As an amateur noise enthusiast, I was vaguely interested in Dominick Fernow’s main project Prurient back in his long-haired howling feedback with a microphone and an amplifier days, but it wasn’t until Bermuda Drain that I became enraptured. That album is basically a darkwave/noise crossover record, a nightmarish vision of synthpop, and I was very into it.
Frozen Niagara Falls feels like a magnum opus for Prurient, his The Beatles moment if you will, although you probably shouldn’t. Everything is laid out on the table here, pulling from every influence into a cohesive whole. This gives the album a structural ebb and flow that imbues a strange sense of formal beauty to its moments of extreme and unrepentant ugliness. It’s expansive, excessive, transgressive – and it’s hard not to be impressed by it.
Frozen Niagara Falls is particularly cinematic in its depiction of darker human emotions, with murder, pain, desire, lust, and resentment the thematic order of the day – often at once in a seizure of cognitive dissonance. Despite its abstract nature, it feels nakedly truthful. Apparently Fernow moved back to New York, and this feels very much like a New York kind of darkness. Imagine Woody Allen’s monologue at the beginning of Manhattan being written delivered instead by a nascent serial killer.
As on Bermuda Drain, the catchy arpeggiated synthlines dancing through a lot of these tracks are often overpowered by pounding trashy percussives, angry screaming vocals, and good old fashioned white noise and microphone feedback. On other tracks, we find Fernow returning to his noisy roots, screaming through pure microphone feedback.
The best surprise here is just how many moments among that drift into ambient electronic and even acoustic influences, tracks like Jester in Agony, Greenpoint, and Christ Among the Broken Glass offer moments of quieter, more reflective darkness.
In spite of this, it would be difficult for me to recommend Frozen Niagara Falls to most people. If you’re looking for an exhausting, revealing, and frankly caustic sonic experience, then pop this in your earbuds and walk around a city at night, scowling.