). But not to give the impression that this is a ‘band’ album, rather the sporadically utilized drums/ percussion and clean guitars are wielded more as samples which are woven through the broader sonic fabric, which includes all manner of layered electronics, noise squalls, programmed rhythms and darkness tinged synth melodies (…i.e. in a 1980’s John Carpenter horror style). ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’ also heralds a new and interesting choice of record label in the form of the predominantly metal focused Profound Lore Records; meaning it will be interesting to ponder what a more ‘typical’ metal listener might make of this.
With reference the aforementioned amalgamation of styles, this is demonstrated with absolute clarity on the opening track ‘Myth of Building Bridges’; being a piece which ‘bridges’ the gap between musical focused elements and harsher sonic textures. Here the programmed synths provide the musical framework which are coupled with pounding industrialised percussion, static infused outbursts and distortion scarred vocals which represent another sonic layer rather than being anything lyrically decipherable. ‘Dragonflies to Sew You Up’ quickly follows and delivers an early album highlight, being another track which spans the musical and the unstructured. As such, unrelenting percussion hammers out the equivalent of a racing heartbeat, whilst the 80’s ‘suspense toned’ synths are pushed to the foreground and all the while Dominick roars out his confessional styled vocals. It is only when the third piece ‘A Sorrow With A Braid’ arrives that it brings the first foray into direct noise, where scattered and loosely structured feedback and static experimentation maintain a mid to higher pitched ‘needling’ textures throughout. ‘Traditional Snowfall’ is another harsher and loosely structured power electronics styled Prurient offering; yet the sustained synth notes (partly relegated to the background) provide a dour sensibility. To again sidestep a straight industrial/ noise approach, ‘Shoulders of Summerstones’ is an entirely synth driven sullen affair of mid paced programmed rhythms and intertwining melodies, which are also reflected in Dominick’s deadpan spoken vocals.
Moving well into the running order, the tenth track ‘Greenpoint’ has the feeling of being the album’s centre piece; a 10 minute epic and varied sonic journey weaving from introductory acoustic guitar tune, cinematic synth washes and rhythmically throbbing industrial structures, over which spitting static and noise outbursts are ejaculated, before devolving again into calm synth washes and spoken vocals, where Dominick quietly intones stories of emotional wreckage and desolation. Fantastic stuff. Late album track ‘Falling Mask’ is another highlight, with its underpinning drones (…of doom), pulsing static blasts and screeching agonised vocals. The album is then concluded with the lengthy 11+ minute ‘Christ Among The Broken Glass’, the most divergent and directly song structured piece on the entire album. Containing a reflective and contemplative tone via a central clean ‘dark folk’ tinged guitar tune, additional elements include understated synths, sparse percussive elements and sampled sounds of a rain soaked late night urban environment. Given how musically focused this piece is, it is highly divergent from the bulk of the album and stands out all the more positive for it.
At a run time of 90 minutes ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’ is a sprawling album (spanning either 2xCD or 3xLP depending on the chosen format), where time is required for it to be digested and to allow it to settle into ones’ psyche. Yet despite the sheer length and breadth of material presented, ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’ remains a coherent and focused record which arcs between aggression and restraint, as well as musicality and chaos. But for all its successes, ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’ could have potentially been an album of grand failings given its apparent agenda to meld together diverse sonic elements (…and particularly that not all of Prurient’s recent recordings have been entirely successful in their experimentation). Thankfully such a grand failing has been avoided, where Dominick appears to have followed his own personal creative muse which has resulted in an album with vision, depth and maturity of expression. With its drawing together of many sonic threads into a focused and engaging whole, ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’ is a striking album displaying Dominick’s bitter and abrasive catharsis, coupled with sporadic moments or reflective restraint. Recommended.