Kelly Moran and Prurient: Chain Reaction At Dusk – album review.
Kelly Moran and Prurient
Chain Reaction At Dusk
December 4th, 2020
A split EP between prepared-piano instigator Kelly Moran and Hospital Productions boss Prurient (Dominick Fernow/Vatican Shadow/Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement), which seeks and succeeds in representing the psychedelic and the anxious, in the disorders of the every day – a genuine Chain Reaction At Dusk, a new way to unveil the alchemical rawness of the morning, and unpeel concepts of Noise, and represent them here as – ‘Noise’. By Ryan Walker.
The pair met whilst in support of Oneohtrix Point Never’s Myriad and Age Of ‘concertscape’ in 2018, which Moran was involved with as part of his live group, and bonded over the joy of piano, drone, and noise synthesis, culminating in a collaborative split release to showcase their unique takes on electronic music and its multidisciplinary moods. What we’re dealing with here is a couple of contemporary artists who we don’t fuck with. What we’re looking at are a couple of artists, eccentrics uninterested in the obvious, but prefering the anomalies in life to look for rather than the boredom of conformity. In one way or another, they possess the powers to harness the heavy, vibrant strahlung of modern electronic music, offering their utmost up to now with the fruits of one’s curious labors and reinvention as the superior source of relevance and stance of artistic purpose.
Red Storm opens the EP by Kelly Moran, a classically trained now accomplished at reconfiguring what the instrument can offer those who wish to expose what it is capable of. Surpassing her fifth solo album, who in 2018 released her excellent Ultraviolet on Warp Records, accentuating ideas of improvisation and a disregard for the tightly gripped parameters of one genre throughout an entire lifespan, regularly immersing herself in everything from black metal to dream pop to jazz and neo-classical compositions and allowing the prepared piano to ingest and exhale this fabulous hydra of incongruous sources of unconscious influence and project them back out on a raw, cellular, subatomic and electroacoustic level with hints of synths washing over.
The storm here, the red one, is one of germs and geometric shapes, whizzing with dizzying tessellations. Its creaking puzzle piece piano keys crawl under the skin and the earth bursts at the seams. There are ascensions glowing melody in the distance, gorgeous and warm, growling radioactive and elegiac, twitching and twinkling amongst the forestry of hypnotic noises, whirring buzzes and ominous hums of ambiance which hang in the air like delicate snowflakes or rotten, autumnal leaves, slowly descending, swirling and twirling, like debris asunder in the breeze throughout the seasons which sequester us in endless indwelling cycles of routine and snaps of angular drama in this short, silent film existence.
Moran recorded her share of the EP at home in the fall of 2018. It is a remarkable showcase of what can be accomplished, in a sincere psychedelic fashion, where things seem to coalesce which, although at first appear odd and uncomfortable, soon settle as spells to produce a marvelous flowering that connects and evokes our innermost. The appearance of something uncertain, the apparition of something weird, a disjunct between one element and other, but overall feels right and appropriate and accurate, and therefore, psychedelic. A subjective term, like Fernow’s own summary of Noise, each not to be taken so literally, but when left to their own experimental, visionary whims; simultaneously squashes and unlocks what is psychedelic, or what we think of as noise, and liberates them a sense of volatility and a great exhale. Noise doesn’t have to be noisy, and likewise, in the case of Moran’s explorations; Psychadelic doesn’t have to connote, psychedelia, man.
Helix III is a very literal entwining of different features, overlapping and elongated, thickening with each spherical layer but uncoiling, yearning, contingent and machinelike, rearranging itself all the time– a coupling of pouncing, arpeggiated keyboards which leap and skip as though a sentient machine singing for its own enjoyment and stabs and slaps of piano penetrate the eye and ear, permeate the brain, and enable the inner listening/looking abilities to become enveloped and spellbound, sedated and sediments by the citalopram sonata. Irresistible are those glistening details of daylight and dusk, a chrysalis concealed but gradually blooms to reveal its miraculous self under the cold, blue, neon, liturgical glow, as they gracefully traverse and gorgeously transmogrify whole knots of gleaming, nebulous spaces, phantasmagorical shades, and fractal, fragmentary shapes.
The pieces appear to float and fall whilst operating with vigorous syncopation, a way to unveil the secrets it contains depending on where and what has found itself straddling on one of Moran’s hysterical and agile lines. Each string now a balancing act for the items placed on its plane, nuts, and bolts fire upwards, a spirit shooting through a static nova.
Clogged with bloody hammers, cluttered with fingers and thumbs, antlers and magnets, seashells and lightbulbs (in my mind, not her actual piano) dance sprightly, interacting with the whole panorama of paranoid noise, like a menacing of a marionette with its limbs unwillingly pinioned to pieces of invisible strings is a thing of irresistible beauty, like tapping something heavy against the piano’s cavernous ribcage with its organs freshly rearranged. That enchanting, cracked porcelain doll ambiance, unearthed from below the dirt of the cannibalistic modern world is resurrected here with irrepressible, sensory aplomb which rotates with gyroscopic allurement.
Perhaps plucked as a melting icicle drips into the abyss, its barren chest is clogged and clotted with tired wires and cyclically picked to indicate some kind of sign of life from its cavity. As a leader in the field of prepared piano, Moran realises the zen plentiful in the abstraction of Cage’s milieu of desire to be happy with things as and when they happen, to enjoy what introduces itself to us.
Contrary to the views that we ought to want to possess and represent sound as though it is something finitely within our control, but considering the overall inevitability of something random, the wellspring of luxuriant possibility and serendipitous nature of each piano, each player, each performance, each person, as unable to not be responsible for a wholly unique sound which emerges and unfolds according to what newly designed circumstances have, seemingly at random, been built as. Perhaps this is a Hymn to him and the cages he helped to unlock.
Dominick Fernow, here as Prurient, but also goes by the moniker Vatican Shadow, formed in 1997 in addition to the prolific, modern harbingers of electronic music, as the brains behind Hospital Productions, always produces something which coincides with his subjective understandings of what noise/extremity symbolizes. Expect the unexpected and always be caught by surprise, and enjoy it, even if it kills you. Things are extreme to the extent we experience them as such. To Fernow, noise has more in common with themes of artistic freedom and impulse rather than the restraint of genre codes and solidified, structures of style we have over time become used to. And now we have the next stage of ‘Noise’; the next stage of Fernow as following those urgent, indulgent, ardent creative impulses to allow ‘the freedom to explore personal obsession outside of audience and genre’, to lead him astray and assist in his circumnavigation throughout the stockpiles of tapes he has exchanged and accumulated throughout the ages to explore the interiors of natural existence which we define as being – Extreme.
Tokyo Exorcist is a pulsating electronic composition vibrating the entire skeleton to a pile of bones on the floor with its neon hot synth staircase to constantly climb. A climactic, recurring synthscape, galvanic like the rise and fall of tidal waves complimented by a demonic ‘parallax-view’ voice calling upon us from the cosmic void, channeled by an accessible archive of pristine analogue machinery, rapidly accelerating throughout the blood’s pumped current.
Not a drum to be heard, a blurring of beats, similar perhaps to Vanus Penis from Cave Depression on No Fun Productions or More of The Same from Fernow’s other project Vatican Shadow, with that pulverizing pneumatic cylinder synth and palindromic, magmatic attack on everything it spins into and spits out.
A suggestion of steps, speculation of voices speaking within the computer music grooves, and an enthralling barrage of cybernated EBM mastermind at work, forcefully feeding something invigorating in the veins and throbbing throughout the arteries with a filthy cache of VHS cassettes for exotic horror stimuli.
Fizzing and repetitious, robust and robotic, and ever so slightly tarnished with distortion and decay, boiling with an alluring warmth as intermittent patterns of unpredictable, cryptographic energy and kinetic high-frequency keyboard skills like a murmuring of tinnitus signals, flutter and irritate and irradiate the brainwaves and turn the nerves to noodles.
These particular compositions came about during a session at Guy Brewer’s (Shifted – Appropriation Stories was released on Hospital in 2016 as HOS470) former Berlin studio, and during such a stay, dug deep into the notions of telephone dictation manipulation resulting in the mangled broadcast disturbances of Help If I May Ask. And such shattered glass percussion, such shredded metal atmospherics and the early morning ambiance of passing cars suddenly turned into a manic traffic boom when disturbed by a crash, leading to an explosion of what Prudient terms ‘exquisite corpse static’ work brilliantly because of its unlocking of the sections of our eternally ticking internal orchestra pit, turning and churning and ecstatically stirring that play to fill in the blanks and find our way out of the murk.
An idea exemplified best by Help If I May Ask. An eerie, surrealist experimental sketch in methods of experimentation kindred to Shining Hole from the Stone Vagina release in 2006 with its demonic, walkie-talkie cut-up techniques of meshing one moment in time to another point in space. It’s a dense and relentlessly fascinating découpé to unfasten and then glue back and jolt and interrupt and destroy and rearrange and disjoin and divorce oneself from the orthodox orders of time and space. In parts kindred to the ghostly, industrial techno motion of Sandwell District, in others the neurological slaughter up against the monolithic brick wall of Absolut Null Punkt.
For Prurient, language is anarchy, and Noise, under these kinds of conditions, is a way forth, a way to confront, rather than run away from a past life we can’t be fucked with to remember, and so reinvent the pathway forward. And from which, it interpellates, intercepts, and encourages us to feel the need, to think as we please
All in the name as a way to invent, to invite, to decline, to predict the future, to dismantle the past, and through aleatory, through alchemy, and adhering to his own definitions of what Noise is capable of, erect an imaginative instrument out of anachronisms. To entertain new types of psychotherapy, new schools of electronic rumination, by adopting the cut-up, and fantastically animated here through the use of brutal electronic oddities, odd blocks and blobs of spectral noise, drawn from the peripheries to exorcise our demented vexations with what has flattened the land behind us. Pinched from here and plucked from there, and sculpted such conversations with whatever we find pleasing to the point our understood use of language has been wrong and misused, misspoke, and therefore, misunderstood all along.
Fernow presents a disruption of a story, a freshly painted allegory, the sonic destruction of something someone said somewhere, image after image after image, into a microphone, on the radio airwaves, during a television broadcast, down the telephone. A motherboard smothered in gunshots, the wasteland is a dancefloor. Each uncompromised assemblage and clamorous bricolage of disparate, uncanny parts; each trusty, rusted pair of scissors taking to a slice of paper to construct the scene before you, here creatively, intensively, impressively comprised of slices and splices from paragraphs and passages fed through black holes and emerge warped as something else.
Cocteau corroded to reveal the barbaric bones of Ernst below the exteriority- a multiplex of factions smashed together like the topography of genres Fernow finds the time to disarm and align in landscapes of shapeshifting granite and hauntological melodicism.
Incantations and photographs and portraits inspiringly reveal a newly realised concatenation of images, a new system of beliefs, a new underbelly of roots protruding teeth and projecting trees, a new manifesto of rules which reduces entire galaxies of dark matter clusters to mere morsels of dusty concrete on the city streets. He manages to present an iconoclastic suffusion of syntactical structures by pouring acid on the flow of all things sensical and in turn, creating something greater in terms of accuracy and something more gruesome than an uninterrupted asphyxiating of the esophagus than the initial tale could articulate.
The right words, at the wrong time, is demonstrated here as a rubbing out the word etched into the furniture of the theatre of the absurd, as finite and absolute, until someone feels the need, to begin again – to erase, to efface, to butcher and rebuild, as Fernow has done here, blowing a hole in the head of history, hammering into the floor of the present day, throwing a tired entanglement of live wires into a shallow puddle it stands above, and stabbing the past in the back, with whatever tricks he has to hand.
This is indeed sonic anxiety disorder and the psychedelic nature of real-life – or to be more precise, a brilliantly compiled sonic assault, or portrayal of the disorder in the psychedelic, the psychedelic in the anxious. A morphosis inevitable when things thought of as antipodes are actually such to the extremes they are complementary in many intriguing, enlightening, and insightful ways, rather than solely reactionary forces.
This EP is an epitome of what occurs when things naturally are drawn to each other to dislodge the facade which fronts this earth’s ugly face in the morning rain, it’s dying neon stars and delayed trains and decadent ghetto adverts for a future slowly slipping between our grappling, mechanical fingers. Opposites attracted to each other by wishing to express and elucidate and illuminate and dress up and strip bare all they desire. How entwined we all are to these aspects of each day, how twisted and affixed to each passing, decaying moment – anxious psychedelic, or psychedelic anxiety.
As purveyors of the electronic arts, as diligent dabblers with the avant-garde and its position on the frontiers of conceptual contours by way of Cage and Cowell, Debord and Duchamp, Broadrick and Burroughs, Ultravox and Kraftwerk, and sharing an affinity for frequencies low and high; Moran and Prurient have put their fingers on the pulse of all that bubbles below the surface, and brought it forth into the anguished starkness of plain view. The light and/in the dark, the night before and the morning after, enveloped and entwined like the inescapable dualities of each day; hostile and warm, cold and neon, sacred and scared, all faces shared by the same coin, and couldn’t compliment each other greater.
A noticeable commonality runs throughout the veins of these compositions which entrance and sedate, which allure and spellbind us here. They are distinct and diverse, each making a point of what something can be when seen from the other side (Noise for Fernow, Psychadelic for Moran), and in the wake of such a comparison able to be drawn between the two vast artists and their cannon. A synthesis of differences, a convolution of conventions, and readily offer nothing short of a fine example of ‘classical doom electronics’ – minimal to the point they could disappear at any moment, intense in their momentum to the point entire mountains move. Evidence of the levels of duplicity and imbalance and a dissociative composite of all things at odds with each other, from the glacial, gossamer, pianissimo and wandering electronic drones of Moran. To the somatic swarms of cascading sequencers, and hallucinatory walls of hell which surround us according to Prurient. An exposure of restless, harrowing shadows and relentlessly changing shapes. Distant drips and ripples. Desolate, dystopian echoes and sirens whistling from afar. A pound of flesh in the concave blender. A piece of sentence snapped in half and stuck back together with something else.
A superb contribution to the notions that the nightmarish, is never too many throws of the stone away from the dreamlike, the psychedelic is never too many edges away from the anxious; with this very record as its living kernel.
12” vinyl available to order from Bandcamp
Prurient Press Picture by © Sven Marquardt.
Kelly Moran Press Picture by © Katharine Antoun.
Ryan Walker is a writer from Bolton. His archive can be found online here.
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