Vocoder
Cuadro Sinóptico [12-inch; Dark Entries]

How could you have come of age in the 1980s and not done cocaine? So much of the dancier music of the decade sounds like a lingering after-effect of disco, all jittery and rearing to go. Club-going noseholes containing more man-made tunnels than Củ Chi. Vocoder’s Cuadro Sinóptico 12-inch is, more than anything, a fuck-load of uptempo fun and a much better party-starter than most of the rote modern dance ensembles inexplicably being signed by labels that most definitely know better. This is the antidote to coldwave, if you’re looking for one (though I will admit I prefer a sharper edge if I’m going to let a band fueled by booster-shot beats and drippy-cheese Goonies synths into my abode). Calling Cuadro Sinóptico a “maxi” EP isn’t helping anything either, but man, a few of these breakdowns really bring the wood. Agree to disagree, with myself; such is life when Spanish new-wave hits the review table. (I’m out of my depth, and everyone’s invited!)

Links: Dark Entries

Mad Nanna

I Hit a Wall

[7-inch; Quemada]

I Hit a Wall is a long drag off an unfiltered cigarette. The billowing smoke chokes the lungs, locks them into breathlessness. The momentary glimpse of the human body shutting down as the brain hovers to process death: that’s the bourgeoisie cool of Mad Nanna. The A-side goes through a pack as it leans against the garage wall, too cool to move due to the perfect slacker pose. It’s a lazy jam, exhaling the tar and deciding to live another dreary day in 50s hotrod heaven. The flipside jumps into the moonshiner and drives until it runs out of gas. Pretense disappears into necessity, the burning desire of Mad Nanna leaving its flat surroundings and getting lost in the middle of the desert until the band physically hits the walls, bodies flying through the stale air into infinity. Mad Nanna’s where it’s at, an era removed from being a Russ Meyer house band. We will never be as cool as we are when we’re listening to this.

Links: Mad Nanna - Quemada

Ryu Hankil / Hong Chulki / Nick Hoffman

SONNE

[12-inch; Pilgrim Talk]

Ryu Hankil, Hong Chulki, and Nick Hoffman have been up to no good. They’re hanging out in the toolshed again, running the sawblades and grinding keys until the sparks fly. Then they turn to tones and barely perceivable shades, wallowing beautifully in shadow. As we move along some of the pitches that the trio produce the human ear can’t even process. It often results in a vague tension — irritation, almost. Clanking, dinging, shuffling footsteps, tanks of helium being filled and emptied like the lungs of a crack addict. You could fry seven of Gong’s magic eggs on this record’s forehead, no problem. Just a thought. Is this too subtle for the Merzbow mongers? Yes. File SONNE next to those light-industrial noise records you got from Spring Press not too long ago (oh you didn’t get those? whoops) and those New Blockaders albums on Hanson (oh you didn’t get those? me neither) and keep them safe; keep them secret. You’ll need them someday, by-god.

Links: Pilgrim Talk

Susurrus

Susurrus

[CS; Field Hymns]

Isolated. Alone. Trapped inside my own head. The world goes on without me. I lay in this bed. Unable to move. Unable to speak. Yet I hear. I see. The buzzes of the florescent lights. The faint mechanics of the elevator. The rush of stale air that races past my ears when moved to a new room. The hum of my machines. My shallow breath. It reminds me of what’s outside these doors. My old life. My old family. How long have I been like this? How long have I been here? I can’t remember the last visitor I had. I can’t remember the last time…That’s it. I’m breaking out. I’ve had enough. I had a life — even if it’s gone, I’ll start anew. I’ll go back home. I’ll unpack my boxes. I will dig out Susurrus’ self-titled. It will remind me of this. It will make me strong. It won’t let atrophy win. It won’t let solitude win. It won’t let death win. I’m moving my arms. I’m moving my legs. I’m unplugging these machines. I’m walking out the door. I’m passing the nurse’s station. I’m taking the elevator. It’s louder than I imagined. I’m falling to the floor. I hear the sirens. The buzz is dying down. It’s growing quiet. Alone. Isolated. At peace.

Links: Field Hymns

Shenandoah Davis

We, Camera

[CS; OFFTEMPO]

Shenandoah Davis’ piano sound strikes a match in the ear. Her ivories seem old and rustic, almost as if recorded from a bygone era, and her voice is beautiful and warbly, like a baby robin waddling to its nest. Not the standard fare for us at Cerberus, save the synths, and that’s just fine, thanks. A kindly mix of Josephine Foster, Regina Spektor, and The Finches never hurt anyone; the fact that Davis might someday “make it” in the traditional sense (and not in the dirty way) is neither here nor anywhere. Her voice is pleading, her compositions plodding but in a meaningful way. Maybe even jazzy, a bit? Yeah, things get sassy too, albeit never off-puttingly so, and that’s saying something because I even hear a glint of showtune boisterousness in there. She fares best with the direct, achingly sincere solo piano numbers, like the one that’s melting my heart right now, which is called “Hobos and Bulls” and is so pretty it draws emotion from me like Davis is siphoning tears from my ducts, but that’s not important right now. Davis is; let her in. If Zooey could sing like this, we would give a damn. Maybe.

Links: Shenandoah Davis - OFFTEMPO

Dead Rider

The Walk Slow

[7-inch; Joyful Noise]

Todd Rittmann ditches U.S. Maples for the friendly environs of Joyful Noise and new project Dead Rider. The proceeding one-song taste, “The Walk Slow,” blows U.S. Maples out of the water. Yes, it really does. It’s Leonard Cohen on valium, backed by a warped version of The Bad Seeds. It’s one band layered upon another in some weird approximation of Jupiter’s gaseous atmosphere. Ammonia clouds obscuring water cloud swirling around hydrogen and helium constructs best judged by telescopic observations over a long period of time. In other words, no one’s going to appreciate the slow rolling power of Rittmann’s Giant Red Spot until 300 years from now when it’s still a powerful shot of musical mistaken identity. This is a whole new breed of pop music, equally catchy as it works its damnedest to be the squarest piece of scientific experimentation since Pluto’s devolution to a dwarf planet. Good news for those of diminutive stature: Peter Dinklage gets a lot of head in his own fantasy world. Even if Jupiter is 10 astronomical units from the Sun, there is a place where Rittmann and “The Walk Slow” will receive its just reward. It’s as big as the gas giant but as far away from Earth normal as it gets. I still love it, so too bad if you didn’t opt into JNR’s Flexidisc series.

Links: Joyful Noise

Grandma’s Boyfriend

Grandma’s Boyfriend EP

[7-inch; Loglady]

Bad band names often belie the treasures found within, and that is most certainly the case with Grandma’s Boyfriend. A sly, svelte, economical mix of Cloud Nothings, a half-dozen HoZac platters, a quicker and less-snotty Icky Boyfriends, The Ramones/Buzzcocks, long-lost Seattle punkers The Daryls, and a million similar releases I’ve reviewed and forgotten over the years. That might not seem like a ringing endorsement, but any snappy-ass, quasi-melodic punk act that gets through the doors at Cerberus is already notable since we tend to go a different way aesthetically. As usual, this entire 7-inch hinges on the vocals and whether they make enough hay before the sun stops shinin’. Most of the time they do, and the lyrics — not to mention the instrumentation — are better than average, so let’s call this one a winner.

Links: Loglady

Earn / Mirror to Mirror

Split

[CS; Jugular Forest]

Oh them boys from 1958-2009. They gone and made a split cassette under th’er solo aliases. Earn is Matthew Sullivan toying with minimalism, focusing on the space between the spaces between. It’s an experiment that’s been coming to a head in many forms (most recently in his work with roomie Sean McCann). Lift yo’ head up and praise be to Earn. Alex Twomey’s jam is just that; overflowing with synthesized reverie. Remember when Animal Collective was unpredictable and fun? Yeah, you better jump on Mirror to Mirror now. The juxtaposition here is a strange one — perhaps Sullivan and Twomey proving to the disenchanted like me that they are more than their ‘past’ project. I’ve known it for some time, but this split not only proves it, but also destroys preconception itself. Both are craftsman beyond the scope of their chosen instruments, going where others refuse. Earn is sullen but triumphant in its stoic optimism; Mirror to Mirror is finely crafted drone that has no fear of being labeled pop. Both will bring a smile as wide as the Joker’s to your face. Bust my britches and call me Frances.

Links: Jugular Forest

Eric Paul

I Sleep With Their Bones

[CS; Bathetic]

I interviewed Eric Paul (most notably of Arab On Radar, whom, at the time, he wouldn’t even discuss) when The Chinese Stars unleashed themselves on the public post-AoR for a couple of albums and a really cooled star-shaped CD EP. He said, at one point:

My lyrics are never intended to be a catalyst for something. They are written for very self indulgent and personal reason[s]. I do not have the ability to be a spokesperson or a martyr for any issue. So, usually when you read something in my lyrics it is usually a result of something I am contemplating or struggling with in my life.

If what he said then is true of his most prurient release, the I Sleep With Their Bones cassette, well… good luck with that. Then again, maybe I’m sick because I’m not offended by this stuff in the first place. Hmm? Wherever the chips fall, let them be dipped in the sick spiritual salsa of a man with a lot to get off his man-chest. And would you want to listen to his spoken-word tape if he didn’t have issues? Nope. Then you wouldn’t be privy to Paul trying to fuck on cocaine, figure out a tragic relative, discern whether a woman is trying to kill him, and dealing with his parents’ drunken fighting (if they’re there at all; at one point, they’re two cardboard cutouts). As much fun as I seem to be making of all this, I think what Paul accomplishes with I Sleep With Their Bones is an important step for him at this point. As I have with all the ex-Arab On Radar boys, I give this my seal of approval because its contents are bare and exposed like any writer’s soul should be.

Links: Bathetic

Danielson

“Expectorance”

[7-inch; Joyful Noise]

Before there was Sufjan Stevens, there was the Danielson Family. Helmed by the effervescent Daniel Smith, the anti-Manson eclectics breathed new life into pop, playfully flirting with 60s bubblegum and late 20th-century experimentation to produce a wide variety of kitsch. “Expectorance” is yet another minor reinvention from Smith. Maintaining the tinker-toy melody often found in upbeat Danielson fare, “Expectorance” also delves into some polished blues repetition. The beat is pounded out with the fervent energy of Pete Townshend, Smith’s windmills powering an army of musical talent rather than rallying against teenage wastelands and old bosses. It’s a time of magic once again! Time to pick up our tired spirits through the power of Danielson.

Links: Danielson - Joyful Noise

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.