Review Summary: Recount finds Deaf Center looking back on their career with a newfound sense of cohesion.
It’s been both an advantage and drawback for Deaf Center that its two LPs blend such a broad scope of sounds and ideas. On “Pale Ravine”, the Norwegian duo evoked cold, spacious landscapes, while “Owl Splinters” found them experimenting with atmospheres that felt isolated and disconnected, even hostile. While their diverse brand of neoclassical ambience has always been engaging, a tendency to uncomfortably juxtapose disparate elements has always kept their albums from being fully enjoyed as whole pieces of music. Quick, attention-grabbing piano pieces are great, sure, as are oppressive, 10-minute epics, but the pieces have never fit together in the way Deaf Center seemed to intend. “Recount” attempts to address such criticisms while working as a retrospective of Deaf Center’s career. The duo’s goal here isn’t necessarily to reinvent themselves as it is to look back on what they’ve accomplished and attempt to perfect, or at least, give a fresh take on those ideas, and make them fit more cohesively with each other.
Expect none of the jarring contrasts found on “Owl Splinters”; both tracks aim to complement and play off the other. The occasionally oppressive atmospheres and disparate elements of that album have been forgone for more drawn-out, contemplative ones. What unifies the two songs is the duo’s aptitude for creating a sense of spaciousness that envelopes and involves instead of isolating, aided largely in part here by the increased track lengths (both tracks just pass the 13-minute mark). The tracks resultantly feel like two pieces of a whole instead of two disconnected forays into the abyss. “Follow Still” is a slow-burning mood piece, built around a few contemplative and meandering piano phrases over which the ambient electronics have room to play around and build. The rambling piano, ushered along by that quietly chugging ambience, continues burning like the last embers of a fire. Wild melodies arbitrarily flare about until the song quietly dies.
Where “Follow Still” feels intimate and solitary, “Oblivion” is expansive and enveloping, forgoing piano for swells of an airy, droning sort of ambience. “Oblivion” hearkens back to the days of “Pale Ravine”, once again conjuring a wide floating landscape akin to the void from which the song acquires its title. What the duo do differently here than in previous stabs at this sound is let the expansiveness continue growing organically, refraining from cutting it off or adding intrusive sounds. The soundscape swirls and builds upon itself until it becomes an enshrouding fog of sound that narrowly avoids becoming oppressive. And just in time, too: “Oblivion” is the pinnacle of what the duo has to offer with regards to creating an evocative ambient soundscape. Here’s hoping subsequent efforts find Deaf Center retaining and exploring its newfound cohesiveness and succeeding like it’s done on “Recount”.