t is with the sheerest precision that Prurient’s Dominick Fernow dismantles all possibility of thought or safety on his newest release, Shipwrecker’s Diary. Over the course of 33 minutes—with noise this harsh, he doesn’t need a second more—Prurient builds up wave after wave of mind-melting static, tumbling avalanche rhythms, and momentary bursts of ear-tickling static that sound positively mellow in contrast to the surrounding maelstroms. The noise is nearly unrelenting throughout the course of the record, and even at its most tranquil (ha ha!) the music still holds a sense of menace that is only partly due to the very real fear that at any second the deafening cacophony could return.
Each of these fifteen tracks is a concentrated blast of destruction, a constant friction between implosion and explosion, the sound catapulting outwards to the edges of hearing even as a tremendous pressurizing force compacts everything into deadly, insular balls of impenetrable density. It’s the chemistry of sound, a kind of volatile mixture where unpredictability reigns and the moments of calm never last long enough for your frazzled nerves to settle. Each track ends suddenly, mid-stream, and the next starts up barely a second later. The pauses can hardly be considered time to rest; there’s barely time to breath in those sparse seconds, and in any case the certain knowledge of more impending chaos is enough to rule out rest for the album’s entire duration.
Nevertheless, this is not to imply that Shipwrecker’s Diary is without dynamics. To the contrary, a great deal of its brutal power comes from Prurient’s ability to reign in his destructive tendencies just long enough before returning to ear-splintering levels. “June 19,” with its broken-electronics buzzing and distant filtered screams rising up out of the murk (very reminiscent of Wolf Eyes, this), is something of an interlude in the middle of the album, a slightly quieter but still intense calm within the storm. No coincidence, either, that this piece is placed immediately before a stretch of the album’s most soul-scorching (and best) music. “Shoulder” is under a minute of fast-paced noise leaping back and forth, non-human high-pitched squeals, distorted samples that blare from within a nest of feedback. And the following “Neck” is even heavier, if only slightly longer: the processed screams and dual-channel dissonance are overwhelming; the mind simply shuts down in the face of such extremity. By placing these two tracks after the album’s midway lull, their latent intensity is magnified by the lowered noise threshold set by “June 19.”
Following this are two several-seconds blasts of searing pain, before the album oddly ends with two pieces sampling a young-sounding girl’s voice. Her tone has a lightness and lilting emotionality that seems to belie the deeper, slightly off-kilter mood of these two tracks. Perhaps it’s just that this narrator’s presence—speaking, maybe, of a lover—is so unexpected after what preceded it that the effect is as disconcerting as Prurient’s noisiest moments. After half an hour of some of the most alienating music imaginable, the album ends with this girl earnestly whispering “I love you, good night,” the last sound heard on the disc before a few moments of utter silence allow that final proclamation to sink in.
The meaning of this postscript remains ambiguous. There’s a sadness, a sense of loss, maybe even a slightly creepy air of foreboding, but there’s no explanation for who this girl is or how she’s connected, if at all, to Prurient’s ferocious noise. This mystery, ultimately, is probably the most compelling way that this album could have ended. It’s an acknowledgement of the complexity of the world, a rejection of the simple-minded, anger-fueled world of shit that too much noise music presents. Within Prurient’s noise, there is no easy answer, no one emotion that can be held to and ridden through the waves of destruction; rage, fear, and sadness abound here, but they are certainly not the only emotions to be found in this music. This is an utter and complete cleansing, noise with a human soul squarely at its center.
Reviewed by: Ed Howard
Reviewed on: 2004-03-04