Review Summary: Boiling frogs
Frederikke Hoffmeier (aka Puce Mary) creates industrial-ambient soundscapes that succeed by virtue of passion and turmoil, in addition to being musically detailed. Many similar artists strive for intricate balances of power electronics, ambience, and glitch, but Hoffmeier also adds a believable emotional component that is as stirring as it is evasive. With The Spiral
, this evasiveness is made frustrating - and often compelling - due to relatively short run times, as several songs beg for more moderate development. Puce Mary delivers a relatively accessible, immediate work, slightly compromising her long-form compositional strength in favour of something more erratic. In a way, it smartly creates something with more replay value; some of her prior epics, like “Iron Tulip” (from 2011’s The Closed Room
) showcased a more gradual unfolding. The Spiral
opens and closes like smouldering origami - often delicate and complex, beautiful and revealing, yet damaged and destined to crumble.
Opener/title track “The Spiral” has a rumbling, swelling texture, with auxiliary noises blending both natural and supernatural components of nighttime; it bears the peacefulness of an empty, darkened street as well as bizarre, otherworldly disturbances. It ties into themes of doubt, and draws a fine line between psychological extremes. With Puce Mary, there is rarely any grey area. Follow-up “Night Is A Trap II” offsets this scale, toppling into an affirming chaos with vocals envisioning inevitable torment and doom, and an explosively post-apocalyptic finish. The Spiral
tends to be painstakingly developed in one frame, and implode in the next, as though Hoffmeier is playing a weird game of psycho-cosmic Jenga. Other times, it seems to reside in limbo, as her spoken-word passages tend to hold her music in unwavering focus amidst the incessant distractions. “Enter Into Them” has a sort of fragmented compulsion, dipping in and out of the vocal narrative as though Hoffmeier is incanting in a war zone. On the flip side, “The Actor” speaks more forcefully, yet with garbled, indecipherable vocals lashing out in cruelly ironic fashion - the louder Puce Mary’s protests go, the more effort required to unravel them.
If The Spiral
is like an emotional purge, then its winding down is fitting. Much of the album sees Hoffmeier spilling her guts, and the final two songs, “No Memory” and “Slow Agony of a Dying Orgasm”, see her fiddling with this now-empty space in her stomach. “No Memory” has this eerie, masochistic invitation, kinda like Hitchcock’s The Birds
mixed with Haneke's The Piano Teacher
. Distracted scribbles and paper shuffles soon lead to perverseness, with contorted string noises, ominous bass, and abnormal lust. It really isn’t until the closer that we see Puce Mary in full form, as she demonstrates her penchant for tortured patience. “Slow Agony of a Dying Orgasm” builds with nuance and catastrophe; both swirling ambience and scattered rhythms; the mechanical imposition of air-raid sirens and helicopter pulses. It’s a confirmation of everything the opening track might’ve feared, as paranoia of the spooky unknown leads to real-life dread of the physical. It sums up The Spiral
, which, in its darkest moments, plays upon the concept of misdirected anxiety. You spend so much time irrationally fearing the watery abyss for its intangible traits, you’d never know it was boiling you alive.