Album Review: Remember Your Black Day by Vatican Shadow
Fairly Good, Based on 6 Critics
Resident Advisor - 80 Based on rating 4.0/5
Dominick Fernow has made his most accomplished music as Vatican Shadow. It's more focused than his work as Prurient, and more immediate than his records as Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement. With Remember Your Black Day, his first full-length as Vatican Shadow, Fernow has begun to explore the true depths of the project.The military aesthetic so prevalent in industrial music is often little more than a nudge-and-a-wink, but Fernow's exploration of these themes feels different.
In the past three years, Vatican Shadow—the techno racket of Prurient mastermind and Hospital Productions honcho Dominick Fernow—has released more than a dozen aesthetically coherent cassettes, EPs and singles. They’ve been united not only by the music, an electronic blur of deep-thudding beats and synthesizer fuselage veiled with a sense of mystery, but also by their use of military smut. Like a set of early 90 baseball cards, those initial offerings paired depictions of the players of the armed forces—Joe Biden on Larry King Live, Hilary Clinton in front of a Pakistani flag, soldiers prepared for a chemical attack—with antagonistic phrases ripped from headlines or wartime jargon: Operation Neptune Spear, Washington Buries Al Qaeda Leader at Sea, Ghosts of Chechnya.
As Prurient, Dominick Fernow has risen to the forefront of the American underground noise scene, yet Through the Window (his latest release under that moniker) found him exploring the ritualistic repetition of dark techno, with much success. Trotting alongside the Prurient project for a few years now has been another of Fernow's auspicious identities: Vatican Shadow. With a spate of ultra-limited releases that have become increasingly accomplished over time, Remember Your Black Day is Fernow's most ambitious Vatican Shadow effort yet.
Vatican Shadow’s early cassettes represent a digression in Dominick Fernow’s predominantly noise-driven trajectory. With a distinct move away from the harsher elements of his highly regarded Prurient moniker and the PE-tinted synth-pop cacophony of Cold Cave, those earlier offerings symbolize a passing in time, where the Wisconsin-born artist allowed his months on the road to become engulfed by the repetition of tires on tarmac intertwined with a soundtrack of Muslimgauze, Demdike Stare, and other proprietors of “dark techno. ” From this rather sobering portrait of life on tour, Fernow began exploring the beat loops and grazed aesthetic distortions that would lead to his most exceptional output yet.
It was inevitable that an event as grand, terrible, momentous and world-changing as the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington would provoke and become connected with art both great and appalling. For every William Basinski's Disintegration Loops, Art Spiegelman's In The Shadow Of No Towers, Jonathan Safran Foer novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or United 93, there's conspiracy loon flick Loose Change or Don Henley and The Eagles' 'Hole In The World'. Most of these, however, have been fairly straightforward in interpretation, either thoughtful reflections, attempts to explore the psychological consequences, or gung-ho, mawkish sentiment around American rescuers and resilience - the nadir of which is perhaps dc Talk's unintentionally hilarious 'Let's Roll'.
Travelling in Asia this autumn, cut off from the familiar information fix of wi-fi internet and plentiful freesheet newspapers, I followed a terror attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya through the strange filter of the 24-hour news channel. Experienced in moments of tired decompression in a procession of identikit hotel rooms, the rolling news format gives atrocity a strange, surrealistic rhythm. Fresh information is dropped in half-hour repetitions that, to a dazed holiday brain felt weirdly reminiscent of dance music, each new twist in the official story deployed like a fresh synth layer or new hi-hat motif delivered at the top of each bar.