♫ Listen: Back Sash – Damp
Posted on 11 October 2016
In an unattended aisle of a midwestern Dollar General, buried beneath canisters of Play-Doh and a plastic pump-action water rifle freed from its plastic twist-ties, lies an unmarked Compact Disk housed in a fractured jewel case casket. Tucked into its outer casing is a makeshift booklet fashioned out of a torn and folded sheet of printer paper. Facing outward, the disc’s cover artwork is emblazoned with a clipart Jack-O-Lantern and a neighboring piece of anthropomorphic candy corn. Floating cloud-like above their forms is the phrase “Halloween Sounds” typed in a disappointingly pedestrian Arial font. Closer inspection reveals alternate artwork on the insert’s reverse: an ectoplasmic ripple sloping across what appears to be the septic perspective of an underwater security camera.
In the canon of Halloween sounds CDs, Back Sash’s Damp eschews jump scares for aural illustrations of cosmic horror. The latter half of opening track “Damp/Waterfall Fire” submerges the listener in a realm of complete sensory deprivation, yet artificially sends electrical warnings of an incoming threat, human or otherwise, throughout the nervous system. It’s the sound of the knife-wielding hand extended from a closet or the set of ping-pong ball white eyes glowing in the darkness looped ad infinitum. Standout cut “Ziggy’s Gift” molds the theme song of its titular holiday special, (a DVD that I remember scooping up at an FYE liquidation sale as a kid), into a queasy conflict between nostalgia and the passage of time; the beauty of reminiscence and the existential dread that often follows it. Damp may not be the life of your grade-schooler’s Halloween bash, but it’s certainly a suitable soundtrack to the morning of November 1st, as a discarded carton of Milk Duds travels like a tumbleweed down the empty sidewalk