Christian Michael Filardo


[LP; Lime Lodge]

It’s odd how often I find my palette cleansers from more “challenging” releases to be the 90’s alternative music of my youth. That, too, has become an exploration of sorts as I’ve aged and discovered music and bands that never crossed my path as a landlocked youth in the Midwest. I always return to my current self, because as I begin to dissect those older albums and their flaws (and the love I have regardless of said flaws for many both celebrated and rejected), I also recall the isolation of the era. Everything was manufactured to the point that the word “alternative” became bastardized. It became a rhetorical question. But allow me to apply it to Christian Michael Filardo’s Justice, an album that absolutely nothing in common with the alternative music of two decades ago, but truly frames what alternative could mean in the 21st century. At its core, Justice is a difficult listen because it scatters random ideas into dots and patterns that speak as some modern Morse code I’m unable to parse. But that’s the point – it’s an alternative to just about any sort of experimentation I can compare it to. It’s glitch, but only in how it handles the production of noise and the intervals in which it is unveiled. It’s avant-garde, but only in lip service, for Justice also seems to be taking the piss out of the idea of avant-garde as it is blanketed across a cornucopia of sounds. So here I am, about to do the same to Justice by somehow labeling it alternative? But at the core of alternative – the idea that what everyone else is listening to is set, but this one thing is a stark departure from those set ideas – Justice is indeed such. Not only does it deviate from anything remotely pop, but it really has little in common with most treasured and hyped experimental and underground musics. Each listen is a challenge beyond a mere palette cleanse. This has a flavor and texture all its own; an alternative to taste all together. An alternative to music and art, entirely.

Links: Lime Lodge

Ed Askew

Little Houses

[CS; Summersteps]

Damn, this originally came out in 1997? Because it sounds like every self-centered ____wave kid in the tape game in modern times, squashed together in their bedrooms and forced to compose one titular album. Bary Center and Jerry Paper HAVE to have heard Ed Askew, is what I’m saying. If Ariel Pink really did invent chillwave I think Mr. Askew should get credit for spraying vapors (among other fumes) before it turned into an obi-strip nightmare. He sounds like Lou Reed, too. A lot like Lou Reed. OK he sounds EXACTLY LIKE Lou Reed. That’s not a bad thing either, and his cute lil’ keyboard jams remind me of the Scarface sndtrk. When he whips his harmonica out like a hard… carafe I become even more entranced, ready to rush out and do a ton of research and marry off my eldest sister to this guy. But the truth is, it’s totally killer, also, to just be happy with this-here tape, because Little Houses stands on its own apart from any Askew legend that may or may not have been cultivated over the years. You’re gonna love this fuckin’ guy if you haven’t met him yet, as he accomplishes much with a few synth arpeggios and that aforementioned harmonica. In addition to those influenced by Askew mentioned above, it would also be prudent to catch up on Bobby Trimble, Edward Ka-Spel/Legendary Pink Dots, and Galactic Nightmare before you take this trip. Kick up the dust, kids.

Links: Summersteps

Sea Witch/Ecferus

Of Water and Wood

[CS; Small Doses]

Sea Witch endeavor to break through to the most sacred elements of doom; that’s why they stand out, in my mind. I’m not sure who these Ecferus fellas are but a friend of the witch is a friend o’ mine. Of Water & Wood is a coupling that produces one new track from SW, two collaborative cuts, and, in a strange twist, in addition to an Ecferus entry there’s a final song by Ecferus featuring Sea Witch. Huh? Whatever, that’s not what you’re going to focus on when you break up and ingest the elements of this release. Sea Witch are up to their usual tricks, attending the funeral of the world and providing accompaniment. When they team up with Ecferus it’s more of a Hell-ish experience, with strictly drawn-out doom passages dominating throughout. Then Ec-Fer take over and throw in a little black metal for good balance, culminating in the aforementioned ‘featuring Sea Witch’ track. This sucker proves to be one of the most compelling pieces of work on Of Water and Wood, adhering to a motif of relative subtlety (guitars cleaner than usual, lots of voice samples, no screaming) before a brief plunge into double-bass MADNESS that’s intensely satisfying and unexpected. Cloaked in black, wreathed in flame, Sea Witch / Ecferus, know thy name…

Links: Small Doses



[LP; Dirty Knobby]

There is an entire genre of music that relies on the missing piece that was GAM’s only record, Eiszeit. Much like the Ice Age from wince its title comes, the glacial moving album sat undiscovered amid a cold, barren landscape upon its 1978 recording. The band shelved the record, became noticeable figures in other arenas of music creation, and then were unearthed by intrepid musical archaeologists in the early Aughts. What was found was the sounds of a scene that birthed both the spiritual vivid and electronic psychedelia that spanned a wide range of folk, rock and experimental music was in line with GAM’s vision, 25 years removed from an album they had never heard and a legend that is just now growing. When Cosmic Egg released Eiszeit on CD in 2004, it became an underground sensation. Now re-released on vinyl by venerable (but quiet) Dirty Knobby, we are part of the expedition that has spanned more than 35 years. Too many bands both before and after GAM to wrap up in this beast of a record, but consider the missing link between the motorik of Germany and the psychedelia of California found. Consider the fusion they created–at first slowly and underground in the 80’s, slowly rising toward the crust in the 90’s, and then dusted off for a whole new generation in the 00’s –sourced from GAM, even if no one knew it existed. Just as new civilizations are unearthed where once nothing existed, so goes Eiszeit. It came before and should not be ignored.

Links: Dirty Knobby

Richard Garet

60’ Cassette

[CS; Helen Scarsdale Agency]

You take the goood, you take the bad, you take them all and then you have 60’ Cassette. The vibrant long playing cassette from Richard Garet is a mind meld of atonal earth; the ghastly sounds of magnetic fields colliding with the eroding waves of a perpetual tide. Steam engines, gas giants and man-made beasts tear up the landscape, but within that din comes a centered hum by which we all tune in or out as mood appropriates. 60’ Cassette has many rhythms around its titled doctrine, and each one is hard to take as a complete statement. It’s rare that, as someone who worships the idea of the album, I’d recommend taking anything related to music individually but I think too much time with Garet’s work minimizes the moments that DO hit hardest. The loud static may subside on the recording, but its buzzing will echo into the compositions more thoughtful and quiet moments. Perhaps that was Garet’s intent, as if to force us to shut out the noise of our maddening word, always running amok as we try to run away. But here, we can take back some of that power and remember that is our own wiring that is keeping us perpetually stuck on a hamster wheel.

Links: Richard Garet - Helen Scarsdale Agency

Peter J. Woods

Impure Gold Pt. 2

[LP; Experimental Milwaukee]

I have to say right off the bat that the approach taken by Peter Woods on his second entry in the Impure Gold series almost NEVER works. Detached narration is a tough pill to swallow, even when all systems are GO-GO-GO otherwise, so for Woods to crack the code is noteworthy in and of itself. But there’s more to Impure Gold Pt. II than this achievement, as he’s created an ode to the noise gods, creepy yet defiant in the face of convention. (Incidentally, I’m listening to this in my record room late at night as I write this and I swear to you that my French doors just rattled creepily for no reason. And there couldn’t be a worse album for an unnerving occasion such as this. It reminds me of the time my wife passed out at a Xiu Xiu show, or when my daughter said “Who’s that?” pointing to an empty room while a spine-tingling Current 93 album spun on my player; music can be terrifying.) Woods is prone to sudden BLASTS from the furnace to shake up the quiet a la John Wiese, and he also can make the mountains rumble with throbbing avalanches of sound, both necessary traits for experimental musicians. And yet the moments I prize take place in that isolated cabin up North, wherein this Milwaukee prodigal son speaks his truth while high hats flail and random noises threaten the peace. I’ve heard records that sound technically better this year, but not any that hypnotize the ear like the first half of “Skin and Movement,” not to mention the haunting piano straight out of Eyes Wide Shut that bolsters the anything-but “Comedy.” All-original, cult classic, art edition available; what else do you need to know?

Links: Experimental Milwaukee


7 (or 8)

[LP; Kill Rock Stars]

The (virtual) reams spent on the “Seattle sound” are astonishing. It should all just boil down to the collective catalog of Kinski, a band itself founded on an argument to prove out an idea. The band has somehow found its way onto Pacific Northwest labels still fostering the variants of whatever passes for the Seattle sound. It’s as if the band will never shake Seattle nor will Seattle ever shake them. 7 (or 8) is another in a long line of loud, rough and tumble rock that isn’t quite indie, never alternative, and grungy only to those still stuck in fashionable flannel. So why stick Kinski with a label that is heavily disputed in a tired and aging fight? Because they still carry the banner without waving it like a homer. They are fans of the home team but they understand its faults and choose wisely to avoid them. 7 (or 8) is typical Seattle from a time that no longer exists (to most people, Seattle is now Fleet Foxes, The Hand and the Heart, Macklemore and fossils from grunge…), but Kinski never dwell on that past. Whatever came out of alternative (post-alternative?) became failed stadium rock. And though “I Fell Like a Fucking Flower,” has a riff straight out of “Vasoline,” its ties to those ancient days of rock and roll ruling the airwaves is thin. Kinski is always a favored band within Seattle because they exemplify the hard work and continuous evolution of a tough nosed, blue collar city that has been eclipsed by capitalists and capitalizers. But they represent the soul – the underground of Seattle. And by Underground, I mean the one with speakeasys, prostitution, and pirateering that hides beneath the cobbled streets of Pioneer Square. It’s a buried past that you can pay to experience, but you’re just visiting. But Kinski live there, toiling away to do what they must to prove out their theories on what still passes as rock. So not only do Kinski stand for the mythical Seattle sound that was but a slogan with little substance for two decades, they stand as one of the last visages of rock and roll as a viable, ever-changing medium. It may not have a place at the table now but it will again, and Kinski will be the cockroach deep inside the caverns that has survived it all, after we’ve talked so much about nothing that all the oxygen has been wasted.

Links: Kinski - Kill Rock Stars

Shearing Pinx

Poison Hands

[LP; Gilgongo]

It’s been a long, long, long time since their heyday but anyone remotely familiar with TMT or, well, me, knows that Shearing Pinx were a huge part of my initial baptism into the tape underground. They used to zip those things out with alarming regularity, but they also saw the future through their cracked lenses and put out a lot of vinyl (not to mention CD-Rs, 7-inches, 10-inches, lathes; pretty much anything you can imagine) too. It’s tempting to think along the lines of, “Well, if ShxPx didn’t break through to the mainstream at all what was the point of their dozens of releases?” Well, for one, when you rule all kinds of ayse for so long, folks begin to take notice, such as James Fella, purveyor of fine vinyls in the form of Gilgongo Records. Like me, he’s a longtime Pinxist, and as a serious appreciator he’s taken on the challenge of keeping the memory of this gr(e)at(ing) band alive, starting with a split 7-inch with Soft Shoulder last year and continuing with Poison Hands, which originally was, get this, a DOUBLE 3-INCH CD-R on Not Not Fizzy back in 2006. Ahh, the format warz. Anyhoo, you should get a grip and rip this sucker to your mainframe before you, once again, miss out on the chance to get your brain sheared to a crisp. Poison Hands has everything one could want from a ShxPx project: Incisive riffing, active, fluid drumming, myriad breakdowns (and down-breaks), a schtickle of noise, and there you have it. Pissed Jeans, Das Oath, the SYR series, and a lot of other bands you probably haven’t learned enough about, factor in either as precedents or antecedents. Please don’t be afraid to learn the ways of the lung-scorchers…

Links: Gilgongo

Sunny Dunes


[CS; ((Cave))]

The darkwave scene that has enraptured France (and by proxy, Montreal) has been a sensual, but artistically lofty proposition. It’s blending that animal desire to romance with the equally feral response to new horizons. The genre’s best artists are finding themselves looking past what they can see. Sunny Dunes is no different, recalling the pop energies of Froe Char’s synthetic sine waves with the ebon chill of Marie Davidson’s recent noir. But Emmastaete takes a sharp right away from pop sensibilities with two long form pieces of shadowy isolation. Emmastaete has the Cold War seeping from its pits; pheromones of the cagey exploits and backdoor politics of a bygone era re-emerging at the turn of the century. It’s as lustful and provocative as darkwave kin. It does not, however, bow to any greater notions of man than its most animalistic totem. That the art of espionage, of passion, and of survival is not artistic at all, it’s mandatory. Does this make Sunny Dunes un-artistic or an artist with the sharpest canvas?

Links: ((Cave))

The Coolies


[LP; Feeding Tube]

The drips of releases from The Coolies is what makes Kaka such a stark listen from the moment the needle drops. The album cover, riddled with re-appropriated tags and taggings, speaks to the graffiti laced energy of Kaka. A band active since the late-90’s, Kaka is just as punkish and reckless as the band’s first impressions on New Zealand voyeurs. The album is ramshackle in the best way, maintaining an edge precisely because The Coolies are, well, cool. It feels like the trio were just hanging out, began jamming on some ideas, and out came an album that sounds haphazardly thrown together at first, but uncovers its true intricacies with a bit more prodding. Kaka is anything but shit, though the band is certainly achieving some artistic argument in line with Manzoni where consumerism, market demands and free license battle. But then again, that’s a cool debate that is won on style points. Case in point: Kaka. The Coolies will defecate when and where they want, and those of us that find scatological satisfaction in New Zealand scene watching will go two girls one cup on this.

Links: Feeding Tube

Cerberus seeks to document the spate of home recorders and backyard labels pressing limited-run LPs, 7-inches, cassettes, and objet d'art with unique packaging and unknown sound. We love everything about the overlooked or unappreciated. If you feel you fit such a category, email us here.