Dominick Fernow’s body of work is fairly difficult to get one’s head around, let alone get one’s hands on. He’s released dozens of albums, EPs, limited cassettes and singles under the name Prurient, not to mention the various other works he’s issued as Vatican Shadow, Christian Cosmos, Exploring Jezebel or any of the band’s he’s performed with, including Cold Cave and black metal duo Ash Pool. Yet somehow Fernow’s releases as Prurient just keep getting more sophisticated, beautiful and, perhaps counterintuitively, longer. Yet for as complicated as it is to find a natural, even accessible entrypoint into the Prurient catalog, Fernow’s only made that part easier. His 2015 double-album Frozen Niagara Falls, for instance, was to date his most breathtaking set of music, equal parts industrial noise and haunting ambient soundscapes. The grim darkness and frigid beauty reflected the most chilling depths of winter with both a harrowing emotional resonance and a spacious, unusually melodic sensibility.
Rainbow Mirror, Prurient’s first full-length (and then some) in two years, takes the sprawl of Frozen Niagara Falls and expands on it further. It’s an almost absurdly long set of music at nearly three and a half hours in length, and its vinyl edition is spread out across 14 sides. That’s technically not an album—it’s a box set. But the wealth of material here—the vast majority of its tracks stretching beyond 10 minutes apiece—is consistently among the most captivating and hypnotic of Fernow’s career. Rainbow Mirror is also the first release since the noise project’s origins to feature a three-piece band of sorts, with Fernow joined by Matt Folden and Jim Mroz. That doesn’t account for anything near a live band feel—it’s not as if a three-piece Prurient all of a sudden sounds like Cream or The Police—but this new phase of Fernow’s ever-evolving noise outlet is one of its most fascinating.
Where Frozen Niagara Falls balanced the delicate beauty of dark ambient and film score-style material with metal screams and industrial-EBM synths, Rainbow Mirror is frequently more meditative and subliminally gorgeous. Static bathes the entirety of its 15 lengthy tracks, but that static comes in different shades and textures. The first track that was released from the collection, “Naturecum,” is driven by a series of squealing frequencies, its initial impression more like that of the eerie shortwave broadcasts of The Conet Project than anything more explicitly musical. In time it transitions into a synth buzz that changes tone gradually, the entirety of the composition thoroughly unsettling, but highly attractive as a result. Fernow doesn’t let out a visceral brand of aggressive, harsh noise here. It’s subtler, portioned out in gradual segments and drawn out for more dramatic effect.
That Rainbow Mirror relies more heavily upon drones than distorted screech gives it the effect of having more in common with an artist like SunnO))) than Whitehouse. And much like that duo has done in their more challenging, avant garde moments, it also reveals some of Prurient’s most patient, measured and stunningly rewarding material. “Blue Kimono Over Corpse” is pure science fiction, a clash of meditative percussion and alien synths that’s at once spacious and rich in small details. “Buddha Strangled In Vines (Part One)” likewise feels more like film score than improvisational noise, its gentle flecks of melodic material dripping and splashing amid a growing, surging mass of distorted sound in its backdrop. “Falling In the Water” is Throbbing Gristle gone ASMR, and the 16-minute “Path Is Short” is a thing of electronic doom beauty. In their own right, each of these self-contained epics is a masterpiece unto itself.
Rainbow Mirror not coincidentally arrives on the 20th anniversary of both Prurient and Fernow’s label, Hospital Productions. And while this doesn’t necessarily encompass everything that Fernow’s done in that time—even seven LPs seems to not quite capture the whole of his vision—it shows just how much progress he’s made as an artist. He’s covered an impressive amount of ground since the visceral, primitive tapes he released early on in his career, and Rainbow Mirror is to date his most breathtaking accomplishment. It is, by all means, a lot to take in—it’s hard to imagine anyone listening to the entire collection in sequence from front to back—but the rewards are overflowing. This is beauty broadcast from the darkest depths of the void.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.