Fernow pushes Prurient into piercing, emotional tundra on abrasive ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’

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Photo by Becca Diamond

Sometimes great records arrive at the absolute wrong time. There’s a particular atmosphere behind certain records that require nature play its role, and when it doesn’t, it means that the listener might not get the proper experience that would be tangible if the weather was more cooperative.

It seems odd and somehow cosmically not right that most, if not all, of my experiences with the stunning new Prurient record “Frozen Niagara Falls” have come in the spring, when temperatures have been warm and pleasant. That’s not the right environment, and the album’s title should make that clear. Even the bio attached to the record urges you to “listen at night while snow falls quietly under street lights,” yet here in the East Coast of the U.S., that’s something that hasn’t happened in many, many weeks. Yet, improper temperatures and conditions aside, this new full-length from one of the most influential, important noise projects on the Earth still grips and has maximum effect. It still stops and restarts the heart. It still, despite the warmth outside, can chill the blood in your veins. It’s an amazing piece of work that still will stand out as significant when the snow and ice returns many months from now.

unnamed(5)For those unaware, Dominick Fernow long has directed Prurient, a project with more releases than most people probably could count and whose vast and wide-reaching influence is apparent from artists as varied as Pharmakon to WOLD (to toss out some names at random). Over the years, Fernow has created new sounds and personalities, morphed into different forms, burned off old identities, and kept growing into an always formulating beast. “Frozen Niagara Falls” is one of his most significant works, a 90-minute double album that is one hell of a monster to tame and that might require multiple sessions to get through. That said, we’d urge you to get a handle in a single sitting to let each moment lap over you. It’s a stunning experience that fits right along with other Prurient releases but also stands in its own plot.

“Myth of Burning Bridges” is a 10:18-long opener that pours noise buzzes, pattering beats, and cool keys into a percolating pot, dashing in murk here and there. Voices swirl in and out, while a space lab feel eventually takes over, and the voices keep getting more aggressive. The record then hits on a faster pace, with “Dragonflies to Sew You Up” spilling in with strikes, growls, and smeary synth, with a cloudy conversation crawling underneath; “A Sorrow With a Braid” and its shrill shrieks, noises that sound like a drill, pulsations, and nightmarish dialog; and “Every Relationship Earthwise” that has a spacey bend, almost as if you’re floating, with Fernow dealing, “You die first, go toward the light.” “Traditional Snowfall” is more jarring than its title indicates, with warped sounds that make it all feel like a medicine dream and claustrophobic chaos all around. “Jester in Agony” has moody synth, key haze that spreads, and swirling beats that end in serenity, while “Poinsettia Pills” is built on smeared beats, sheets of noise, and wild howls, inducing any shred of panic living inside of you. Then it’s into “Shoulders of Summerstones” that has keys lurking, voices echoing, and a chilly, bizarre ambiance that unfolds.

“Wildflowers (Long Hair With Stocking Cap)” is a short interlude-style piece, filled with noise zaps and squalls, and then it’s into “Greenpoint,” a song that has synth lather and beats bruising. The darkness bleeds when Fernow utters, “You don’t want to hurt anyone, you don’t want to burden anyone, you just want to disappear,” as he recounts scattering ashes over a dark, lonely bed of sound, almost as if he’s examining his own mortality. And maybe he is. It’s impossible not to be affected here. “Lives Torn Apart” is aptly titled, at least sonically, as strange synth and tapping beats set the background for repeated utterances of, “You turned water into wine.” Then comes the first of two songs that feed off the album title, “Portion One” that sizzles in a sound bath, sends echoing mumbles across its 7:03, and puts on an imposing, scary face, like one that would face you if you were at nature’s mercy. “Cocaine Daughter” is horrifying, like a dark dream that continues through the night, with nocturnal melodies dripping and a sense of danger growing more tangible as the song goes on. “Falling Mask” is packed with industrial interference, harsh shrieks and shouts, and rage spilling out of every corner, while “Portion Two” of the title track lets loose video game-style sounds, corrosion, and imposing echo, bringing the title cut couple to a manic finish. Despite all of the darkness and madness that precedes it, the set closer “Christ Among the Broken Glass” is an absolute heart stopper that steals the show, an 11:22-long epic that is awash mostly in acoustics, crackling fires, and dreary transmissions. It feels like being put into a dream state, with sounds in the cold night calling out and grabbing onto you, whispers telling you your fate, and the overwhelming swelling of sounds arresting you and putting you into a state of trance that seemingly is impossible to break. It’s a gem of a song, one of his finest pieces on his stellar, gigantic resume.

With such an expansive musical collection, it’s difficult to say where “Frozen Niagara Falls” ranks. But why even worry about that? This is a great, jarring Prurient record, and of all of his works I have heard (I definitely have not experienced all of them, admittedly) it’s one of the most immediate and emotionally scathing. The weather might not be right outside, but there’s no reason you can’t create a frozen cavern in your own mind and let Fernow encapsulate you there for an hour and a half while he unfurls his latest dimension.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prurient/456204001080978

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

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