Nose Bleed Island
True Story [CS; Singapore Sling]

Hello and welcome to my review of the best tape of 2013. Let me show you around. First, this is where we take a look at the J-card, with the insanely cool retro-future space scene cover artwork by someone called Olga. Inside the card there, we’ll find an insert which gives a brief biography of Nose Bleed Island, detailing the exploits of one Joey Pizza Slice and his band of a cardboard Dracula, a robot, and an 11 year old named Zbear. The story is replete with tales of drunken debauchery, Nazi ass-kicking and an undying and immaculate love of all things pizza. Over here is where I tell you about the perfect little pop tunes that pepper themselves about this retrospective collection of tracks, one of which dates back almost a decade. And here I write about twee in a real general, non-specific sort of way, just to give the review some kind of referential grounding. And then I mention a few bands like Guided By Voices and Beat Happening and early Built to Spill and Sebadoh, and how Nose Bleed Island would probably sneeze on, and then puke over all that stuff after taking a big bite of a rotten piece of pickled pepperoni. Over in this area is where I use the word “infectious,” although I feel bad about using that word, since it is so cliché. So I conclude that Nose Bleed Island is less infectious and more like a serious infection. It’s bruised all black and blue around it, scabbed over and kind of painful, actually, but you can’t seem to quit picking at it, which is gross but in that fun, silly and immature kind of way. And then there’s a bunch of junk in the corner over there. A drum machine, and a Casio keyboard, and a diorama of the solar system, and pizza, a bag of marbles, and getting stood up for the prom, and Obama, and dirty dishes, a VHS copy of “Waterworld” starring Kevin Costner, and drawings of dinosaurs, and poodle skirts, and a pop quiz you got a D- on, and a keepsake from your family’s Disney Land vacation when you were nine. And I guess that’s it, so thanks for coming.

Links: Nose Bleed Island - Singapore Sling

Fluorescent Heights

Tidal Motions

[CS; Constellation Tatsu]

Oh what magnificent heights! I am bathed by the sun, wings melted by the heat like Icarus. But I ignore reason for the sine waves lift me up higher and higher. Fluorescent Heights has cut me loose. Gravity means nothing. The oceans rise with me; I am swimming among the Great Barrier Reef in the stratosphere. I jump beside Felix Baumgartner but do not fall to earth. This is my new home, enveloped in heavenly clouds and the synthesizers of angels. I am rocked to silver lining sleep on a bed of Tidal Motions. The moon is my reading lamp, the sky my window. I never want to feel terra firma with my feet again. The beach and the mud and the stone and the grass are all up here anyway. This is better than The Rapture because anyone can come. No sin exists in weightlessness. And if it does, Fluorescent Heights will absolve it. This will make it right. I lay my head on the bosom of a star. I rest my feet on the edge of Olympus Mons.

Links: Fluorescent Heights - Constellation Tatsu

Sohrab

Between Strangers

[7-inch; Touch]

It says on the jacket that one of the melodies used on this 7-inch is pulled from a lo-fi recording at a refugee camp in Germany. Damn Sohrab, where do we go from here? And Sohrab will answer your question with another query: Where won’t we go from here? Between Strangers is experimental thought-crime on the highest order, obsessed with waves, open ear space, unconventional rhythms, and woozy soundscapes. “Endless Spring” is a crowd erupting then slowly settling into perpetuity, after which each participant wanders into the desert and gets lost in the void. That’s actually the flip; “Hejrat” leads off and follows a sitar and sampled siren singing into a temple of super-subdued drone. Water is burbling in a fountain as the chanting holds our gaze, a shuffling half-beat keeping time. More liquid drift drips into a drone funnel before a stuttering static edge hints at a locked groove. But it is not to be; relax, the end is near.

Links: Sohrab - Touch

Matthew Dotson

Excavation

[CS; Self-released]

This tape by Matthew Dotson is probably not the most ideal choice for review in Cerberus, since it’s my understanding that these reviews are supposed to be pretty short in general. But the Chicago noisenik packs so many different ideas, textures, and inflections into this incredible collage of sounds and styles that I’m going to struggle to keep my thoughts on Excavation as brief here as possible. My understanding is that Dotson records most of his work live, with sound sources culled from collected recordings of his world travels (notably Japan for the A-side of this tape, which features some pretty prominent Koto playing somewhere in the first half). But a lot of this stuff feels more than just live tape mixing and manipulating of found sounds — everything feels very performed, from moments of break-beat/noise that reminds me of some of Mouse on Mars more free-form mind scrambles, or maybe even Aphex Twin, to some drowsy extensions of electric guitar tones that drift into downtrodden post-rock, like outtakes from an older Tortoise LP strung together into a medley of beauty, intrigue, and general craziness. Aside from the sheer variety of sounds, and the complexity with which everything is woven together (truly excellent pacing through all of this, by the way), dynamics and solid understanding and exploitation of the stereo space are also some of Dotson’s stronger suits. Both sides are deep and compelling excursions into environments that remain hopelessly musical. That is, Excavation is a real album to be listened to for those basic musical elements in addition to being a tapestry of noises giving us something to awkwardly stare at in confused wonder.

Links: Matthew Dotson

Terminator 2

s/t

[CS; Handmade Birds]

You can’t just go ‘round killing all the other bands, Terminator 2! Love where this Denton, Texas, three-piece’s doom-obsessed heads are at. It’s not brain surgery: Slowwww basslines that never stop, ever; occasional guitar sludge but not all the time; copious effects that do so much more than take up space… if you like those Hell records (I and II, plus a split with Thou) and/or Gravity Records you’re all set on this. The singer barks so convincingly even the death-metal legends seem trivial in comparison. He really gets down there, to the depths of his very soul. You can’t argue with that kind of passion, and he’s got a band behind him that fuckin’ stone-owns it. Deep and disconcerting, dark and disorderly, deathly and demented, dour and dim, damned and dismembered, destructive and dogged in their pursuit of doom holiness, Terminator 2 take on intriguing shapes when they’re at their best. I’m shocked at how much I dig this, perhaps more than even the material demands. Just right up my alley I guess, to the point where they’re almost stealing ideas I never had. Asunder, Dead And Gone, Unsane, Bloodlet… so much wonderful history.

Links: Handmade Birds

Hazel’s Wart

Together We Didn’t

[LP; Skrot Up]

Shit, I know the most important influences on the Together We Didn’t LP hailed from Seattle circa the early 1990s, but what’s with that opening riff? Are Hazel’s Wart aware that it’s the riff from “You Could Be Mine”? Way out of line, boyz. I forgive ye because thine stabs at a pre-grunge revival hit these ears as fairly promising, also reeking of the old SST stable. The melodic vocals balance out the soft-garbage buzz of the guitars, and the speaker-raping qualities present for much of the record can’t escape a quick mention of… ahhh fuggit, I won’t even go there. Mostly Together We Didn’t just rocks (save for when it’s not; there are a few soundtrack-style flourishes) it’s motherfuckin’ ass off, and I can’t tell you how much I need that in my life right now. Can’t stop; won’t stop; don’t stop.

Links: Hazel’s Wart - Skrot Up

William Basinski

Shortwavemusic

[7-inch Reel; Auris Apothecary]

Pleasantries first: Auris Apothecary and Cerberus entered the world the same day in the same year. I consider this no coincidence, for we are all particles connected to one another by hippie bullshit that doesn’t matter in the end because we’re all screwed up. AA transmits that and we report it. And for more than a decade, William Basinski has had to be swallowed by the same damning press all because his masterwork happened to find its completion as the twin towers of the World Trade Center sadly crumbled on the same day. Irony isn’t always fun , but AA’s twisted smirks and Basinski’s fragile compositions can make it so. Shortwavemusic’s latest reissue (of many from the 1982 composition) came in the midst of New Year’s in the guise of a 1/4-inch tape on a 7-inch reel. Without purpose, I hunted eBay to find a working reel-to-reel player for which to listen. I read, I studied, and I coveted. And here it is a pile of tape on the floor after heart and soul has been poured into such a centerpiece. But music isn’t for show, it’s for hearing. But AA does not heed such consequences, for it embraces both (always for the better). They knew what a clumsy but adventurous shell would do armed with 7-inches of reel. I’m sure many have framed and hung theirs by the chimney with care, but I sledgehammered it down to obtain the precious and put it through its paces. And it sounds good–oh so good. I’ve wrapped myself like a mummy in its discards, trying to contemplate where AA begins, Basinski takes over, and Cerberus ends. It all comes out too Donnie Darko for my tastes, so I try to ignore the coincidences. I try to focus on what each of us does and in that, I find solace. Shortwavemusic is an empowering piece, triumphant in a time where shows of aggression or talking loudest win fights. AA and Basinski take no such course. We shall oblige.

Links: William Basinski - Auris Apothecary

Zåth

Shitpig

[7-inch; Captcha]

I came into Zåth’s debut 7-inch naive and left it bleeding anally and crying in the corner, in a towel. How exactly does a band featuring a member of Cave (not to mention GA’AN) sound like this? I’m bloody-well on board with absolutely everything that occurs over the course of this 45 RPM platter, from the blackened metal shards to the hardcore to the NWOBHM to the Forced Entry-then/White Shit-now thrash. I might seem a bit eager to champion side-project metal (having backed that Tim Cohen black-metal group, not to mention that Dominic Fernow black-metal group and that Mt. Eerie black-metal group) but when it’s this fun I just don’t give a fuck. They appear to know their shit, besides. Produced to maim and trebly enough to kill a dog. Looks like you picked the wrong week to quit crank…

Links: Captcha

Pierrot Lunaire

This Love of Mine

[CS; SicSic]

A big old double tape of crazy from California’s John DeNizio, who goes by Pierrot Lunaire in Weirdo Cassette Tape Land. He serves as mayor there. I like to imagine that’s his little world pictured on the cover, he the conductor of the local band which is full of strange creatures trumpeting flatulent notes and fluttering their way through alien scales, drummers pitter-pattering away with toys, a blown out saxophone moaning in mournful howls. Interjections of synth-whatsits, vocal groans, and windy whooshes of noise, all of it haphazardly built on a volatile and unstable surface, ready to topple if something so much as sneezes. Barely listenable, but it engulfs in a whirling pool of mysterious improvisation and psychedelic wonder. There’s also an old phonograph in the back of the room playing Benny Goodman, doused in everclear. Pierrot Lunaire creates the kind of surrealistic nightmares your great grandparents might have on their death bed upon contracting the Ebola virus at the ripe-old age of 102. Hallucinations aren’t just a side-effect of the music; they just come with the territory.

Links: Pierrot Lunaire - SicSic

ONO

Albino

[LP; Moniker]

Perhaps no LP of 2012 took more chances than this one. Always-out-of-place soul-croons splayed atop spindly post-punk riffs, funk bass, shifting beats, legions of effects, and storm stress? Not what anyone would have asked for last year or any year, yet here ONO are, and there Albino was, dropped into the past from the future naked and confused like Kyle from the first Terminator. Perhaps that Pere Ubu has a thrilling new record out is not a coincidence, no? That’s the closest touchstone I could find (Wilderness, Xiu Xiu, and Blackout Beach also ring a bell), though the process of proliferation in the tape world has no doubt produced something roughly in this vein that I haven’t heard. You don’t even get the chance to catch your breath either, at least not until the third track, wherein ONO embrace a more barebones template and succeed at sewing subtlety into their arrangements. Take away the vocals and some of these tunes are Portishead-esque, while the singing reminds me of some of those experiments Excepter were into early on, not to mention a male version of Niobe. Three-hundro copies on white-flecked-with-black wax for you croc hunters out there.

Links: Moniker

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In this ever-expanding musical world, there's a wealth of 7-inches, cassettes, CD-Rs, and objet d'art being released that, due to their limited quantities and adventurous sonics, go unnoticed by the public at large. Cerberus seeks to document the aesthetic of these home recorders and backyard labels. Email us here.