by Phil Freeman
Dominick Fernow‘s latest release as Prurient—he also records under multiple other names, most notably Vatican Shadow and Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement—is Rainbow Mirror (get it from Amazon), a three-hour and twenty-minute four-CD set packaged in a foldout digipak. Each of the first three CDs is longer than the one before; they run 40, 66, and 74 minutes respectively. The final disc represents a coda of sorts, containing only two tracks and lasting less than 20 minutes. No personnel are listed on the discs or in the packaging. Instead of a booklet, there’s a foldout poster with a collage on one side and a repeated design on the other. But according to the label, Profound Lore, it’s a trio effort: Matt Folden of Dual Action and Jim Mroz of Lussuria joined Fernow in the studio, where the material was tracked live.
Although Fernow releases a lot of Prurient material on limited-run cassettes via his own Hospital Productions imprint, big statements like Rainbow Mirror, 2015’s Frozen Niagara Falls (itself a two-CD set) or 2011’s Bermuda Drain come out on larger labels. Bermuda Drain and Worship is the Cleansing of the Imagination (a split with Justin Broadrick) were on Hydra Head, and Frozen Niagara Falls was on Profound Lore.
Unlike Bermuda Drain or Frozen Niagara Falls, Rainbow Mirror is pretty much entirely instrumental. Eleven of its 15 tracks are more than 10 minutes long; the longest, “Buddha Strangled in Vines (Part 2),” runs 18:52 (“Buddha Strangled in Vines (Part 1)” is a mere 9:56). The music is clearly structured, but song form is absent. While individual passages may take on a repetitive character, with sounds looping and recurring, the shape of a given piece can change radically from its beginning to its end. “Cruel Worlds,” for example, begins with what sounds like an electronically manipulated koto, an almost Asian-kitsch sound, but static slowly rises behind it, eventually beginning to burst through and dominate with sharp, stabbing pitches. After a while, the koto-like sound is gone completely, replaced by hisses and low-end rumbles reminiscent of Alan Splet‘s sound design for David Lynch‘s Eraserhead. A tribal drum booms softly beneath the waves of distortion. Still later, synthwave keyboards begin to beam through the desolate landscape, and sonar-like pings and squirting sounds can be heard. None of these elements feel like responses to any of the others; they all exist in isolation, yet they have a collective impact that feels purposeful and thought-out.
Some pieces, like the opening “Barefoot God,” with its industrial-trap drum machines and skull-rattling bass rumbles, are almost beautiful. Others, like “Path is Short,” feel epic, like the soundtrack to an art installation; you expect them to go on for hours. The last piece on Rainbow Mirror, “Buddhist State,” sounds like field recordings from an abandoned foundry in a horror movie. Mechanical clanks and hisses and massive rumbling tones surround you (this album is absolutely meant to be heard on headphones), gradually growing quieter and more sparse until it all ends with a single decisive sound, like someone punching a button to turn the universe off.
Dominick Fernow‘s compositional skills and mastery of sound are impossible to dispute. On a purely sonic level, Rainbow Mirror is a masterpiece; it draws you into its world and makes time disappear. It’s an ideal introduction to Prurient—and an ideal stopping point, because you’re not forced to put up with Fernow’s adolescent lyrics. Sure, its beauty is unorthodox, but it’s not like work of this type has no antecedents, so it’s easy to know if it’s for you. If you enjoy Lou Reed‘s Metal Machine Music or Godflesh‘s “Love, Hate (Slugbaiting),” throw some headphones on and disappear into Rainbow Mirror for three and a half hours. You won’t regret it.
Stream Rainbow Mirror on Spotify: