Puce Mary (Frederikke Hoffmeier) has created a world of her own. Noisy, ambient, sometimes relaxing, sometimes utterly annoying, but that is the beauty of it. She’s created her own music universe and it is not for all. An open mind to intriguing textures, harsh noises, angry synthesizers. Something that is equally present when she’s performing live. Accompanied by a KORG MS-20, which appears to be her best friend on stage, she speaks over, scream and whispers to ambient soundscapes.
The Danish producer’s latest LP, called The Drought, was inspired by writers such as Charles Baudelaire and Jean Genet, and the filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni. Its major theme, says the press release, is about transformation and survival.
On her new album, the fourth as Puce Mary she addresses the aesthetics of hunger and thirst, and the inevitable outcome of coping with an apocalyptic drought. Though rooted in industrial music and power electronics, The Drought sidesteps those genres’ stereotypical displays of machismo and fetishistic celebrations of strength. Instead it evokes an absence of power, the failure of industry. Puce Mary soundtracks a life spent vacantly shuttling between insidious digital isolation and alienated bodily contact, set against the background of a looming apocalypse.
Her new record for Berlin-based experimental operation PAN shows a distinct change in her sound. Pulling away from the metallic noise and abrasive sonics of her early work, The Drought takes a more nuanced approach to song structure. A textural fabric built of drones, sticky samples and spoken word, “Red Desert” sees Puce Mary’s palette expanding in exciting new directions, where visceral noise becomes delicate and power electronics are replaced by melancholic organ melodies.
So the album shares a healthy mix of squeaking synths, field recordings and ambient noises. Compared with her previous works this album also has a more clean sound palette and the overall theme is clearly visible throughout all the tracks. Often quite short and intense. As the textures build one will encounter something she terms “a transformation through a psychological famine,” where “vulnerability is confronted through regeneration”. After the opening track ‘Dissolve’ – in which circular drones buzz harshly overhead and an unnameable thing tears through the space – ‘A Feast Before The Drought’ presents humanity lurching remorselessly in a blizzard of orgiastic noise and mournful howls. From here on, all that’s left is ambient desolation.
Throughout The Drought, Puce Mary deals with themes of estrangement and desire, and how we cope when such feelings can be all-encompassing towards our bodies, and even our identities. This is writ large in the second half of the album, where ‘The Size Of Our Desires’ and ‘The Transformation’ mixes body horror and soundtrack dynamics, complete with bleak silence, guttural drones and rhythms.
“I find myself feeling like decades have passed. I’m an old woman now, and I have lost my attraction. I’m tortured by a feeling of drowning under you… and I feel desperate.”
Tu summarize this album is thematically unified and executed with a steady, unwavering hand, but it also feels like a concept album waiting for more. Over only a few years, Puce Mary has emerged as one of the most exciting and promising voices in noise music. The Drought’s glacial intensity and dead-eyed focus force you to approach it on its own terms, but one senses that Hoffmeier is just getting started.
Bringing together introspective examination with literary frameworks by writers such as Charles Baudelaire and Jean Genet, Puce Mary’s compositions manifest an ongoing power struggle within the self towards preservation. The traumatised body serves as a dry landscape of which obscured memories and escape mechanisms fold reality into fiction, making sense of desire, loss and control. The Drought presents both danger and opportunity; through rebuilding a creative practice centred on first person narrative and a deliberate collage of field recordings and sound sources Puce Mary injects an acute urgency across the album seeking resilience.
“To Possess Is To Be In Control” makes use of lyrical repetition as an ambiguity of two selves, or a divided self, attempting to consume one another, while “Red Desert,” named after Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1964 film, portrays the individual subsumed by surrounding environmental forces. The seven-minute epic “The Size of Our Desires” acts as the emotional tipping point of the record; amongst the ominous drone and dense feedback flutters almost-beatific melodies, while the lyrics reveal a romantic call to be swept up in the midst of an increasingly uninhabitable world.
Rather than escape, The Drought dramatises a metamorphosis in which vulnerability is confronted through regeneration. Noise and aggression no longer act as an affront to react against but part of a ‘corporeal architecture’ where space, harmony and lyricism surface from the harsh tropes of industrial music. The Drought chronologises a transformation through a psychological famine, new ways of coping akin to plant survival in a desert – to live without drying out.
The album is mastered by Rashad Becker, featuring cover art by Torbjørn Rødland.