Review Summary: t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-treachery
With an artist as notoriously divisive as Prurient, what is a promise worth" To declare one album as bold and torturous might send up red flags of unlistenability, whereas to describe another as accessible and dancey could make traditionalist fans of power electronics groan. Sole member Dominick Fernow refuses to grow comfortable, often treading unfamiliar territory blindfolded. The result is a test of the senses rather than a graceful display - an inevitably flawed performance redeemed by Fernow’s neurotic drive. If previous releases saw the noise music luminary slinking through dance halls and catacombs, his transition to Profound Lore Records has granted more free reign. Frozen Niagara Falls
is the most expansive Prurient release yet, borrowing the best elements from his back catalogue while imposing self-restrictions. With so much at his disposal, yet heavily weighed down, Fernow has never been so powerful, yet powerless. Even the title alludes to this, suggesting a great entity rendered useless by something so minor as a temperature change. Opener “Myth of Building Bridges” sets this tone with a dystopian backdrop, laced with 80s-inspired EBM, death industrial, and shrillness, shocking the senses. A metallic voice flatlines with every breath, beaten down by thunderous drums. It’s unforgiving.
Refusing to let up, Niagara'
s transitions between tracks are unnerving, lending to an unpredictable experience. “Dragonflies To Sew You Up” bears little semblance to the opener, with obsessive drums that tug on Fernow’s seams while his antagonized vocals clash with the delicate guitar and piano. Other tracks feature harsh noise in abundance, such as “A Sorrow With A Braid” or “Poinsettia Pills”. The variation throughout Niagara
is well-balanced, as the more abrasive sounds are countered by long stretches of haunting ambience, though never compromising that disconcerting edge. (“Cocaine Daughter” could be a respite, but ends with a cliffhanger as Fernow inhales right before unleashing the cacophonous “Falling Mask”.) As jarring as Niagara
can be musically, the garbled storylines amplify its impact in the long term. In a recent interview with Brandon Stosuy, Dominick insisted, “Art should raise questions and not provide answers. In that sense, there has to be enough there for you to even care to ask a question.
” Some listeners might find themselves maxing out the volume, trying to piece together Fernow’s cryptic mumblings. Ambiguous emotional display has long been a Prurient cornerstone, and Niagara
strikes me as deeply betrayed.
It’s difficult to pin down this betrayal, as it could result from the actions of others, one’s own misgivings, or anyone and no one, as a reaction to overall frustration and harsh circumstances. There are some glaring religious references: “Poinsettia Pills” and “Lives Torn Apart (NYC)” feature lyrics so spiteful, it leads one to believe the speaker suffered at the hands of religious fanaticism. Closer “Christ Among the Broken Glass”, despite the beautiful, monastic guitar melodies and looming bass, calls to mind a twisted rendition of the Kristallnacht aftermath. Fire crackles, delivering an image of no return - the damage has been dealt. Other feelings of contempt seem directed inward, at times Ferrow making his music a vessel for self-persecution. All of this contributes to a distressing listen, made all the more so by the enigmatic subject matter. Niagara
feels nonlinear, and doomed to misinterpretation. That’s perfectly fine. Prurient has never force-fed his stories, and with each listen, Frozen Niagara Falls
uproots more of Fernow’s skeletons.