In a sense, those textures are what the movies are all about. In a recent e-mail correspondence, Bass described these films as "play[s] on ideas of historical fiction and its nostalgia," adding how important it was "to get visual specifics right . . . [to] invoke other eras and mediums that help us imagine those histories: pictorialist photography [of the late 19th and early 20th centuries] in Shoals, Dutch still lifes in Waking Things." To achieve these effects, Bass shot the films on a 16-millimeter Bolex camera, then used a variety of digital tools to augment certain shadows and colors. The films' sound designs grew out of another layering process: Bass shot the movies silently, then constructed the soundtracks with homemade field recordings and Foley effects. The point, she wrote, was "to heighten the physicality of gestures and objects."
This would explain why many individual shots in Shoals and Waking have a dreamlike quality while the movies on the whole don't feel like dreams. A dream implies something buried in your consciousness, while Bass's films trade in archaic practices that few contemporary viewers are likely to have experienced. What do you call a dead person's memory? And would you know that's what it was if you saw it?
You can read more about Bass at her website, Tender Archive.