“Puce,” a dark ugly red, is most frequently used to describe the color of an angry face, though its etymology is far less pedestrian. The French word for “flea,” “Puce” historically described the dried remnants of blood-coated sheets, typically the result of flea-riddled beds. As suits an artist with a cache of releases and songs like Piss Flowers, Fear and Pleasure, and “Impure Fantasy,” the name Puce Mary—an obvious juxtaposition of the sacred with the unclean—reflects the artist’s unwritten mission statement: how can anyone buy into a world that can’t live up to its promises? How can you best contort the beautiful into something monstrous? How far can you twist a neck before bringing death?
On The Spiral, Puce Mary’s third LP for Danish underground titans Posh Isolation, Frederikke Hoffmeier fine-tunes her craftsmanship without forsaking her trademark unrest or perversity. The entire release is heavy—really heavy—and abounds with sickening, monolithic bass parts. For The Spiral’s forty or so minutes, it throbs almost continually, propelled by a minimal but effective rhythmic section. Most haunting, as expected, are Hoffmeier’s vocals, at times coyly subdued and at others vehemently disgusted. Hoffmeier’s voice is far from being a one-trick pony. On “Night Is a Trap II,” the record’s single, her vocals are terrifying and larger-than-life, heavily effected by some ungodly string of pedals. Conversely, on “Enter into Them,” her vocals are spoken plainly, not that it makes the apocalyptic, violent imagery of bodily and metropolitan decay any less disturbing.
The Spiral is a disquieting listen, but a rewarding one. A co-mingling of the commonplace with the transgressive and unsettling, the record is disturbing in its familiarity. Like the rest of Puce Mary’s catalog, The Spiral is gently pessimistic, but not melodramatic. There are no easy-to-understand blanket statements. Hoffmeier’s is that sensual voice reminding you that everyone and everything you’ve ever loved will let you down before it all fades away. Except, rather than tell you straight, she manages to coax it out of your deep, hidden recesses, making the discovery that much more personal and alarming. Brava, Miss Hoffmeier.
A1) The Spiral
A2) Night Is a Trap II
A3) The Temptation to Exist
A4) Enter into Them
B1) Masks Are Aids II
B2) The Actor
B3) No Memory
B4) Slow Agony of a Dying Orgasm