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.
Prurient, the main guise of Dominick Fernow, peels back the grislier aspects of the human condition within the boundaries of noise music. He doesn't just talk about desire and hate and pushing oneself in his music, he soaks those very feelings into his works. Within his massive discography, littered with limited-release tapes that can be frustrating to any would-be collector, are his "statement" records, which often introduce new elements that advance his artistic growth.
Prurient is the project of Dominick Fernow, an experimental composer who has released dozens of genre-crossing recordings. As Prurient, Fernow alchemizes harsh electronica and industrial into textures that question the foundations and potential of noise music. With his staggering double LP, 'Frozen Niagara Falls,' Fernow steps further into the void, pursuing untapped terrain through atmospheres (“Dragonflies to Sew You Up”), confrontational squalls, and hypnotic synths.
The most interesting cities in the world are the ones that become a product of their own diversity. As evolving entities, these cities encourage the integration of people from different parts of the world to relish even the starkest variations of cultural difference. When diversity is celebrated, the city has better chances of flourishing, particularly when cross-cultural bonds are forged spontaneously.
As Prurient, Dominick Fernow has broken plenty of speakers with abrasive noise. He’s also spent time with synth rock outfit Cold Cave and explored his own take on new wave as a solo artist. On 2011’s Bermuda Drain, he worked toward blending experimental noise with structured rock, but that effort felt disjointed, like a step toward something more elegantly tied to his expressive noisescapes.
Frozen Niagara Falls, Prurient's ambitious 2015 double-CD/triple-LP and first release on Canadian metal label Profound Lore, is a culmination of all of the project's previous achievements. It isn't Dominick Fernow's longest release (his catalog is populated with numerous limited multi-cassette boxes), but it's easily the most diverse, as well as the most sharply focused. Recorded during a period spanning three harsh winters in New York City, the album's lyrics touch upon familiar themes as abusive relationships, drugs, hopelessness, and even religious imagery, and the music ranges from harsh noise to unsettling dark ambient.
Frozen Niagara Falls is a landmark in Dominick Fernow’s long career. In a recent interview, Fernow described how an early memory of seeing a performer screaming in a Providence band changed his perspective on noise, metal, hardcore — much of the music he’s spent his career interpreting as Prurient. “Every time I heard a scream I thought, ‘This is somebody who needs help’, rather than as an act of aggression or power,” he said.
At the heart of experimental music is an aim toward the aspirational. High-minded tinkerers evoke future utopias for the world of organized sound, offering statements of what is and and imagining what could be. It’s a place where boundaries between the dance floor, the bedroom, and the lecture hall are dissolved into a psychedelic goop of body-shaking, brain-stimulating resonance.
The 'masterpiece' is something that all too often announces itself, making its status quickly and sorely known, like the salesperson ringing a bell, or the overly long running time of some hit-by-numbers blockbuster. It can be so easy to fall into the trap on our end, judge a book by its cover, and go in under the preconception that a work is something special just because it says it is. For music it fails as often as it succeeds - just look at the poorly calculated likes of Sandinista - but then for every failure there's a Sign o' The Times, where the grandeur, self-declared 'vision' and extra length turn out to be absolutely deserved.
This is Dominick Fernow’s most high-profile release in his long career recording under the name Prurient, and it’s akin to an epic compilation of his life’s work. Over the course of two discs and 90 minutes, he experiments in every genre he has tried his hand at over nearly 20 years: gut-throbbing industrial techno (“Traditional Snowfall”), uncompromising noise (the two-part title track), William Basinski-like ambience (“Jester In Agony”) and meditative acoustic black metal (the epic-length closer “Christ Among The Broken Glass”). Through every shift in tone and style, Fernow keeps his focus, connecting these songs with small bits of spoken word that conjure up dark visions of people desperately searching for meaning in an increasingly dismal world.
Prurient — Frozen Niagara Falls (Profound Lore Records)Given Dominick Fernow’s colossal discography under the Prurient moniker, which takes in full albums, EPs, limited-edition tapes, CD-Rs and 7”s, not to mention collaborative works with other noise artists, it’s a mammoth task to try and discern any sort of evolutionary pattern, and that’s before you take into account side projects such as Vatican Shadow and Exploring Jezebel. However, since 2011’s Bermuda Drain, there has been a vague continuum at play in his work, and Frozen Niagara Falls, his first full album as Prurient since then, expands upon the notions he’s been toying with for the last four years or so. At 90 minutes in length across two CDs or three slabs of vinyl, boy does it expand, sometimes dauntingly so.
Despite the title referencing the power of nature in a doubly explicit manner, Prurient’s Frozen Niagara Falls is a record about the city. It’s ninety minutes of Dominick Fernow creating music around the impact New York has had on his life, twenty years in the making for this most unforgiving of noise musicians. Frozen Niagara Falls is, therefore, also an unforgiving album about an often unforgiving city.