As Prurient, Dominick Fernow is one of the most widely respected and collaborated with artists in abrasive noise music. However, he may be getting as much attention in other circles for being a live synth player for darkwave scenesters Cold Cave (though Wikipedia suggests he’s only doing that because he lost a bet). Returning to his old noisy moniker, Madison, WI native Fernow is displaying a severely changed musical persona. Sure, there are aggressive, pulsating noises (including the screaming bleat that opens the record), but there are, quite surprisingly, moments approaching dance-ability and Mass-ready melody.
Rather than relying solely on microphones and pedals, there are synths here playing off against the feedback bursts and insistent, lurching vocals. In many ways, the complex, rhythmically charged “Many Jewels Surround” is a shock to the system. Rather than the walls of abrasive feedback that would knock anyone sitting too close to their speakers over, this is a creepy 80’s horror movie soundtrack full of synth washes and bassy voice-over. “A Meal Can Be Made” takes the vocals to a gruff scream, while the beat is even more fluid and dancefloor ready.
The shimmering, acidic soundtrack for more eerie spoken word on the title track is haunting, while the tooth-grinding metalic scraping of “Watch Silently” comes a bit closer to the gnashing noise Prurient had put out prior. “Palm Tree Corpse” follows, portraying something as close to that odd title as one could expect. Largely relying on waves of twinkling synths, the intermittent howls and jolts of feedback break up the swaying rhythm.
Later, the swank 80’s beat on “There Are Still Secrets” would never have been picked out as a Prurient track, but its got a crackling energy that is tough to match. The rest of the album works out to much that same tune, a sort of head-scratching confusion. It can be difficult to separate this album both in its difference from Fernow’s past output and from the connections that it holds to his work with Cold Cave. Despite the ability to place this on a continuum, this is a record that sounds so dissimilar from its kin, a unique new version of an old favorite.