The line between cute and terrifying is often far thinner than people would like to admit. That thin line led to classic horror film scenes like the twins in The Shining, Damien in The Omen, Anabelle, Chucky and countless others. Despite its numerous successes in the world of film, this technique rarely gets used in music. On the one hand, auditory mediums do dampen the power of cuteness, but that doesn’t make this trick impossible. People have seen it happen with the likes of Poppy’s I Disagree from earlier this year, and artists like Dorian Electra, Sophie and Charli XCX have all experimented with conveying something a little spookier in their pop. It took until Jaye Jayle’s Prisyn to properly execute this unnerving combination of horror and pop.
Though Prisyn does contain a fair amount of pop sensibilities, it compares more readily to groups like Suicide and Daughters than it does any pop artist. The vocal delivery that Jayle relies on is well-equipped to unnerve listeners. He almost growls, utilizing his low register to compliment the listenable but slow production. This results in a palpable air of tension and fear. Tracks like “Making Friends” and “Synthetic Prison” utilize this technique to great effect. The former in particular feels like Nine Inch Nails if Marilyn Manson had sung over the top of it, back before he lost himself to the all the self-indulgent theatrics.
The album does struggle in some regards when it comes to dynamics. As a more calculated piece of work, the short runtime does much to mitigate this, but if one moves at a languid pace they’re likely to lose someone’s interest along the way. By the time listeners reach “Guntime,” the sixth track on the album, the schtick threatens to get old, and the skip button begins to look more and more tempting. Sadly, the back half doesn’t do much to encourage one to stick around. The back half is decidedly weaker, with only album closer “From Louisville” standing out, thanks to its exceptional production.
While it ultimately becomes tiring and a bit samey, Prisyn is still an excellent proof of concept for Jayle. He uses his talents to deftly craft a deeply unnerving album that spends as much time relaxing the listener as it does terrifying them. It may not quite reach the levels of something like Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop” or Scott Walker’s Bisch Bosch, but the approachable nature of the record makes it all the more unsettling when it chooses to rear its ugliest head.