Best Of [CS; Sanity Muffin]

Yikes, black metal on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon? You bet your bleak balls I’m listening to and reviewing a “best of” tape from this obscure French dark ambient sorcerer, and by God (wait… wrong deity entirely) I like it. Honestly, I have no background or authority on stuff like this, but Moëvöt seems weird enough to the point that it shouldn’t really make a difference. This fellow Vórdb Báthor Ecsed was the leader of a French subculture called Les Légions Noires in the 90s, which was born of the working class and rose in response to a similar Norwegian legion of black metal heroes like Burzum. History aside, what I’m hearing is one of the creepiest spooks in recent memory. But to call this “metal” in the traditional sense is a stretch, since Moëvöt leans toward ambient, acoustic instrumentation and atmospherics while maintaining that sinister scare black metal is generally able to conjure, just without all the electric power. Minor chords plunked out of keyboards in cascading arpeggios, strung thin from mournful viola and cello voices, and haunted with hovering ghosts of falsetto harmony. Match that with the growl of a human whose blood has obviously been curdled at least once (likely twice) and you’re getting there. It all smelts down into a trippy and dizzying fright fest made for moonlit graveyard walks at midnight, yet maintains a strong, really striking sense of black rose’d beauty. Hard to deny the sheer awesomeness of the music, incredibly affecting and powerful in its own right, but the tape leaves something to be desired beyond the compositions or intriguing back-history of this project. A track-listing would have been helpful (or at least interesting) and the sounds are often a bit blown out, which could either be an issue with the original recordings or the levels cranked a bit hot whilst dubbing. Elsewise, if the dark ambient style be to your liking, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better collection of this type of music in 2013, on cassette tape or otherwise.

Links: Moëvöt - Sanity Muffin

Asa Irons

Knife Gift Debt

[12-inch; Turned Word]

There’s a limited-to-70 version of this (pictured) and a larger run, so take your pick (you know what to do). Asa Irons, also of Feathers, plays earnest folk-rock with a spiritual edge to it or, more appropriately perhaps, mystical. He extremely confident in his lyrical style, too, breaking the accompaniment off for long stretches and seemingly following his every whim. You used to be able to find bands like this under your sink, but most of them got rich or quit/grew old/moved to a scene I’m not able to follow. As such, I’m in a particularly receptive mood regarding the intriguingly named Knife Gift Debt, even when the mandolin solos go on for a long-ass time. It’s a super-dramatic set of songs that gains momentum, dangles it in front of your face, then pulls it away without a thought. The rich instrumentation and group vocal melodies, when the sun hits them right, work wonders; you’ll get lost in the moment.

Links: Asa Irons - Turned Word

Thee Tsunamis

A Goodbad Man is Hard to Find

[CS; Magnetic South]

Forget Thee Tsunamis are three beautiful women. Forget the band’s affiliation with the retro-vibes of Southern Indiana. It’s best to forget all pretense and expectations, because A Goodbad Man is Hard to Find is the sort of gnarly, dirty rock and roll the Dum Dum Girls wish they could engage. Elements of classic bubblegum and surf rock feel warm and familiar, wrapping themselves around the tape’s best cornerstones (“Way Out West,” “Goner,” “Pussy Cat”) but the punky urgency of Betsy’s vocals and the country feedback cool of Sharlene’s drumming and Josie’s bass feel new and electric. It’s easy to forget music is expression, and though many scoff at borrowing from the past, Thee Tsunamis do just that without outright stealing. This isn’t some skinny tattooed charlatan reciting GG Allin or a college professor hitting on the sensitive sorority sister with words from edward estlin, just honest observations translated through the simplest motions: those of the hips on the stage of the dance floor. Now you can remember Thee Tsunamis as three pretty ladies and their good-time pals and realize they don’t live in the shadow of any of it. They do their own thing; at their own pace, and before you know what’s happened you’ll be caught in the wave. Call it what you like, just recognize good music when it washes over you.

Links: Magnetic South

La Monte Young

The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer


The lowdown on this La Monte Young tape: This is a bootleg cassette distributed by Oakland tape label Sanity Muffin. The tape was made in Italy, carries with it no label and all 77 minutes of music from this masterpiece composed in 1962 as performed by The Theater of Eternal Music Brass Ensemble in 1984. For those of you familiar with La Monte Young, you likely have an idea of what this sounds like: A group of trumpets with harmon mutes droning out pitch relationships with slight deviations in tone to produce warm consonance from seemingly grating disharmonies while opening up inter-dimensional psych-portals. For those of you not familiar with La Monte Young: This tape sounds like everything I just typed. And for everyone reading this: A friendly reminder that this piece of music, once only available on the compact disc format that now auctions in the hundreds, is a steal at seven smackers from Sanity Muffin. Nice release… a little hard to read the liner notes, which we’re told have been abridged for this issue of the piece, but a good excuse nonetheless to zone out with some excellent minimal classical music and get in a little research time on a legend while you’re at it.

Links: La Monte Young

Rollin Hunt

The Phoney

[LP; Moniker]

Rollin Hunt is the sort of happy sad sack that has a keen eye for spelling out the most mundane and making it seem magical with lovely flourishes and demur melodies. The Phoney is a dichotomy of emotions and remembrances that evokes Jon Brion (another mention in Cerberus!) in the apocalypse. Maybe a more put-together Ariel Pink without the urge to destroy good work. The sing-song of Hunt is comfort music, knowing that what we take as everyday behavior is the same shit everyone else is going through. If you don’t believe Hollywood Celebrity hates their clothes, has down days, and would rather crawl under the covers–well, you’re likely right. But their assistants and dog walkers have the same issues and face the same dilemmas we do. And Hunt is there to capture them all and give ‘em back to us in a manner we can understand: singing our problems out until they make sense. Shun the CD version of grab this limited white vinyl, not because it’s hip but because it’ll make you feel more trapped by rent, bills, and expenses as it spins in your dimly lit apartment with few pieces of furniture. One day you’ll get that dining room table and a sofa but for now a coffee table and derelict dumpster chair will do. Gotta have those tunes and a lonely existence.

Links: Rollin Hunt - Moniker

The National Park System

A Visitor’s Guide

[12-inch; Lo Bit Landscapes]

Is this what Supersystem were supposed to sound like after they branched out from El Guapo and failed to live up to the legacy? National Park System remind me of Psychobuildings and King God, but they will remind you of, you guessed it, the 1980s. The two Side A cutz bring it pretty gosh-darn hard and will make you yell OH MY HECK (had cousins in Utah), dressed in the daze of fluttering synths and imaginative soundscapes. “Sad and Fucked (Not Moving)” walks along the ocean shore like that super-old M83 stuff used to, and decides to stay for picnic. Hey, where am I goin’, know what I mean? I’m confused by “Flying Penguin,” though. It’s too lounge-y to pass the smell test. I’m sure there’s someone in Brooklyn who would tell me I’m wrong. I just gotta be me. Nice thick vinyl, 45 RPM speed for the hearing-fortunate.

Links: Lo Bit Landscapes


Alpha Ralpha Boulevard

[CS; Field Hymns]

I enjoy creativity spurred by another’s similar spark. Such is the case with Alpha Ralpha Boulevard, inspired by a piece of science fiction from Cordwainer Smith. To turn a story into wordless interpretation is no small feat, but the energetic pulse of Cremator’s musical vision to a tale of a society at the dawn of a new individuality is palpable whether you’ve read Smith’s work or not. Yet the bigger challenge is removing Smith’s story from the equation: what do we have left without the backbone? Does Alpha Ralpha Boulevard stand on its own merit? It wouldn’t be worth writing about if it didn’t. Though flooded with manifests of orbital enlightenment and B-movie nostalgia, Cremator doesn’t fall for either though borrowing motifs from both. ARB is a classic; an homage to Schulze’s enthusiasm and the suspense of Alex North. But its rudimentary, bare bones, and unafraid to be simple or contemplative. If we are truly floating through space, ladies and gentlemen, then we should not be afraid to stare into the vast galaxy and face our reflections in the stars. Cremator was fearless, now’s our turn.

Links: Field Hymns


Ghosts & Versions

[12-inch; Lo Bit Landscapes]

Nihiti’s For Ostland LP fell through the cracks for a lot of punters and shouldn’t have. Ghosts & Versions attempts to remedy that while allowing a few labelmates to get their remix fix on. It’s always a risky proposition putting a project like this (four recasts versions of the same song) on wax – clear and smoky no less – so I’m glad it worked out. National Park System toss out a redux that finds an odd place between the helium alien voices of Joe Meek and euphoric electronica. Mark Verbos is less successful, linking club beats to whatever he decided to keep of the original mix. Not so bad if you think about it playing in the dark at a roller rink though. Hrdvsion rent out a hardline bass attack that takes no fucking prisoners, like Metasplice and a Warp artist grimacing at each other. Every off-beat hits like a boot-kick to the belly. Zebrablood steal the show, perhaps understanding Nihiti’s original mission best with an aggressive, door-knocking beat and synths sequences that bounce around and lock together like liquid puzzle pieces. This is what your grandkids are going to commit crimes to; the hard stuff.

Links: Nihiti - Lo Bit Landscapes

Iain Shaw & David Shrigley


[CS; Already Dead Tapes]

Pretty interesting “split” here on Already Dead Tapes. I type the word “split” with those ambiguously skeptical quotation marks because it’s not really a split in the traditional sense. David Shrigley (who is something of a renowned Scottish artist) spends his fleeting moments of tape-time with plainly dictated speech, and his contributions appear every other track rather than on one whole side of the tape. All the rest goes to Iain Shaw, who’s plaintive (but hopeful!) plucks of guitar strings and little-kid-confident voice give form to lovely little songs. There’s only seven short tracks on the release, but that seems to be plenty of time for both artists to wiggle their way into whatever young, inquisitive, love-struck other self of yours is hanging out in your subconscious, and get that guy to skip some rope. There’s a little bit of a dark tone throughout, but ultimately those notions make way for pseudo word-games to unfold that might pander to some philosophical pondering. After a once or twice through, despite whatever “heaviness” the prose might conjure, you’ll still start to feel a little lighter on your toes, as though your brain is sweating off some emotional dead weight. If you’re having a tough work day, AWESOME could be a nice mid-day snack for your mind, just the pick me up you’d need to make it to 5:00.

Links: Iain Shaw & David Shrigley - Already Dead Tapes


No Visitors

[LP; Rural Isolation Project]

We should have seen records like No Visitors coming, what with Twin Stumps, Load Recs, Expensive Shit, Landed, and others foreshadowing a lot of the moves made. Quttinirpaaq invest in plodding jams with layers of soot heaped overtop like punishing Parmesan. Connections to Rubble and Abrasion Ensemble don’t mean anything to me; you? The more understated sequences leave you thinking Qu-paaq could enter Elg territory and score some of that recent hype (particularly “Golden Needles,” which is masterful; almost post-Tricky), but overall they’re more interested in smashing stuff, which I appreciate. Lots of surprises on this record, though you have to believe deep in your bones to follow a few of these numbers to their conclusions. Stay focused.

Links: Quttinirpaaq


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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.