Category Archives: Dominick Fernow

Prurient: Cocaine Daughter


Prurient: Cocaine Daughter
Hospital Productions (2015)

I am in love with this old school Noise cassette right now.

Noise nerds will be familiar with Dominick Fernow and his Prurient project. Newbies should imagine a pale geeky kid in America’s midwest making ears bleed with only his voice, an amp and a microphone. He moves to NYC where he adds creepy synths and industrial drums to his mix, before settling in LA to produce a unique hybrid of goth, new wave and harsh noise. Dave and I talk about him a lot on the Antidote Podcast. Fernow has myriad fantastic side projects, too.

Cocaine Daughter was recorded back in 2011, in a Kansas City hotel. Its gritty textures paint a picture of Fernow alone in a dingy room at 3am still wearing his leather jacket, surrounded by pedals, wires and digital paraphernalia while paying tribute to Merzbow, Whitehouse and Cabaret Voltaire.

The emphasis is on dark waves of sound that swell towards synth driven miasma. Fernow expertly combines white hot static with sci-fi whirs, metallic clangour and walls of digital abrasion. It’s like your head inside a jet engine, immense layers of sound sucked through a gash in the hull and spat into your ears. Analogue tape and computers smash together and crumble into the void.

The overall vibe is gothic in nature, largely due to the damaged keyboards that constantly shift speeds and whine like klaxons in the murk. Occasionally some semblance of melody picks itself up out of the rubble to stop Cocaine Daughter from boiling over into aggression – this is no Harsh Wall Noise recording. Instead, the tension simmers in your speakers, thickening the air and hazing your vision. There’s none of Fernow’s spoken-word-slash-tortured vocals or industrial drumming on here, which is unusual for a Prurient release.

When this was recorded in 2011 the noise scene had peaked. The sun was setting on its entrails. Cocaine Daughter is a glorious reminder of how thrilling the sound was, and hopefully a reminder of what it could be again. I miss these sorts of Noise recordings, when things felt dangerous, anarchic and nihilistic. I’m having lots of fun listening to it.

The greatest thing about ‘Noise’ is that it’s void of meaning. Sure, much has been written about anti-capitalism and anti-authoritarian stances in relation to Noise, but the reality is you can project whatever you want to on it. Adolescent weirdos see it as aggressive; nerds try and force social politics on to it; but I’ve always appreciated the purity of its ‘nothingness’. It’s just white hot static that smudges all thought from your mind. If you’re willing to give in, you can have a transcendent experience.

Cocaine Daughter was released in a run of 150 copies. I hope for your sake Fernow reissues it sometime soon.

Vatican Shadow: Ghosts of Chechnya

Vatican Shadow: Ghosts of Chechnya
Hospital Productions (2012)

I’m going to kick this off with a shameless plug. Dave over at Ducks Battle Satan and I have started up a noise and experimental music podcast called The Antidote. Check out our site or download the first episode from iTunes. Expect discussions about new records, and even some older ones, along with interviews and other junk.

Dave and I live at opposite sides of Australia, so we’re recording via Skype which means one of us is always going to sound a bit tinny. But you know, if you’re a noise aficionado then I reckon you can handle a bit of digital decay, right? Especially when two eloquent and though provoking individuals are waxing lyrical about music from the outer fringes… umm, yeah, whatever. Check us out.

Of the three records we chat about in our inaugural episode, Ghosts of Chechnya is the one that’s ended up staying on my mind. Vatican Shadow is the new incarnation (another one!) of Dominick Fernow, he of Prurient fame. But if you’re expecting feedback screwed, hellish emo noise……don’t be disappointed. Vatican Shadow is like dance music for vampires in dank basements with mouldy walls and overflowing sewage drains. Ambient rhythms pound aimlessly, while synthesisers and aural scuzz float around in blackened clouds. Industrial percussion enters the mix at odd intervals and gives things a Warp-label edge.

Fernow’s change of direction isn’t all that surprising when you think of his involvement in Cold Cave, and some of the latter Prurient records such as Cocaine Death, Rose Pillar and especially Bermuda Drain. Instead, it was the military imagery that confounded me for being so at odds with his past aesthetics. We discussed this on The Antidote and afterwards I did a little extra research, which encouraged me to pay closer attention to Vatican Shadow’s track titles. “Snipers as a Breed tend to be Superstitious“, “Voices Came Crackling Across a Motorola Hand-Held” and “Chechnya’s Ghosts Loom Large in the Death of Former Spy“. The Vatican Shadow aesthetic stems from the media’s portrayal of war in the Middle East. The absurd way that war is horrifying, but also somewhat glorified. Fernow wears Middle East Camouflage gear when he plays live as Vatican Shadow.

I realised the synth lines and metronomic beats, which I originally thought were borrowed from 80’s horror films, are actually the soundtrack to some fucked up first-person warfare computer game. Lets all connect online and virtually shoot the shit out of the bad guys, who ever they are. Lets blow all those motherfuckers up, and dance a little while we’re doing it. Dominick Fernow isn’t angry and depressed about his insides anymore, he’s not making noise as a form of self-harm. Now he’s very aware of what’s happening in the world around him. He has made this shift very subtly, without any blatant statements. Does that make him some sort of weirdo artistic genius? I don’t fucking know. But there’s a whole ream of Vatican Shadow releases out there, and everything I’ve heard so far has been pretty great. So go buy some