Restaurnaut
Black Crow Marathon [CS; Self-released]

Like Jon Barba near him, Patrick Porter in Colorado or Sam Gas Can on the other side of the country, Restaurnaut’s Nicholas Dolezal is among a handful of folks out there who still appreciate the “song,” at least enough to spit the notes out in all their verse-chorus-structured glory. Yes, they’re every-damn-where, and they’re doing it in a wobbly-kneed way that seems lo-fi first out of material necessity (i.e., using what the musicians have available to them – simple instruments, crude tape recording setups, etc.), and second as something of a purposefully subversive approach to singer-songwriter tropes that seems critical in response to the hyper-gloss cheese of the mainstream. Restaurnaut’s particular brand, which I think he accurately pins as “folka-dot,” sounds like it’s scribbled across the air via cross-legged ukulele strums and a blown-out crunch that feels tangible and chunky, like it could be scooped up with a spoon. This collection of songs is indeed the marathon its title promises to be, 90 minutes of tunes with backwards time-warps, laser zaps of noise, Casio keyboard blip-beats, minimal overdubs and samples, a spoken word monologue that admits itself to being tape-filler, and at least one odd and uncomfortable minutes-on-end moment of silence that come off a bit awkward and head-scratching. But everywhere else (and despite the album’s inconsistent production, the fact that without a track list anywhere I have no idea what any of these songs are called, and that the tape itself might as well be held together with Band-Aids), the music beneath the hiss is endearing, honest and often quite beautiful, as Daniel Johnston songs are, sung out with quaint and comforting deliveries through a couple of different vocal personalities. All in all, it’s a tape for kicking back in the hammock and letting the free swing do most of the thinking for you.

Links: Restaurnaut - Self-released

The Cartoons

“She’s A Rock And Roller” b/w “Who Cares”

[7-inch; Last Laugh]

The Cartoons were a bonkers punk outfit from Yonkers who refused to decamp their levels from in-the-red status and came out sounding like a collision of Johnny Rotten vocals and relatively skillfully delivered scuzz-punk. A bassist named Georgie Go? A drummer named Chris Crash? Yep, nothin’ wrong with that at all. “She’s a Rock and Roller” doesn’t hold many surprises for seasoned punx but that’s not the point. Its effortless, hard-edged riffs and surprisingly apt drumming secure the front lines while the aforementioned Rotten-influenced shouter holds court over top. It’s nice to have such a surefire Killed By Death-style number isolated on a super-heavy 7-inch. “Who Cares” is more of a traditional rock format really; if the vocals were different you could almost pass this cut off as arena- or blues-rock from that segment of the ’70s. Of course that’s also part of the fascination. The lyrics detail the personal travails of a character named “Johnny” (of course), and the overall effect of this cut pales in comparison to Side A yet makes a decent point on its own. Once again the Almost Ready empire has the Last Laugh.

Links: Last Laugh

The Red Falcon Projects

Simply Ravishing

[LP; Dilated Time]

Care to be surprised today? Find a copy of the Red Falcon Projects, the place where synth and dance meet and it doesn’t sound like 1980s West Berlin. Despite all appearances to the contrary, Simply Ravishing is not locked in a time capsule or a smarmy electro-clash of Eurotrash dudes reliving the best of smuggled Cold War appropriation. Though RFP speak as a group reliving some alternative past, Simply Ravishing is the sound of now; of kids no longer afraid of dancing outside of the mosh pit, of a nation in desperate need of uplifting in political turmoil and propaganda, of the sloppy hand-off of responsibilities between the hapless baby boomers and the progeny they over-protected. RFP coddles and pushes away, forcing you to make your own grown up decisions on the dance floor. The album is rhythmic and smooth, but that doesn’t make it docile or unchallenged. It’s likely to fry the neurons of people too deep into synthesized syncopation and mellow out Molly kids too bug-eyed on dubstep and house. It’s the after party to the aftermath. So grow up, be your own person, dance until you can’t anymore, and embrace your path toward adulthood. All can be accomplished by grabbing your own copy of a gold chain and Simply Ravishing.

Links: Dilated Time

Tellavision

Music on Canvas

[LP; Twelve Inch]

Another unexpected turn from the label that brought you Flaming Dragons Of Middle Earth and other East Coast oddities, Music on Canvas, by Tellavision, first came out in 2011 as a CD-R on an obscure German label so of of course a label in Massachusetts came knocking; bound to happen right? A nice discovery too. The dog-bark synths complement the potentially cheesier Casio programs nicely, along with spiky guitar and a lady singer who sounds like she might actually mean it. K Records looms large, particularly when there’s only bass, hand drums, and keys backing the singer, yet there’s also a bohemian art-store house act vibe to it all. When’s she takes it down a notch and plays solo with guitar accompaniment she shines the most, offhandedly delivering vocals you will be thinking about on long drives and those late nights when sleep couldn’t be farther away. The slight, downcast electronic detour near the end of Side A also is welcome; definitely not a release you can pin down, as is Feeding Tube’s wont. I believe you can still find one of the 300 of these made through the label, but don’t assume you can wait forever.

Links: Tellavision - Twelve Inch

Midday Veil

THE CURRENT

[LP; Translinguistic Other]

Side B of THE CURRENT, by Midday Veil, begins on a near-perfect note, a slow, ritualistic rhythm dressed in a “Space Grass”-style bass line, synth eternalities, and folk-y vox. The whole peyote-trip-in-the-desert thing kinda died for me when I realized Ray Manzarek was played by Kyle MacLachlan in the Doors movie (nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t realize it was him for so long I’m embarrassed), but I’ll be damned if that isn’t what comes to mind when this psychedelic, yet proggy, though less so than the rest of this LP, stew hits my system like tea imbued with mushroom mystique. When the shadow-y voices fade a litany of effects and programmed tonal permutations writhe a little until a suddenly sprightly sequence kicks in and we’re back at the post-Harmonia, Bitchin Bajas-/Stereolab-esque LazerQuest emporium of prog opulence we were treated to on Side A. I have no qualms with the more beat-heavy, traditional prog-rock approach, particularly because the drippy sound smears resound with so much flavor, yet I crave more of the mystical madness of the lone departure. I’m guessing most of the working population would disagree with me on this point so don’t hesitate too much, as at 300 copies THE CURRENT won’t be juicing your Lite Brite for too much longer if you fail to act.

Links: Translinguistic Other

Deep Waters

Deep Waters

[12-inch; Diamond Wave Press]

This Deep Waters 12-inch comes with a couple of little extras. Hand-pasted cover art on a converted recycled LP sleeve (mine is an old Alabama record, by the way), blue vinyl… I also got a really nice hand-written note with accompanying artwork on some fancy parchment. But the kicker: A bag of Salada brand Green Tea came nestled safely within the package. I’m drinking it right now, actually, and it goes down pretty smooth with these “synth explorations,” although I must admit, it only makes me realize that Deep Waters is deep winter music. These are songs for warming, for healing. Essentially, a series of piano ballads swirled out of your hi-fi amplifier, sounds twisting through the air like fine calligraphy even though the lines might appear a little wonky at times. It’s delicate and nice, but also very much done by hand - pieced together with an innocent sort of grace, a brief twinkle in this record’s watery eye. “Fragile” is probably the best word I can come up with, the voice of David Spalvieri-Kruse shivering in the coldness of the mix’s barren, open field of audio. There are synths and pianos, a guitar occasionally, even other voices all up in Deep Waters’ business, surrounding, but they don’t feel like support as much as they do sympathizers, watching a lonely figure from the outside looking in. Luckily the vocal melodies carry their weight to give each song its own deserved heft. The voice… honestly, the voice will throw you at first, wobbling in and out of intonation as it does, but hey, I know you thought the same thing about Dean Wearham’s, too. It’ll grow on you, and grow inside of you, and in a good way. August seems like exactly the wrong time for me to be submitting this review, but just think of me come November when you’re snuggling up to these pretty tunes. I’ll accept thank you presents through Hanukkah.

Links: Deep Waters - Diamond Wave Press

Lantern

Rock ‘N’ Roll Rorschach

[LP; Sophomore Lounge]

We usually avoid albums like Rock ‘N’ Roll Rorschach but the creepy cover art intimidated me even though I knew what I was getting into. This isn’t dark arts hoodoo voodoo, just straight-laced rock and roll. Which is to say sexy, dirty, and dingy. The hex threatened is not a curse but a blessing of garage noir. I want to rub R&RR all over myself and run free from the shackles of corporate rock (does that even exist anymore? let’s pretend that it does and it looms heavy and large and conglomerates with billboards will hunt me down for refusing their enchantments).

Is that enough nostalgic rebellion to fulfill a typical Lantern review? Good, because it’s crap. What you need to know is this is VU type shit, not in approach but as motivation for you to get off your indented, lumpy couch and to play rock and roll yourself. Emily and Zachary are giving you the knock of opportunity, so don’t waste it on your sorry ass. Though, pass me that roach before you go. I’m gonna sit here and write about your new band, and if you don’t give Lantern and R&RR the praise and credit it deserves for inspiring your Lou Reed cool, then the band WILL come calling in black robes and Satanic verses to take back what is rightfully theirs.

Links: Lantern - Sophomore Lounge

Cédric Stevens

Yesterday’s Chimes (Unreleased S.E.L. 97-99)

[CS; Discrepant]

Cédric Stevens was making the synth music being made in the present way back in Yesterday’s Chimes (Unreleased S.E.L. 97-99). That’s the only conclusion one can come to after hearing the modular motives of just about every synthetic track on this compilation. Most surprising is the pounding, quasi-DJ Shadow drums of “The Eerie,” which sound-date the material just a bit yet offer a less obtrusive take on solo-electronic composition, one with fewer self-imposed boundaries and the potential to break through the coldwave/drone coma so many are in (though I admit it feels great to be sedated in that way, too). The synth sweeps become huge waves of current and sweep over the drums before the number is through, shining through brightly even on the oft-unreliable cassette format. Even more rewarding are the slow-drip, icy climes that follow, held together by nothing but a spare bass-throb pattern and stained-glass synth tinkles. If you’ve been following Stevens or his Discrepant label, you know to expect a certain diligence from the material. You won’t be let down here. See also: Syncopated Elevators Legacy.

Links: Discrepant

Deadverse

Carpet Burns

[12-inch; Adagio830]

This one cramped my style a bit upon first spin but bore new fruit as fresh plays cleared out the cobwebs. I just haven’t heard anything like Carpet Burns in a long time; I’m weak, dammit, WEAK! I know not what to do with this energetic mix of Hot Water Music (the band not the book), early Fugazi, and Rocket From The Crypt. Man I haven’t listened to Titus Andronicus in so long but it seems they’d figure in here too. I’ve always enjoyed material like this most in a live setting; you see the show, you dig the show, you maybe even sing along a bit, and then you buy the record based on that interaction. It’s fairly aggressive, even compared to the above-mentioned influences, and, to me, they don’t make their most effective arguments until Side B, wherein they seem more relaxed and willing to let much-appreciated instrumental sections bear some of the burden. “Soapbox Canvas” is the best cut here, catchier than the rest and replete with bulldozing sidesteps. A solid, if unspectacular, listen, Carpet Burns will hit hard with some of you and fall flat with others, even more so than usual in these fragmented times. It also is a grower, however, so don’t count it out until you’ve dedicated some time to it. Say ‘emo’ you lose a testicle.

Links: Deadverse

Summons of Shining Ruins

The Sky Sings to Us

[3-inch CDR; Kimberly Dawn]

Sweeping shots of the overgrown city; bright lights flicker across a palette of manicured skyscrapers and side streets. A gentle downpour, enough for an umbrella but tolerable for those in need of a cooling shower in the midst of a muggy summer evening. With this rain, the sky is clearing. The warmth of the pavement yielding to no sun and flowing waters. It’s quiet, strange for a Friday night. The hooligans are in bed, the kids are in clubs, the adults at boring cocktail parties speaking of dividends and vacation destinations. Here I sit, huddled betwixt a solitary window and the dull shine of a dim bulb. I could read a book. Watch a movie. Play a video game. Crawl into bed. But none of it seems possible with this effervescent soundtrack capturing the stillness of constant movement. It is the wings of a hummingbird and I am the slow motion stills to prove the erratic flapping. This is the sound, I am the action. This is happening, I am frozen.

Links: Kimberly Dawn
  

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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.