EN/Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
Split [CS; Constellation Tatsu]

The strut; a singular action of confidence amidst a sea of indecision and outward glares that sets the tone for what is to come. Judgment; words eroding silence in betrayal of thought in favor of raw human emotion. It’s the confidence and eager opinion of EN and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma existing on the same cassette that makes me want to ignore all pretenses and create noise amidst a sea of quiet reflection. But that would be contrary to the stoic beauty of this split, perfectly encapsulating the inner fortitude and outer serenity of three individuals in the midst of their creative peaks. EN’s side is 26 minutes of solitude, carefully pursuing intellectual discovery in a pod where all the beauteous imperfections of the world are seen and left undisturbed. It has a Fennesz fragility that makes it warm, but Croy and Devane dot it with their own signatures, unafraid of their talents. JCL is far more abrasive; rather than general observation, he rips into the tree line with his two-part “Blood Variations,” taking EN’s world and viscerally ripping it apart, before leaving human emotion behind for deep meditation. Both artists confident in their art, both proving rationality has a place in music that isn’t cold or unforgiving, like the snickers and stares of those who would rather cast immediate judgment than take in and rationally assess.

Links: EN/Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Constellation Tatsu

Rites Of Spring

Six Song Demo

[10-inch; Dischord]

It’s funny how the rumors of tear-soaked shows and such don’t even do Rites Of Spring service. Here’s a precursor to Fugazi (with an uncredited Brendan Canty on drums and a very-credited Guy Picciotto on guitar/voice) with heart and brains and emotion in equal measure. It’s post-punk in its earliest form, a bit of a sneer but also a bit of hope; less detachment for sure, though it’s a given that any great band keeps a bit of distance. Picciotto is a beguiling presence, to be sure. Probably would have been an actor had he not taken up the axe, as he needsyou to listen to him just as he needs you to watch him in concert. It’s interesting to me that Ian MacKaye sought this guy out later because it must have been difficult, in a way, to cede so much of the spotlight to this energetic little pre-emo gremlin. Yet that’s what made Fugazi great, of course, and the rest is fuckin’ history. Don’t forget to study up on Rites Of Spring though, as they’re a crucial, unappreciated (or at the very least under-appreciated) link to the surge of era-defining indie-rock that was to come, the lo-fi buzz of Six Song Demo a suitable, possibly even superior, way to get acquainted if you haven’t already.

Links: Rites Of Spring - Dischord

Charlatan Meets The North Sea

Charlatan Meets The North Sea

[CS; Field Hymns]

I get the notion Brad Rose is Spring Cleaning, even as we drift helplessly into the winter season. But the aliases keep piling up and sometimes it’s easier to toss them out than to donate or store them. It’s not as if Charlatan or The North Sea have become too ratty to salvage, but some well-worn items are best to forget rather than to keep in the back of the closet. But Charlatan Meets The North Sea has Rose trotting out his ensemble one more time, one last twirl on the pulsating catwalk before both monikers fall out of fashion and the threadbare items completely dissolve. As one might imagine, pairing two completely unrelated items does lead to some strange combinations. Nothing is as painful as plaid pants and striped tops accented with gingham ties and argyle socks, but the duality of Rose’s musical identities produces a strange combo, one you’ll have trouble tossing aside. Mellow drones collide into electronic jams that are draped in eerie melodies. Rose may be having a fire sale, but you will be the benefactor, plaid pants and all.

Links: Field Hymns

Eureka

Recognitions

[CS; Avant Archive]

Is it wise to call any band a rock band? Does it just sink one’s hopes and drown them in archaic expectations. Too bad because Eureka, as obtuse as it sounds, is all about the rock. Recognitions is piano balladry broken down to its most fundamentally rocky. Thirteen minute opener “Conception” is ragtime showmanship not in the vein of Jerry Lee Lewis, but you can’t place 50-year-old identifiers on today’s cast of thousands. By today’s standards, this is “Great Balls of Fire.” “Perception” is tense pop-rock; a leg on the amp and a playful chorus away from Ben Folds; “Shatov” a few Cadillac revs away from Andrew W.K. My Bic is at the ready, my heart is full and my ears are ringing. Encore! Encore! Encore!

Links: Avant Archive

Failing Lights

Dawn Undefeated

[12-inch; Dekorder]

Another stellar Dekorder joint, Failing Lights’ Dawn Undefeated lends an equal slice to a few different audio-damaging approaches — crickets chirping in the dark, then you hear a twig “SNAP” and a harsh wind sucks you into its spine. Side A plumbs the softer underbelly of noise, where the truly inspiring work seems to be getting done these days. The saws are sanded down, the drills less painful (though, shit, one might argue the surge near the end of “First Made Laws” is very dental), the liquid-rinse at the end more of a cosmic drip than a lightning-bolt attack. Side B is even more subdued. Lonely, subtle tones and an odd drift meander with little resolution until a Skeletor-black cloud drifts over head and rains the-fuck down. A spiritual drone follows. As always, a little patience goes a long way, Failing Lights returning the favor of your attention by taking you places you’ve never been. Nice 45RPM mix, too.

Links: Dekorder

Lazy

Party City

[7-inch; Moniker]

Can’t rrremember the last time I heard a siren on a punk record; two weeks, two years, or two decades? Shit, used to be somethin’ a man could count on, now I have to wait for it to come to me. And it did. Lazy don’t just play punk, they believe in punk, and Party City is the end result of decades of the genre’s makes and misses, zoning in on the mid-to-late 1970s more than anything. It has that PARTY element to it to though; I always suspect a group such as Lazy will use the term ironically or sarcastically, but we’re allowed to actually party, aren’t we? I sure the shit hope so. And I’d have no problem doing just that to the title track or maybe “Silence in Crisis,” which packs a catchy enough melody to turn the heads of normal people and the hardcore sensibility to sneer and most likely break the band up once those dicks start paying attention. Both are unassailable punk overcharges, while “Boys in the Girlsroom” is more of a Wire-esque rager (nothing wrong with that, hell) in the mold of “Surgeon’s Girl.” I prefer the other two, but “Girlsroom” survives on its own merits and reveals another side of the band: solid fun, thick wax, good buddies.

Links: Lazy - Moniker

Summer Flake

Where Do I Go?

[CS; Heavy Lows]

Hot damn! Just when the music zines and scenes were tellin’ me it was the putrid 80s with their synthesized delights and geometric fixations, the southern hemisphere — always on a different season/trip/plane — tells me it is in fact the 90s with a chance of counterclockwise distortion, and I couldn’t be happier. I put away my waterproof Zubaz for some all-weather flannel and hol[e]y jeans because I need to feel the warm breeze of Summer Flake. Steph Crase (I can call you Steph, right?) whisked me away last year with her self-titled EP, so it should be no wonder I want a return trip to alternative dreamland. The catch? It’s the now, and very little of Where Do I Go? is beholden to a decade 20 years past expiration even if it evokes such sentimentality (I WAS THERE!). Dude nods to recognizable college-pop-rock-waster touchstones but little to tie to Coupland’s generational narrative. Crase is tighter, more prepared for something other than Alternative Nation knockoffs. The title track is a bit of a Lena Dunham insular love-and-loathing reality check. “Racecar” is a Nastanovich part away from already being part of slacker lore. There are even a few downer tracks for your 20-year Prom-themed reunion. Don’t forget the corduroy cummerbund and plaid pocket square. Anyone tired of the retro-futurism of cyberpunk symbolism can take a trip to Adelaide and dig on this. Or get it on tape, where epochs will collide and we’ll all spiral willingly down the timeless vortex.

Links: Summer Flake - Heavy Lows

Various Artists

Shadow Colors and Maybe Insects

[CS; Watery Starve]

Compilations full up on many artists is a hard sell. We all enjoy variety, which is why streaming services have prevailed in recent times. But Shadow Colors and Maybe Insects isn’t going to fall into those traps. This is one speed, one vibe, and one endless summer. Despite 13 different artists (among them Quiet Evenings, Inez Lightfoot, and Former Selves….drool…), their shared thread of appreciative drones and mid-tempo contemplation produces a sedative to our need for shifting prerogatives. It soothes the soul like chicken soup without distracting slurps or martyrdom. Each song is a spoonful of warmth despite the glacial melodies and distant production. First your throat feels the heat as you take calculated swallows. It races down your esophagus to the intestines and stomach. Your core is beginning to feel rejuvenated. Your body begins to emit the heat to the extremities, right down to your cold fingertips. The icy breath is gone, replaced by a fire in the belly. You have found the shrine. No more needlessly collecting songs for an 8-track mix or a Spotify playlist. Watery Starve has done it for you, and it’s on cassette, just like olden times.

Links: Watery Starve

Guardian Alien

Drums > Space > Jam

[CS; Animal Image Search]

Greg Fox’s decision to leave Liturgy might not have been a wise decision career-wise, but it’s interesting to think about the result: Liturgy now relies on a drum machine to middling effect, and Guardian Alien, Fox’s new band, are off to a smashing start by way of a swashbuckling LP on Monofonus Press, a more proper release on Thrill Jockey, a host of below-ground coverage, and this tape. Culled from a live performance, Drums > Space > Jam suffers for its immediacy at times, benefits at others. The vocals, repetitive and cloying, denigrate the proceedings when they appear, yet as part of a bigger picture, they’re nothing to get hung about, as I’ve heard much worse accompaniment from improv-den vocal performances. Besides, knowing this was a Space Jam, it’d be false not to expect a little Michael Jordan, and every player gets a rock or two the-fuck OFF (or, AWF). It’s raw side to Guardian Alien (and that’s saying something; this ain’t exactly Smashing Pumpkins); it’s wriggling, it’s spread thin; and it’s what the cassette format was created for: Expansive strawberry-fields jamz you can slather on an English muff or geek-out to on headphones.

Links: Animal Image Search

Mushy

1984

[7-inch; Haute Magie]

Mushy rode darkwave to a slow-burn shoegaze paradise in 1984 (this is the third release I’ve received in the last month or two with ‘1984’ in the title), so there’s no reason to believe they can’t do it now. Let’s find our bearings here: Too minimal and organic to be witch house, too diverse to be directly linked to minimal wave and the other strains, too everything else to be anything else, essentially, but I’m getting flutters of a lot of things. It’s like “Take My Breathe Away” at a Beach House rented by Young Marble Giants, old M83 (remember, they used to be good), White Ring, and maybe… good lord, why am I thinking about Phantogram? There’s a bit of overreach, and I like that; I’d rather Mushy go out swinging than hiding behind reluctant overtures. The flip is extra impressive, tangled in itself and bathed in ever-blossoming ghost beats, skillfully resting kitty-corner from what happened on Side A. You could argue “Crystal Chemistry” (great title) doesn’t go anywhere, and my rejoinder would be, “Yeah, but look where it IS.” Love the finale too, a standoff between its component parts that ends with each side melting and swirling down the drain, only vocals and synths left to finish the tale. I am energized.

Links: Haute Magie
  

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.