The Inverted Orange
The Inverted Orange [CS; Prison Art]

Overall a far cry from Andrew Nerviano’s previous work with the bruised-to-black’n’blue Sarongs, which was much more about feel than it was flavor: brittle and blunted punk power that was. Here we have a different beast altogether, one that appeals to a certain tang — if not of oranges as the title might have us imagine, then the puckering power of grapefruits or juices or anything of the citrus variety will work just fine. Yes, Prison Art’s new one is sour; tart. Its sweat tastes like lemonade, but it’s got a sweet center too. Melodies loop and revolve around high pitches and tinny guitar tones as linear beats lead the way down a winding, highly scenic road of minimalism and sonic phasing. Beauty makes an appearance often as a sleepy vocal drifts its way into the dream, briefly tempting the listener to decipher its misty missives before whisking away from whence it came, swallowed back up into the shape-shifting ambiance of the guitar’s immediate surroundings. Fans of Dustin Wong’s recent work will find lots to love here and maybe more, what with the added sense of rhythmic diversity, The Inverted Orange’s propensity to wind compositions into slightly tighter narratives and mutant take on notions of pop or electronic styles. Intriguing work that nonetheless leaves a lot to be desired in the way of length… one has only the power to flip and dream of what wonders might lie in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

Links: Prison Art

German Army

Endless Phonics

[LP; Monofonus Press]

After unleashing a blizzard of tapes on a bevy of labels, many of which were chronicled by Cerberus, the Germany Army has advanced to the vinyl format via Endless Phonics. While the crisp sound of a 12-inch record is a bit too pristine for this neo-industrial, coldwave-ing, post-Disco Inferno outfit (the woozy warble of a tape is where they find womblike comfort), they make do and, when it’s all said and done, turn in one of their best efforts yet. They present a fascinating melding of traditions that would almost certainly be rendered contradictory by less-skilled craftsmen, with cold, factory-line rhythms that often harbor surprising complexity, a bleak landscape not unlike the more dissembled work of Mike Sniper, and vocals that veer into territory previously secured by Pumice’s Stefan Neville. There are even traces of the calculated despair of my all-time favorite long-lost unknown 2000s band, Audio Ovni. A lull or two early on Side B get smoothed over by “Vienna State,” a winding staircase that never ends. Fuck yes. When a band unleashes as much music into the world as German Army do, you wonder if that intense spirit is going to burn out before the mission has been accomplished. Endless Phonics puts that fear to rest and could end up charting a whole new course for this mysterious group of audio nihilists.

Links: German Army

Psychic Baos

Nuh-Uh: Death of Bob Plant

[CS; Magnetic South]

Casting Robert Plant in the role of the Walrus, Psychic Baos toss the venerable rock icon into a skinny coffin as to pronounce the end of glamorous rock star trappings. Calling him Bob seems to further disturb the Hammer of the God, placing him as your next door neighbor with the yard full of rusty cans and busted out cars. That guy, whose good-time drinking buddies show up unannounced and relive their glory days on weekend afternoons in the garage–turns out you’ve been living by Will Johnson all along; the warble of garage psychedelia penetrating the poorly soundproofed dwelling. Nuh-Uh is the end of rock and roll pretense and though it borrows nothing from Plant or Zeppelin, it does hint at the nostalgic refrain that music once meant something even if the words just sounded poetic and the melody was just loud to piss off your parents or the uptight community. Johnson lets it all fall loosely, like the buttoned-down Plant. Maybe there’s a beer gut showing and some bald patches on ol’ Bob Plant, but Johnson and crew strut with the same thunder no matter the stage.

Links: Magnetic South

Scammers

Conventions

[CS; Skrot Up]

I saw Phil Diamond do the Scammers thing along with an awkward ten-or-so others in the audience last month, and the dude freaked all ten-or-so of us completely out with his unbelievable confidence. That vibrato’d voice fluttering triumphantly over the square-by-comparison beats, floating out of a man who was shifting and contorting his body around the room, his face flying into ours, causing winces and confused looks abound. But the thing is that such confidence was warranted given the musical magic that came off of Diamond’s various instrumental devices: Beats had a very high head-nod factor. Melodies were consistently catchy. Buttery bass lines. And what really got me was the timing — brilliant pop song pacing, endless examples of tension and release, and whip-smart lyrics were wedged into the cracks to fill out the venue with boisterous bravado.

And, of course, all of that and much more makes its way onto the reels of Conventions, one of a handful of tape releases Diamond’s completed over the past twelve months, and possibly his best to date. Scammers has a sound that screams “Vegas” without ever really making the listener feel weird or unnecessarily guilty about liking that it does that. It’s a crazy phenomenon that’s difficult to describe, but nonetheless a simple thing to toss aside so that the swooning of a lovely ballad like “Effortlessly” with its soaring chorus can proceed uninhibited. Diamond’s a charmer that knows exactly what cards he has and when to play them, cashing in that sultry tenor for stunning climaxes that won’t fail to send shivers down the spines of tape deck owners everywhere. Robotic, rapid-firing stabs of synth propel tracks like “Convention” and “Terror Nights” into neon, post-disco frenzies that make me wanna bust out the running man. But whatever you do, don’t forget to take Scammers seriously — check out the words, get to know the vulnerable, thoughtful, and honest songwriter that is Phil Diamond. Something so normal never felt so weird, vice-versa, and of course none of that really matters. Scammers enjoyability is a very real, simple thing that seems universal and unequivocal and undebatable, and is yet something I fail to grasp completely with words. Let your ears do the talking, and let me know if they say whether or not the world is ready for a guy like Phil Diamond. I bet they’ll say “yes.”

Links: Scammers - Skrot Up

Seitz Versus Gendreau

Seitz Versus Gendreau

[LP; Misanthropic Agenda]

Considering the action coming your way if you take the trip, Seitz Versus Gendreau, at just 90 copies-deep, is an LP you’re going to want to invest in sooner than later. Michael Gendreau, of Crawling With Tarts fame, here indulges in a collaborative found-sound experiment in concrete music compositional strategies. On “Chorus After Rains” he pulls perhaps his most engrossing trick by bringing time to a standstill and letting the achingly beautiful, albeit randomly menacing, subtleties of two separate pieces play off one another. Truly remarkable work, redolent of the casts of Editions RZ and Recollections GRM. Then Gendreau embraces a time-aging philosophy, morphing the plucky notes of a toy piano into a fetid, slow-motion train wreck then cycling into Merznoize before rumbling over the finish line as the track has been rendered a skeleton of its former self. This all takes place in just a few short minutes via “Things Lost That Will Never Be Found,” which resembles a progression of separate movements more than a song. “Trains Will Not Stop (grand surface noise opera Nr.9),” a tune almost as long as its title at 18-odd minutes, lulls you into a coma then pulls you out by the brain handles just before irrevocable damage is done. As with many of the compositions of Side A, “Trains” often intersperses gauzy elements with raw ‘pop’s, evil hisses, and/or foreboding mists. It’s mostly a drift, however, one that might leave you thinking your turntable needle has reached the end of the line. Oh no, my friend; keep listening as the raindrops pitter-patter on the windowpane. A boggy slow-burn after a hectic introduction is just what the MD ordered; while the compositional origins of these tracks reportedly are one and the same, the results couldn’t be more disparate.

Links: Seitz Versus Gendreau - Misanthropic Agenda

Mavo

Mavo

[7-inch; Fixture]

From the label that brought you Cerb fav Homeshake, comes another dip into the post-grunge gene pool via the springboard of Mavo. Three rockers made for coasting back and forth in your parents’ rectangular anomaly in a neighborhood of matchstick boxes. This is your last summer of freedom (you’re 37 now, come Fall it’s time to get a job and a wife), so soak up the last vestige of your youth on 7 inches of wax but heed its advice. Tell your future bosses its fine to “Mock Your Accent,” remember to shave your “Horrible Brit Pop Haircut,” and collapse after a long day of imaging the toil and trouble of the working life in “Totally Tired.” Thankfully nothing is plodding or stern with Mavo, just sound advice presented in tightly recorded leisure. Hey white boy, float in the pool while you can. Basement living and a rosy outlook through those tinted rims won’t last forever. Summer’s coming to a close but not until the needle stops tracing the last Mavo play-through.

Links: Fixture

Mannequin Hollowcaust

Slow Infector

[7-inch; Head Destroyer]

You could take the pile of pseudo-noise/exp./etc. tapes currently in my record room and build a great empire from their melted-down clay, but 7-inches of this sort are less common. Hell yes. Mannequin Hollowcaust, desirable despite their moniker, glom onto a detached strain of dro-noise collage that moves around its constituent parts like kids forming cut-up shapes into different permutations. That’s Side A, the title trizzee; the flip, “The World is a Wasteland” (and isn’t it?), adheres to a similarly off-kilter notion of percussion while pixelated noise bugs crawl in and out of the track like it’s a dead deer’s skull. Pretty soon all is blurred by an encroaching hoard of noise buzzards that chew up every available inch of aural real estate until there’s no room left for anything else. It’s been a locked-groove life lately, and “Wasteland” is no exception. Time to cowboy up, gentlemen.

Links: Mannequin Hollowcaust

Stupid Bummed

Get Used to It

[CS; Juniper Tree]

Remember when we all thought Ariel Pink was going to be awesome forever? How I could apply Stupid Bummed’s name to the joke that’s been played on us. Maybe applying the title of their latest cassette, Get Used to It also would prove apropos. Eh, I’m too down. That is, until I finished listening to Get Used to It. Then I listened again. And again. I remembered Ariel Pink is totally acceptable but also came to realize Stupid Bummed are stellar in their own right (and not to discount the unknown, fear death, or compare bands even if the shoe fits). Deconstructed pop that floats in the ghostly ether of every era and none; this is the stuff that has tunnel-jacked the deep underground into a spewing, uncontrollable derrick that should never be capped even if we run low on fossil fuels and creativity. Know why? Because sooner or later someone will harness that wasted energy to make new energy and someone like Stupid Bummed will come along to transform used-up pop to make it clean and viable.

Links: Juniper Tree

Sheldon Siegel

Three Euro Breakfast

[CS; House of Alchemy]

It is a noise tape on House of Alchemy. Further, it is a free jazz noise tape on House of Alchemy. Don’t be frightened or turned away — while such a document may appeal to a specific, special sort of weirdo, Three Euro Breakfast (and indeed Sheldon Siegel as a band itself, a trio presented here through a series of live sets during a 2010 European tour) might just be that missing link to bridge gaps and harmonize a splintered jazz world that exists in an ever-awkward process of aging. Yes, things do get crazy on this free jazz noise tape on House of Alchemy. That saxophone, sometimes it sounds like it’s being violently murdered, possibly by the pursuing menace that is the bass voice or a trampling barrage of ecstatic rhythm. The drumming is anything but hinged, flying between cymbals and skittering around the toms, the sticks dancing something of a brutal ballet. But elsewhere (and often), the three manage a collected, restrained ensemble. The use of dynamics, particular those in the mezzopiano to pianissimo range, for something like this is remarkable. Subtle snare drum rolls are delicate and precise, and detailed brush work paints uneasy foundations for softly screeching sax to extend bands of color across the canvas, spinning itself into monologues that strain at the seams with emotional tension. Pizzicato cello flutters around to confuse and delight in satisfying head-spins when not in the throes of beautiful and mournful sections of bowed brilliance. Sheldon Siegel’s musicians explore the limitless aspects of each instrument’s palate of texture while finding interesting ways to layer and exploit those experiments on the fly, looking for spaces to fill with exciting new sounds while playing up to their familiarity. Oh, and watch for a killer rendition of “Caravan” while you’re at it. The first release of this sort to stop me dead in my tracks since Subtle Lip Can’s stunning debut, and to be sure a front-runner to be the best of its kind that will see the light of 2013.

Links: Sheldon Siegel - House of Alchemy

Sneaky Pinks

Sneaky Pinks

[7-inch; Almost Ready]

Sneaky Pinks pull a rabbit-punk with “I Can’t Wait” (this is funny – I actually meant to write ‘punch’ just then; Freudian slip, bitch), then slip in three more jabs on Side B to finish the job, though I’m not sure if there are three songs here. CORRECTION: One of them is five-or-so seconds long, hence the mixup. My bad, fellas! Did I mention Sneaky Pinks is basically Nobunny? Ahhh, I have your attention now, no? Good. Back to “I Can’t Wait”; if you’re wondering whether The Ramones have been tackled with more aplomb in the modern era, you’re not alone. Everything about this recording is sublime, from the laughable fidelity to the quacked chorus to the intensely brief length of the track. “Kill Kill Kill” represents the snotty side of the Pinks, all soggy sleeves and screamed decrees, while “Life Stupid, I Stupid” wants a blow job and a hot dog; that’s all there is to say. Side B ends on a locked groove. Either that or my record player is fucked up. If you like punk you like punk, no? I don’t have to tell you what to do.

Links: Almost Ready

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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.