FOCUS: Dead Accents – Blsphm & Great Falls (2015) — CS REVIEW

IMG_2071 copyAs some of you no doubt already know Great Falls will be readying a new record for this year: The Fever Shed. They’ve also got a split with Thou where both cover some Shellac tunes. I’m quite excited about this and you should be as well.

In the mean time however there’s a few related recordings to explore.

I recently picked up several tapes curated by Demian Johnston’s label Dead Accents, where he continues proliferating related, often darker projects like Blsphm or obscure additions to past projects and the Great Falls discography.

Here I’ll focus on two of three recent Blsphm recordings, and one Great Falls live/experimental release titled Ossature, which might be geared towards the diehards and collectors out there.

Prior to Hadals’ split with Blsphm last year I did not know much about Demian’s strictly noise dealings. I mean I still really don’t know too much outside of that tape and a few other encounters, but that release particularly piqued my interest.

So here we are playing catch-up, and I thought I’d put together a short article on this bundle. Let’s first focus on these two limited tapes: A Trail Through the Woods and Oceans.

IMG_2051 copyFirst is A Trail Through the Woods, a single noise-drone recording describe as an audio narrative in horror. The title is deceiving. One might imagine this being less desolate and open than it is, and more “cascadian” if you will (… I suspect you won’t).

This isn’t an ambient nature soundtrack, it isn’t peaceful. It’s a cavernous journey rife with uncertain, feral sounds and a steady thread of trepidation.

A continuous haunting space is created, slowly filled with reverberating, muffled noises, inundating the sound scape and building a tremor beneath this muted cacophony. Stuttered taps blurred and saturated cycle in uncertain patterns, unplaceable and indecipherable utterances maintain pressure on the mind. It’s hectic in some sense.

The variations in texture are only slight — an industrial ringing may rise, gusts ebb and hiss more like wind. The general dread is sustained through the entirety of the track, with the final moments drifting into silence and echoes.

Admittedly there is not a huge climax but the gradually shaped atmosphere becomes absorbing. Like the retracing of a spectral path once permeated with violence and now lost to every realm but that of the aural.

IMG_2054 copyNext is Oceans. Unlike A Trail Through the Woods the title is fitting, and one can expect a much more drone-oriented experience. The initial build is excruciating in pace, nothing but nebulous darkness only disturbed by a growing hum, or the indistinct shadowed sounds of objects coming to rest somewhere in the pitch black range in all directions.

Nearly five minutes in, these noises seem closer, as a porpoise-like moan breaches this claustrophobic expanse and disappears. There’s a moment where silence actually engulfs everything only for the subtle crawl to surface again, and grow agonizingly.

Oceans is far more minimal, significantly more isolated and cold than A Trail Through the Woods. The result isn’t necessarily frightening but genuinely alienating, and somehow this is soothing at the same time. I found myself more captured here than in the aforementioned tape.

In comparison to the split with Hadals last year, the contrast is stark indeed. I prefer what was happening there to this more minimal approach for sure, but I’m intrigued further by the variance in technique. You can’t always be noisy, pissed and dissonant right?

Both of these Blsphm tapes feature an appropriately minimal design. Both j-cards are one-sided featuring art and limited credits, while the shells are clear without any labels except for a single black logo on side A of Oceans.

Both Oceans and A Trail Through the Woods are limited to 25 copies each.

IMG_2059 copyRegarding this new-ish recording by Great Falls, as I mentioned in the intro blurb it will probably only interest those who like the obscure and limited aspect, or the gritty nature of a live recording. If I understand correctly it’s meant as a supplemental or precursor to the upcoming Euro and potential US tours as well as the new records.

There are four tracks in total, but only one that is previously unheard in it’s finished form titled “Shibboleth”. The other three are taken from recordings of a set in 2014, specifically “Stringer”, “Bruxism” and “Wound Instructions” — admittedly three awesome tracks from their Accidents Grotesque LP.

For “Shibboleth”, the track was recorded at the Killroom by Jeff McNulty, later stretched and abused by their drummer Phil Petrocelli in the soultheft labs before being put on cassette by Demian.

The result kind of reminds me of the recent Church of Ra experimental LP, but shorter, more eerie, and more engaging at times. In as much as something so malformed can be.

Stretching, pulling and echoing. The remains of any semblance of structure from guitar, bass, or drum turns into a slow, shuddering wail with brief splashes and whispers floating through.

Briefly the vocals can be heard pulsing into existence but become so entangled with the draining whirl. Not exactly noise, but the atmosphere is like gazing into a pit of unfathomable depths and being sucked in — slowly.

Near the end the pulses become more frequent and recognizable as vocals, the darkness recedes slightly before a gasp of buried synth-like tones. Buried by that rumble, and a new wave of cycling murk. The tones become far more muddied towards the last throes where the hissing vocals trail dead.

IMG_2061 copyThe live recordings are a bit cloudy as one might expect, with the guitar often overwhelmed at some key points. The track selection is killer though. The vocals remain stinging, and the drumming and bass fare better than the guitars. I’m not sure if it’s my copy or just the recording itself on this side, but at one point in Wound Instructions (again, side A) the left channel gets a little fucked for chunk of the track; like a connection was loose.

This is not the case on side B, where the program repeats as on side A. No issues there which makes up for that hiccup.

IMG_2065 copyIn terms of the packaging for Ossature, come on its Demian so it’s great by default. And if you pitch in a few extra dollars  on any number of these recent tapes you can get a unique painted sketch on the j-card too. A nice touch to an already aesthetically pleasing layout on the opposite side. The cassette shell itself is simply clear with one label on side A.

This is similar to their split with Pink City to some degree. Not mandatory listening but if you (like me) get curious sometimes as to what the oddity releases are like, or if you want to get a taste of some live destruction, then you might be interested in grabbing one of the 50 copies available.

With The Fever Shed on the horizon some of you may be a little anxious. To sate this craving you would do well to indulge in something more obfuscated and strange from this camp.

Also I’d imagine any money you send in Dead Accents’ direction will make touring and the release of The Fever Shed a little easier, which is definitely something worth considering if you’re on the fence and have some income to dispose of.

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