Even at its most brutally alienating, there is a welcoming, almost hypnotic quality to Frozen Niagara Falls. Beneath all the noise and chaos, delicate, plaintive synth and piano lines exist, providing a level of the familiar; an aural support system that serves to guide listeners through the more disorienting, often impenetrably harsh sections. With this, Dominick Fernow reconciles the disparate facets of his multiple musical personas, distilling them into one sprawling collection that effectively serves as both stylistic overview and definitive, career-defining statement.

By incorporating these myriad elements on one album, Fernow not only manages to create moments for nearly all of his respective projects’ fans to latch onto, he also manages a near-perfect introduction to his varied groundbreaking explorations in expanding the possibilities of noise-based music. More so than perhaps any other album in his voluminous catalogue, Frozen Niagara Falls serves as an ideal entry point into his fractured, violent, yet often beautiful world. It’s an unlikely move towards accessibility (relatively speaking) informed by his time in Cold Cave as much as his work as Vatican Shadow, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement, Ash Pool and a host of others.

Because of this, much of Frozen Niagara Falls carries with it an almost wistfully nostalgic feel: the album as an aural autobiography, a remembrance and reconciliation of styles past and present to provide a greater understanding of what the future might hold.

On opening track “Myth Of Building Bridges,” he employs the distorted black metal bark of Ash Pool wrapped in the electronic stridency of middle period Prurient, all tempered with the more dance-oriented style of Vatican Shadow and Exploring Jezebel. It’s a thrilling amalgamation of sounds and styles that serves as a template for much of what is to come: It’s a mission statement, a declaration of purpose and intent across the ensuing 90 minutes of introspective self-reflection.

Each subsequent listen unveils previously unnoticed details. On the pummeling “Dragonflies to Sew You Up,” traces of the project’s original intention of being wholly acoustic can be heard beneath that massive, insistent drumming and barked vocals. So buried is the sound, it’s as though it has become submissive to the far more dominant stridency of Fernow’s electronics.

“A Sorrow With a Braid” relies on a harsh, piercing tone that winds in and out of his heavily distorted, unintelligible vocals. By contrast it’s relatively brief, however for those who tend to favor his more accessible pieces, it can feel interminable. As if realizing this, the pain inflicted is quickly sated by the synth-heavy “Every Relationship Earthrise.” And to a certain extent, Fernow seems comfortable with this. While he’s done little to soften the razor sharp edges of the blistery frenzy of noise that made up his early releases under the Prurient guise, he has tempered much of it with the more accessible elements of his assorted electronic and dark ambient projects.

On “Jester In Agony” he builds gorgeously on a slow, simmering sense of dread that, given the deployment of vicious noise throughout, has the listener on edge. It’s an ideal tact that serves to heighten the suspense of the horror soundtrack arrangement throughout, never surrendering to a cheap jump scare, and allowing the lingering sense of dread to remain long after the track’s conclusion. It’s controlling both the level of tension and expectations for an implied payoff that never truly arrives.

Throughout, this idea of control plays a large role. From the title down, being able to control external forces looms. With “Greenpoint,” traces of the acoustic elements are again heard. Slowly, these more organic elements become consumed by the electronics as Fernow ruminates on the changes that have taken place around his former home (Greenpoint, Brooklyn) in the time he’s been away. Familiar yet utterly alien, it is no longer the place he once knew and, having lost control, he struggles to reconcile that with which he is now faced with with what came before.

Thematically, this is a piece of the album’s intent. By revisiting the formerly familiar within a contemporary framework, he’s able to consider how the past has impacted the present and how the present informs his view of the past. In theory, all of this leads to a greater understanding of the future. And what much of the album conveys is a sense of where Fernow’s future projects might lead. With Frozen Niagara Falls, Fernow manages to resolve the full spectrum of his enormous back catalogue into one epic distillation of ugly beauty.

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