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

RCBNNN

Unwanted Sounds

[CS; Auris Apothecary]

The strange packaging presents an omen to all who open it. A small cardboard box, compact and sturdy, packs away a secret that should not be unleashed; a skull as one final warning before Pandora is allowed to escape. But it’s no use. On top of this opaque black cassette sits two ear plugs, each equipped with a screw to ensure your safety. But you do not heed. You place the tape in its rightful spot, hit play, and let the spirits and demons do what they do. The air becomes heavy with incoherent frequencies, faint noises, and strange static occasionally squawking from the aural heavens. Whatever magic RCBNNN set forth, it does not seem as dangerous as once believed. [Do I recognize these guys–are vowels extinct in the land of nod and troll dust?] But it’s no use. You’ve done it this time. It’ll be lurking behind every corner, deep within every alley… hell, it’s likely crawling under your skin. RCBNNN was off limits and they did their best to secure themselves away before it got this far. But you do not heed.

Links: RCBNNN - Auris Apothecary

Frank Rosaly

Centering and Displacement

[12-inch; Utech]

Frank Rosaly (of Scorch Trio, etc.) makes his sound sources sing on Centering and Displacement, eliciting the sort of intrigue and tension often impossible when tangled up in the universe of voices and lyrics. Considering that what I’m hearing is the soft “ping” of a thousand thin strips of metal striking glass (just a guess), bells, and maybe a few gongs (that’s Side A!), this material carries a surplus of warmth. Side B is a sinister, surly flip that piledrives the built-up tension into the wall and sprays the resultant juice in the face of the beholden with thick drones and hums, static-world digital scrapes, more icicles/glass/tinkling, and noises so twisted I can’t besmirch them with a description. Centering is pristine push-and-pull that crashes beauty and ugliness together — both within its audio and its choice to plot such a subdued, soothing A side kitty-corner from a Side B so demented — and documents the results. It’s a percussionist’s dream and a fine example of modern of soundsmithing. Delish edish of 300-ish, you cold, furry fishdick.

Links: Utech

Andrew Weathers/Ancient Ocean

split

[CS; Rubber City Noise]

Sometimes I just want to hear an instrument and recognize it for what it is. Andrew Weathers and John Bohannon (Ancient Ocean) understand that. Which is why I have taped their split to my heart; we will never part (well, until I get sick of the above sentiment). Weathers’ work is elegantly calm, wispy guitar accents, blends and plucks at drift in a sea of understated drone. It’s pulling together many musical ideas into a peaceful dingy hidden in the fog. Songs stretch out, unrestricted by radio time constraints, but aren’t so unfettered they unfurl into endless parades of steely strums and fingerpicking. The same is true of Bohannon, though his is a side much more reflective. His instrumentation takes a bit of detective work but it shows itself when the moment is right. But more than anything, this is a tape that has been desperately needed. A break from the modern for a taste of the traditional—guitars! Recognizable guitars!

Links: Andrew Weathers/Ancient Ocean - Rubber City Noise

Jensen Serf Company

Electric Sister

[7-inch; Daddy Kool]

Firstly, introduce me to the vamp on the cover. Secondly, stuff me in your cramped garage and play me a tune. Thirdly, let me rediscover the coolness of a brick-and-mortar record store making records and selling them. This is the world I wanted in the mid-90s, all covered in large flannel, sweaters and baggy jeans on a scrawny 5’ 7”, 28-inch waist. Gals with pink hair, a rebel band, and a store in which to loiter. But this ain’t no flashback. [It ain’t no disco either]. It’s grungy garage rock with none of the sentimental attachments, just hard-hitting, come-and-go action that bounces off the walls. If I trip the light fantastic back in time, it’s to my own lousy high school band who filled parents’ basements and Fraternal Order of Police lodges with four-sided din. Jensen Serf Company is far more adept and cool than I ever was, so it’s why I want to hang out with Electric Sister over and over again. Or at least be a hanger-on. It’s coolness by proxy. I won’t ever land a girl with pink hair and the ability to play satisfying garage rock, but by knowing her, I’m seemingly cooler. Ah, who am I kidding? I’m just writing about this, not playing it. I’ll never be cool, no matter how ill-fitting the clothing, how floppy the hair, or whatever narcotic or liquor bottle I sneak. At least JSC will comfort me, and so will my modern white bred suburban broke lifestyle without the cirrhosis.

Links: Daddy Kool

Last Year’s Men

“Clawless Paw” b/w “What I Can Get”

[7-inch; Sophomore Lounge]

There’s a lot of garage-rock out there. I prefer to pick and choose with this stuff, as there’s a lot of overlap. Luckily there are labels like Slovenly (which specializes in it and little else) and Sophomore Lounge (which specializes in everything and nothing, in a good way) to guide the way. Last Year’s Men offer yet another forceful argument for this grimy muck in the recent tradition of Hell Shovel, The Beets, Thee Oh Sees/Ty Seegs/etc., and while they bring nothing new to the table, they yell for their food so loud you have to serve them. “Clawless Paw” is a fuzzbuster, slow and eerie and almost Jawbox-y, but much heavier and raunchier, while “What Can I Get” reminds me of The Makers and Lyres. No reason not to give Last Year’s Men the chance if this is your bag, by dint of the A-side alone. If not, move along; nothing to see here.

Links: Sophomore Lounge

Nephila

Subcutaneous Memory

[CS; Monorail Trespassing]

Nephila (Shannon A. Kennedy), on Side A of Subcutaneous Memory, is like one of the players from Amiina tinkling bells on the peak of a foggy mountaintop, or Woodpecker Wooliams stripped of three layers and shunned into near-silence, or Hoor-Paar-Kraat… period. Her small-scale dunes of lo-fi heroin are so subtle as to be relegated to a distant chime, so it’s best to listen attentively in the dark, perhaps by candlelight, or maybe even under the covers of your childhood bed. Meanwhile, Side B’s sinister strings should have to register as sex offenders; “Venus in Furs” is so far away, but I feel like I can kiss her memory when these drones take full form. I prefer the cozy cocoon-cave of Side A, with its wintery fix, but the first half of the flip is all Ninni Morgia, Che Chen, and Silvia Kastel, scary and loving, before the tide comes in and the ugliness is washed away. That’s acceptable too.

Links: Monorail Trespassing

Brad Heyne & Josh Mason

Vapor

[CS; Sunshine LTD]

How Brad Heyne & Josh Mason will avoid allusions to Tim Hecker, who knows? Vapor takes such a journey, tapped into the piano drones and odd timbres of many clever souls, yet it’s wholly its own piece of precision. Heyne’s compositions drive the tempo, barren piano that is patient and gorgeous. Mason messes it all up with static, manipulation, and production, until the whole thing is but a fragile experiment in gratification. Vapor takes its time, waltzing in and out of the room like a toddler playing with space. A note will fade as others barge in without care. The silence is deafening, until a strand of distortion or a gentle drone invades the serenity, bringing its own calming effect. Vapor is a string of comparisons: Hakobune, Earn, Tim Hecker, Rameses III, Richard Skelton. But it is none of these. For all its similarities, it will be the differences that pile on and change your habits. They are minor, but they are worth the hunt. Gingerly chase down the frolicking child, hide behind a curtain or a doorjamb to catch a hint of genuine behavior.

Links: Sunshine LTD

Aqua Nebula Oscillator

“Om Na Mio” b/w “Freak Out”

[7-inch; Who Can You Trust]

In a post-Comets On Fire world, a release like “Om Na Mio” b/w “Freak Out” would seem to be commonplace, but this is an advance even further into the abyss of psyched-out freak-jamming. It’s like getting caught in a basement full of cobwebs, Aqua Nebula Oscillator playing a super-soulful brand of post-blues as you struggle and wish you had Sting (the sword, not the dick hole) to cut yourself free. As Chris Weber says about a dozen times during each NBA game he calls, “You gotta love” the way ANO carry themselves. Lots of “wah-wah” (and we’re not talking George H.), mysterious and sinister motives lying in wait behind a veil of fuzz, a bassist who thinks on his feet more than most, a drummer who, for all we know, could be pounding away; all we can hear are titters most of the time, and that’s just fuckin’ dandy. Monotone vocals act as another instrument more than anything, so it’s a good thing that wizardly flute keeps popping in for a quick blow. Jazz that shit up, yo. Indie-500 copies, which means 10 of you, per state, can have one. Go ahead and fight it out, boys.

Links: Who Can You Trust
  

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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.