Dead Gaze, the moniker of Mississippi home-recording experimentalist R. Cole Furlow, has been a favorite of the lo-fi scene for a few years, having eschewed a proper LP release in favor of a ceaseless string of under-the-radar limited-run tracks. With this, a self-titled LP for the Fat Cat imprint Palmist, he’s collected the best from those myriad releases into a comprehensive collage that shows its rough edges as much as its glossy, hodgepodge pop ambitions.
When we talk about texture musically, it’s usually in terms of how tight or loose the melodies and harmonies are, how dense or sparse a track is based on the clusters of notes. But “texture” in the way young, self-produced recording artists like Furlow are talking about seems to have more to do with making tones “textural” – in the sense that they are highly processed to give life to the musical brushstrokes. For Furlow, that can mean Slowdive-sized overdriven guitars, John Lennon-haunted, dunked-and-flanged vocals, glitched Dan Deacon synth, or the reverb baubled full production of early Wavves releases. Variety has long been a spice of Furlow’s music, through both his nomadic recording and release career.
The broader, impressionistic textures across Dead Gaze owe to the span over which the tracks were collected. “Back and Forth” is from his excellent End of Days, Why Not You tape; a version of “A Simple Man” and “Future Love and Sing-Abouts” both appeared there and also on The Pride Of Calling Panther Lake! self-released digital collection. “Take Me Home Or I Die Alone” is from the Fire Talk 7” single of the same name. “This Big World” and album opener “Remember What Brought Us Here” first came out on the Clan Destine Records cassette split with Gray Things. “You’ll Carry On Real Nice” was released on the Small Lava digital EP. “Glory Days For Sure” and “There’s a Time to Be Stupid” dropped first on the Group Tightener self-titled 10″. “Fishing With Robert” was a 7” B-side on the La Station Radar Somewhere Else. Furlow did all the shopping for you.
We get only two new tracks here, “I Found The Ending” and “Fight Til It’s Dead”, one already released as a video and the other as a single. They both reflect how Dead Gaze has expanded slowly from the one-man recording project of Furlow to a strong five-piece band. These two tracks smooth the edges of the sounds, giving more room for the vocals to breath — or be heard at all — and less of a haphazard feel. “Fight Til It’s Dead” sounds like a dirty, psyched-up Shins tune. But “I Found The Ending” might be the most hopeful of what Dead Gaze can pull off next, a relatively clean guitar-driven riffer. And despite that hope, Furlow’s finally managed to give us lyrics with that desperate patina that’s always emanated from the Dead Gaze catalog: “I’m so sick of trying / I break down while flying / I found the ending,” he sings.
As a whole, it’s nice to see what Furlow thinks a proper LP of his should sound like. It seems like every time a Dead Gaze single, cassette, or 7” drops, the implied sentiment is: “Where’s the LP?” As a result, this is not uniquely a necessary record. Sure, it’s technically a debut LP. But it’s really a long-time-in-the-works compilation of his best work to date—if you know Dead Gaze, you’ll know Dead Gaze, though in a slightly new form. While the ambitions and output of Furlow have been consistent, it will still be most interesting to hear a fully formed LP of new material — the potential Dead Gaze fans have always admired hasn’t left these tracks.
Essential Tracks: “I Found The Ending”, “Fight Til It’s Dead”