Witch Gardens
R-I-P [7-inch; Water Wing]

I sifted through a huge pile to get to Witch Gardens, and I’m sticking with them for now. Totally different from the blasting punk I get bombarded with, more melody-based and playful. Jangly, pop-ridden, somewhat glorious is how I’d describe R-I-P in general, pointing in the general direction of K Records by dint of their minimal rhythms and guitar half-riffs. Man, even a hint of a let-down and it would be easy to write these ladies off, but they bring it front-to-back without breaking any picks. They hit you with a few sublime harmonies and from there on out it doesn’t even matter anymore; they’ve got your attention. I wasn’t at all surprised to find out WG hale from Seattle. They’ve got that aura to them for sure. I mentioned K but we’re also talking Offtempo and Funkytonk (as far as the Northwest) and a bevy of Seattle labels I don’t have time to knock out for you. Do the research and report back to me.

Links: Witch Gardens - Water Wing

The Baijkonour Ghost

The Baijkonour Ghost

[CS; Cosmic Winnetou]

The great German synthesist Günter Schlienz has a fairly new label called Cosmic Winnetou that’s doled out 10 little gems over the past year or so. In his third batch of tapes comes this semi-mysterious album that — if I am to believe the label’s description — is a recreation of a 1960’s ambient masterpiece, a copy of which was found “in a warehouse in a backyard of the South of Stuttgart” by a fellow named Ralv Milberg. The story goes on to relate that the descendants of The Baijkonour Ghost’s originators, who are alive and well, were invited by Milberg to recreate the recording conditions of the original reels in order to essentially re-record the album in full. Now, like a lot of drone tales told ‘round the campfire, this particular yarn carries with it a certain degree of speculation, especially since there are track titles like “my bloody meerjungfräulein” (which internet-translates to “my bloody sea boy young woman,” by the way). But no matter who or what exactly is behind this, when it was written or recorded, the music that made it to the tape playing in my deck is some of the better drone I’ve found in my 2013 tape travels thus far. Side A is all about texture, tones sweeping into the ongoing explosion, a drone done in vibrant widescreen that leads itself up to a thrilling climax, brilliantly paced with excellent dynamics. Side B is even more harrowing, “the piper at the gates of doom” being a constant crescendo of tremolo tones haunted by screeching ghosts in the background. Added to that are streaks of pure gnar, electric guitars slicing through the harmonic roar with intimidating distortion and feedback. Then last, “The Prince of Whales,” which sounds like… well, a bunch of whales, wailing. As a whole, The Baijkonour Ghost, whether new or old, or both I guess, is a timeless stunner.

Links: Cosmic Winnetou


The Homeshake Tape

[CS; Fixture]

The joke goes that Canada is behind America, but Homeshake prove the tables turned–at least in venerable Montreal. As America goes fascists with its rules against smoking, drinking, and public fornication, so goes pop culture in a time warp of fake 50s couture amid a backdrop of sloppy hand holding with 80s and 90s subculture. Enough H&M propagation! Homeshake moves forward, toward a Canada where Quebec is free and Stephen Harper is a bum on the street corner unable to cobble a few loons together (people are turned off by madman ravings). The Homeshake Tape goes all McKenzie-Malkmus-Desser-Sparkles with its mash-up of Canadian humor and American slackerism. But because of it, we’re in love (and strangely confused). The debut of Peter Sagar is crisp and unyielding. The pop soul of “Moon Woman,” the cool cat strut of “Gettin’ Down,” and low end lounge of “Hater” showcasing an understanding of forward thought in a time when nostalgia is a fly trap. Montreal has been coveting a healthy scene of lo-fi, noise, and drone and Homeshake skirts all of it. I’m wrapping up tight in this pop rock blanket and forgetting how America sinks further into hegemony as the world whirls by.

Links: Fixture

Vulgar Fashion

Vulgar Fashion

[10-inch; Handmade Birds]

Another curveball from Handmade Birds in the form of a hot-pink-with-green-splatter 10-inch care of Vulgar Fashion, a dark/coldwave act with a catchy, witch-house way about them. The ’80s loom over everything, from the simplistic drumachine beats (if that’s not a machine hats off, lads/ladies) to the rhythmic come-ons of the singer, though this self-titled effort possesses a modern production sense. I think they’re talking about the pissing-on of faces during “Golden Showers” (natch!), if that interests you, but I’m all about “Night Yacht,” a cut with more feeling and an extremely addictive bass phrase. The peeps that will really find value in Vulgar Fashion are the Weird/Dark Entries set, though strangely I can imagine a day when they could rise from the indie ranks like, say, Beach House did. “Pact With the Devil” reminds me of where a lot of bands were going during the electroclash days, that semi-Trans Am, uptempo feel, while “Krystal Tearz,” on the other hand, is a sleepy ’80s single that never was. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Links: Handmade Birds

The North Sea

Grandeur & Weakness

[LP; Rubber City Noise]

Grandeur & Weakness is apparently the final North Sea voyage, and what a long, strange trip it’s been; or at least I imagine so. As seems to happen all the time, this act was right under my nose for years and I never so much as sniffed. Now I’m trying to snuff up all I can before it’s closing time and it’s a little overwhelming. Back to Grandeur: Not to cliche-fuck you, but what an appropriate album title. Brad Rose (nee North Sea) strings together a slew of aural victories that all stand apart. “Empty, Fragile Shell” had me thinking of that Riceboy Sleeps album (aka spiritual drone) while, say, “Vagrant” and “Violence Is a Cleansing Force” ring of Panicsville holding up a WZT Hearts track in Starving Weirdos’ backyard. There seem to be a lot of lazers in today’s experimental records, and this one is no exception. I embrace that, along with the more extreme elements at play here, fully. It’s rare to hear a dronoise album that doesn’t beg for anything. Nothing is left off the table; the tectonic plates shift fairly regularly, but you’ll never lose footing if this crazy brand of music has had any impact on your life. Records like Grandeur keep our little pumpkin patch in the sun alive, teeming with fresh energy and wild, zesty ideas. No reason to quit now, far as I can hear. Three-hundred copies and you don’t know what hit you.

Links: The North Sea - Rubber City Noise

JD Emmanuel / Evan Caminiti


[CS; Preservation]

Calgon Emmanuel, take me away! The A-side to this latest Contrasts pairing is amazing. And then it drops! But it returns lusher than ever. I am in its grasp, the sudsy bath enveloping my senses as I let my body go limp into the fade out…but I open my eyes to a new world, one underwater with magical creatures singing to me in docile tones. A full-body feast as I dive deeper into my Cousteau fantasy, only to come to find the Mariana Trench is a portal to the Earth behind the sun, outer space lovely this time of year. But Earth 2 is not the magical world I was expecting, Evan Caminiti’s dismal splash of acid rain on a world in ruin waking me from my Magellan cruise. As I desperately seek shelter, I find eves and overhangs impossible. When I encounter a shop or coffeehouse, thinking it a fine place to hide until the drenching rain subsides, I am skirted out the door. The world is turning dark and the gutters begin to swell. But I realize I am not in a fantasy, nor am I on Earth 2. This is the world which we have created, shunting Emmanuel’s beautiful forward progression for Caminiti’s gritty noir. We are a society growing cold, at odds with the Utopian idealism of the Golden Rule. I will endure this cold, pounding rain because it is the punishment I deserve for a fool’s errand. I fall asleep in the gutter, naked and exposed for the world to kick.

Links: Preservation


Electric Eyes

[7-inch; Retrograde]

Might be the best record of a sturdy batch of late. Den’s Electric Eyes 7-inch is mean, mighty, quick with the sword; they can rumble slow and hard or they can jam it a bit. Either way the sturdy James Plotkin (who engineers every record I review now) mix allows the project to digress without losing the buzz. These guys are super-stoned without being annoying about it, angry without being melodramatic about it, and heavy as shit-balls without being all ‘metal’ about it; it’s like Sleep/OM and Melvins with Acid Mothers Temple sound effects sprinkled over top. Curiously satisfying, it is. When those trippy effects flutter in you wonder why they don’t just drape a few layers more just for good measure, but that might be why it works in the first place; they don’t milk it to death. I don’t like the hippy-dippy jam-bam of “Spectrum Shock” initially, and the Muppet vocals don’t do anything to change my mind (though the track gets pretty crazy later on, I must admit). Hey, they can’t all be winners. An interesting new band, Den are. With them, the force be.

Links: Den - Retrograde

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


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

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.