There is not much one can say about Prurient, the project of Dominick Fernow. Throughout the years Prurient have produced an extensive discography that sees them creating a cartography of the dark ambient and noise genres with their own experimental mindset. The project has been going on for about twenty years now, but it seems that the focus that Fernow put on the latest, double record of Prurient was far more concentrated. It was even stated initially that Frozen Niagara Falls would be an acoustic album, something that would certainly see a departure from the usual style of Prurient and a very interesting musical exploration. Even though it did not happen, you can get a few glimpses as to what that might sounded like in the record.
The first aspect to greet you in the album is the roaring noise that Prurient so masterfully produced since their early days. “Myth of Building Bridges” brings the piercing background sounds, completely catastrophic with their approach, but managing to be transformative, giving a rich sonic texture to the song. “A Sorrow With A Braid” brings the music back to its true dark origins, with the wall of sound becoming exquisitely powerful as it starts to crush your mind with its dissolving qualities. In terms of extremity though, the peak has to be with “Traditional Snowfall” as Fernow gives his all to drive you insane. The title for that song is so suitable as well, feeling like you are in the midst of a snowfall of noise, where each flake has its own sharp and bitter edge.
Chaotic moments might ensue in “Poinsettia Pills” and the two shortest songs of the album, “Wildflowers (Long Hair with Stocking Cap)” and “Falling Mask,” but the ability of Prurient to really mould their sound comes into perspective with the title track. In “Frozen Niagara Falls (Portion One),” what seems to be a real cataract of noise swoops in and achieves to give a grand, majestic presentation to the music. The noise starts off at a distance from you taking on an imposing characteristic from the start and then builds up and up, filling the space and coming closer, finally reaching a claustrophobic quality. “Frozen Niagara Falls (Portion Two)” starts in a similar fashion with the noise covering everything pretty soon and then becoming too extreme too handle, resulting in an absolutely chaotic outbreak that ravages what Prurient had been building.
As if the unpredictability and dominance of noise was not enough, Prurient fuse that with the cold outlook of industrial music. The result is the icy and more distant vibe that originates from the inclusion of that influence, with moments such as the opening song revealing that tendency. Prurient usually goes into extremes with that type of sound, with the complete beatdown in “Traditional Snowfall,” alongside the added distortion making it even more uncomfortable, and the constant beating of “Dragonflies to Sew You Up” giving you a glimpse of that brutality. There are moments when things get a bit more experimental with the sounds, as is the case with “Shoulders of Summerstones” finding the music moving towards a more upbeat dimension, while parts such as in “Poinsettia Pills” throw all the anarchic patterns that you can imagine.
Overall, the patterns that Prurient implement in Frozen Niagara Falls are one of the most interesting aspects of the album. “Dragonflies to Sew You Up” might start off featuring some pretty straightforward drumming, but the ending of the track does not seem to have much of that direct mentality. At times, the mindset of the band requires repetitive patterns, while at others it might need something much more unconventional. The minimalistic approach of “Greenpoint” in terms of its percussive elements is quite key, and the addition of features such as the panning of the drums sees Prurient undertaking a different approach. Similarly, the more abstract philosophy that Fernow brings in “Jester In Agony” finds the music retreating to an ambient, ritualistic void, as the drums come in and out of the picture with great fluidity. Hihat hits might appear, as well as drum fills, only for a short duration of time before they retreat to oblivion. The temperament of Prurient is shown completely in those short bursts of energy, with the final ninety seconds of the song revealing a more solid approach from Fernow in terms of rhythm and patterns.
Synths are implemented with a more expansive approach when that is required of Prurient. Within “Traditional Snowfall” they lead the music away from its claustrophobic ambiance and into bigger soundscapes, something that is also featured in “Greenpoint.” Still, the synths can be used as different means to an end. The majestic start of “Jester In Agony” emerges from the approach of the synths, especially in the manner with which they explore the dark space around them, as the agonizing ascent is undertaken. Other times though, they can cause the ambient approach to become even more absorbing, something apparent in “Cocaine's Daughter” with the deep bass synth bringing the underlying darkness further to the surface.
What remains fascinating, is the ability of Fernow to find the space to throw melodies within his music. No matter how dark or noisy things might get, melodic phrases always have their place in Prurient's work. On top of the excruciating noise of the opening track, beautifully composed synths melodies are arranged. Within the heavy beats of “Dragonflies to Sew You Up” there is still room for these parts to blossom and act as sirens that lure you within the darkness of Prurient. The disturbing quality of the overall music is not reduced by that addition but rather enhanced, something that is present in “Every Reliationship Earthrise,” and provides a different flavour at moments such as “Shoulders of Summerstones.” And this is also where the acoustic guitar finds its place. In “Greenpoint” its appearance causes the surrounding parts to melt around it, giving you a brief idea of what an acoustic record from Prurient might sound like. The way in which the guitar sounds are composed does seem like it could have fitted perfectly as a synth part, but its addition gives more variety to the music. Similarly, the closing track of the album, “Christ Among The Broken Glass” makes use of the acoustic guitar in a stunning manner, as well as the inclusion of a few samples that reveal a different ambient approach from Prurient.
Frozen Niagara Falls is one dark, dark album. Once you take the vocals under consideration and the way they fit together with the noise and ambient parts, there is simply no escape. They can appear clean and in a distance, extreme and in your face or distorted and combined with the noise. They always work within the music and add further dimensions with their disturbing presence and destructive lyrics. All that soon become too much to handle, and especially when you consider that this is a ninety-minute double album, it is quite difficult to stomach it in one go. Still that does not diminish its value and impact, on the contrary...
8.8 / 10
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