- Frozen Niagara Falls marks Dominick Fernow's return to New York after living in LA and traveling the world as Vatican Shadow. It's also his first major work as Prurient since 2013's Through The Window, an album that showed Fernow's interest in techno bleeding into his original alias. Not so this time: on this double-album, Fernow looks back over his prolific two decades of work, from fierce noise to dark ambient. Abrasive, affecting and more melancholy than ever, this is the most wide-reaching Prurient album yet.
It seems Frozen Niagara Falls was meant as a statement. In addition to its length, it comes lavishly packaged through prestigious Canadian metal label Profound Lore—Fernow also tapped extreme music producer Arthur Rizk to help dress it all up. This professional sheen is clear in the record's guitar passages, like the gorgeous closer "Christ Among The Broken Glass," which has the nylon lustre of "Fade To Black"-style Metallica. Those moments feel like a holdover from the original plan for the LP, which was to build something made from acoustic instruments and rocks collected around New York. As inspiration struck, however, Frozen Niagara Falls ballooned into something much bigger.
"Myth Of Building Bridges" brings together all the contradictory impulses we now associate with Prurient: beautiful synth lines fizz and bubble beneath squalls of high-pitched noise while Fernow howls over top. It's a tough ten minutes, and a warning: if you came looking for Vatican Shadow's techno, it might be time to turn around and leave.
The brutal contrast on "Myth Of Building Bridges" is the foundation of Frozen Niagara Falls. The album veers through some of the harshest noise Fernow has put to record in years ("A Sorrow With A Braid") and more measured passages, pairing epics like the two-part title track with briefer bursts of energy. The LP hops between ideas and experiments in the tradition of the rock music double-album, and even within individual songs things are rarely straightforward. There's pop potential somewhere in the '80s radio synths of "Dragonflies To Sew You Up," for example, but Fernow's throat-shredding vocals make it sad and despondent.
Though Fernow's delivery obscures his lyrics, many of them are addressed to a "you," chronicling an intense relationship and underlining Prurient's on-going obsession with human connection. Noise music often seems alienating, but Frozen Niagara Falls is a self-proclaimed album of love songs, if in its own violent way. On "Traditional Snowfall," Fernow screeches "I want to rip out your lower back / and wrap my hands around your neck" before finishing with "and kiss you." On "Falling Mask" he screams "I'll meet you there," his voice cracking and tearing with each iteration. It's a desperate appeal for contact that undergirds the writhing pain and fury of Frozen Niagara Falls. This shows how far Prurient has come from a project that once seemed like an attempt to make the gnarliest noise possible.
When he isn't reaching across the void, Fernow looks deep into himself and his past. His writing reaches a new height on the record's haunting centrepiece, "Greenpoint," named for the Brooklyn neighbourhood he once called home. "Greenpoint" is an extended rumination about suicide over a bed of acoustic guitars and gently rippling synthesizers, connecting some of Fernow's earliest experiences in New York with the wiser self that came back to write Frozen Niagara Falls. Fernow's deadpan delivery channels sorrow in a controlled way that almost feels more intense than when he's screaming. "Greenpoint" reaches a depth beyond what we usually associate with noise music, and like the rest of Frozen Niagara Falls, it stitches together bits and pieces of Fernow's hundreds-strong discography into one visionary and harrowing piece.
01. Myth Of Building Bridges
02. Dragonflies To Sew You Up
03. A Sorrow With A Braid
04. Every Relationship Earthrise
05. Traditional Snowfall
06. Jester In Agony
07. Poinsettia Pills
08. Shoulders Of Summerstones
09. Wildflowers (Long Hair With Stocking Cap)
11. Lives Torn Apart (NYC)
12. Frozen Niagara Falls (Portion One)
13. Cocaine Daughter
14. Falling Mask
15. Frozen Niagara Falls (Portion Two)
16. Christ Among The Broken Glass