The Blessed Knife
Causa Sui






Causa Sui (Latin for “a self-caused cause”) is a brazen, heftily churning electric bass album by The Blessed Knife aka Asheville, North Carolina-based Derek M. Poteat which is driven by the same source material as his tape debut Guilt, released on Matthew Barlow’s Twin Springs Tapes label. Causa Sui itself is self-released in September 2013 and fully streamable at Bandcamp. Poteat’s tape sported two long-form pieces loaded with walls of guitars, spiraling strings of venom and a designed restlessness. On that tape, however, form followed function and not only made the harshness bearable, but embraceable. Causa Sui, meanwhile, delivers nine tracks which all have one connecting element in common. In The Blessed Knife’s own words, they are about “bass destruction to its most basic elements.” These shadows, glowing remainders and vestiges are not necessarily much weaker than the humongous attack and sustain of the bass guitar, frequency- (and spine-) bending filters and amplifiers, and so it happens that Causa Sui delivers, as the adage goes, more of the same. And that is Poteat’s Power Shoegaze. According to the artist himself, the frequencies are “wrenched” out of the textures, and this kind of terminology is oh so fitting in the given context and reveals the vision in a poignant way. Frilly and lachrymose landscapes of blooming flowers are not the kind of entertainment The Blessed Knife has in mind. As each composition carves out a different structure and nature of the bass, things get abyssal really quick. Abyssal yo, abysmal no?


This is Dark Ambient-inspired Shoegaze alright, the opener Tilting does not even hide its malevolent synergy of granular streams and zinger sinews. Merging Middle Eastern shawm-like strings of Jericho with vuvuzela-esque superimposed dissonances, emending both simultaneous aeriform gusts with bone-grinding bass flumes and rounding the mad concoction off with screeching electric guitar sirens, Derek M. Poteat creates an opener in the veins of Attenuated’s EP Night Of Sense (2012). The most portentous thing is the comparably ashen aura, there is no true ferociousness revealed, a certain luminescence is still glowing from within Tilting’s nucleus. Pigeon Killer of Flanders rectifies this situation with its lanthanum-alloyed electric bass protrusions, sawtooth sine scintillae and crestfallen coruscations. It resembles segues of Poteat’s tape debut and is probably driven by the same force which lent its concept to that debut: guilt. Buzzing and droning, resembling electric current, malfunctioning Geiger counters and atomic enshrinements, Pigeon Killer Of Flanders proudly exhibits pernicious behavior transformed into music, with the even longer centroid Then Let Us Hope That I Was Wrong further succumbing to the medulla-emptying bass twangs that feel like severe injuries caused by whiplashes. Throughout its ten minutes, decay, attack and acid are worshipped, prolonged and elated until the listening subject feels like a spineless vestige of the former self.


Rats Is Rats is a favorite of mine, and I have to admit that this is caused by the more silkened, streamlined circumambience. The ears have now fully adjusted to The Blessed Knife’s tumular turmoil and asbestus arcana, and so the fourth offering feels less pressing than tense and forsaken. The electric guitars glisten and are hued in a gleaming frostiness, the darker undercurrents and hornet swarms offer different textures which are still twirling and tumbling, but less piercingly so. A Brief Feeling Of Worth, meanwhile, offers the most abysmal low frequency globs and protuberances of the whole album. Poteat’s trick is to couple them with their upper low frequency brethren so that the atmosphere becomes sternly mephitic. Spheroidal and ophidian at he same time, this lizard-like piece sports a bubbling physiognomy that is caused by the micro-staccato crunchiness of the bone-dry guitars, but otherwise fathoms elasticized drones of the rubicund kind. Your People Will Miss You offers yet another stylistic take on the electric guitar-centered formula, as this is the track to enchant Dark Ambient listeners who prefer a balanced, less grinding and ill-natured approach. Sure, there are guitar licks that roll like brazen thunders, but the long sustain phase and dun-colored afterglow oddly enough feel strikingly bon-fire like. The depicted wilderness is of course hazardous, but still, Your People Will Miss You feels like a short moment of contemplation, of relative tranquility and quiescence… and is a harbinger of the pseudo-mellifluousness to come


The majestic Luck Dragon is up next, presenting its retrogressive 8-bit bass complexion in all its glory. Emaciated bass funnels merge with punchy alkaline riffs… and that is basically the whole story about this track. The moss-covered bassline feels as if it was spawned by a C64; enigmatic yet bit-crushed and ground loop-oriented, Luck Dragon is a filthy beast that is almost tamed. Surprisingly benign and thermal, with only a few aerose blitzes flashing in its latter half, it adds traces of euphony, you know, that kind of overtonal bliss that was not featured heretofore by Derek M. Poteat – or ever since, for that matter. Meanwhile, the cheeky (and solely title-related) creativity takes a new high (or low?) with Facing My Mortality In The Toilet, an unexpected plateau of sylvan-metallic stokehold stutters. Eminently industrial and mechanic, the track is another paradoxically mild-mannered stallion. Its highs and lows are never too far away from its core of frequencies. Neither peaking flashes nor spine-breaking lows are injected, and these omissions make this drone diorama as raucous-rough as it is stringently buzzing. The final With Only My Vices is a vaulted, almost aqueous cavity loaded with bubbling bass blebs, ethereally (!) screeching guitars in the background, and last but not least, wraithlike reverberations. Considering the endemics, Causa Sui lets cautious amounts of colors into the ring and, as a whole, loses its threatening impetus over its course.


Grinding ever forward until most layers of one’s skin are sanded away in order to cut through the listening subject’s innermost self, Derek M. Poteat’s moniker The Blessed Knife is the perfect pen name for that rigid procedure known as Causa Sui. The created meaning is sternly imposed on the listener’s shoulders, and while there are slight shifts in the acidic formula, small steps which simulate comparably sanguine mirages supercharged with toxic guitars throughout the album’s latter third, the complete package is anything but a powerful Drone erection of the Shoegaze kind. In my humble opinion, Poteat’s album seems to run overly long, given its multitudinous wastelands of debris and aggressive energy, but as with every good guitar-driven sine tone concoction, one’s brain adjusts in time, usually after two till three songs. One wouldn’t propose this album to his or her beloved grandmother, but it is true: suddenly, harsher noise talons sound silkier, a certain fun level arises, the megalomaniac patterns blow through the organs and leave them in mint condition. Rex (2012) by S ND Y P RL RS showcased this strange adjustment prior to Causa Sui, and now the latter, more mean-spirited artifact ventures into the same interstice where terror, vigor and saturation await the listener. I still prefer Derek M. Poteat’s Guilt tape. Its two long-form pieces are – probably controversially so – even more brutish and gigantic, but the shifting patterns and eruption-interspersed overall fluxion works better in two varied 28-minute-doses rather than in full-album length (I usually listen to one side of the tape only, never to both of them in a row). That being said: Shoegaze is not the primary material I am reviewing at AmbientExotica, so the mighty impetus of Causa Sui might overwhelm me, but may be the right recipe for Metalheads.



Further listening:

You can purchase and fully stream Causa Sui at Bandcamp.



Ambient Review 286: The Blessed Knife – Causa Sui (2013). Originally published on Nov. 27, 2013 at