Prurient Arrowhead

[Editions Mego; 2008]

Styles:  noise
Others: Merzbow, Whitehouse, Masonna, Pita, Russell Haswell

If you’ve ever been to the Drunken Unicorn in Atlanta, then you know the venue also houses a bar frequently inhabited by patrons who don't normally come for the music. It came as no surprise, then, that these unsuspecting bar-goers got riled up when Dominick Fernow, a.k.a. Prurient, opened for Wolf Eyes in 2005. Rarely have I seen such negative reaction to sound, and I’m not talking about Wolf Eyes' set. Fernow played a brief 20-minute set comprised of several different mics running through equalizers and maybe some distortion. It was exhilarating, even if it was one of the most painful experiences my ears have ever endured. When Dom’s set ended, those in the bar erupted in cheers and claps. But they weren’t clapping because they thought the performance was awesome; they were clapping because it was over.

Indeed, the kind of person who might normally be put off by noise is rarely in the position to be subjected to it. And it wouldn’t have mattered if they were experiencing the best noise performance ever. But I also sometimes wonder if noise fans would do well to try and make distinctions between “good” noise and “bad” noise. These terms are subject to opinion and personal taste, of course, but there can also be benefits to staking out aesthetic hallmarks, such as transcending genre by offering something new, refining an existing idea to its logical conclusion, or by some facet of its construction appealing to those who would normally scoff at the idea of noise even being labeled music.

Unlike the utterly transcendent And Still, Wanting (also released this year), Arrowhead is unfortunately not among the stronger things he’s released. The first two tracks, “Sternum” and “Ribcage,” make up the bulk of the album and feature little more than raw contact-mic noise, barring the extremely minimal tapping sound occasionally heard on the former. The final piece, “Lungs,” has some tribal-sounding drumming, but again the pattern and tone is static. While And Still, Wanting showed compositional growth, simultaneously adding more melody and ear-piercing power to his recorded output, Arrowhead is more like a document of Fernow’s live set. It plays more like a snapshot of a point in his career that just doesn't seem up to par in light of his more recent output.

Given Fernow’s popularity in the noise scene these days, it’s no wonder that Editions Mego would want to release these older recordings. There's definitely demand for it. What I can’t understand is why a guy as adept at what he does would want to release some of his less-interesting work on a label that has prided itself on being near the forefront of electronic music, noise, and avant-garde over the last decade. Since it’s essentially the same idea heard in “Roman Shower” (from Black Vase), pushed from a 15-minute album opener to a roughly 35-minute full-length, the intended statement (musical or otherwise) feels redundant, made even more obvious since the initial recordings date back to 2004.

1. Sternum
2. Ribcage
3. Lungs

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