Selective Memory 1 & 2

[7-inch; Self-Released]

A Californian called Marc Merza is responsible for this truly elegant 7-inch presentation, a fact I’m aware of only because he e-mailed me to let me know, and then fired one off to me in the mail. This was months ago. After a quite busy and ultimately disappointing summer, which included a cross-country move, I’m shamed to admit that I actually lost track of where I packed this sucker, and have been staring at an unfinished draft of the review you’re now reading for far longer than I should have. Well, just today I finally unearthed this little beauty (from exactly where I put it, of course), much to my delight, if only because it gave me a chance to look at the thing again. This is the type of 7-inch that begs for a spin just by nature of its striking design, the cover and labels of which come from the leather tooling technique of Obsidian Monarch (aka Billy Sprague, who runs one of the best tape labels around, Sanity Muffin). Fortunately, the music is just as fetching as the art that adorns it, rounding “Selective Memory” out to be one of the better 7-inches to hit my turntable in 2015. Merza’s music is slight and sly. One side features a repeated guitar line tip-toeing its way across an extremely subtle ambient hum, like an audible wink, making way for the lulling slumber of what’s to come on the other side, which is a far more traditional sort of drone piece – rolling waves of sonic magma flowing past the steady pulse of a beating drum. All told it’s an intriguing experience, fun to flip back and forth – try figuring out which side of the cover represents which side of the music, and you might not get too far, but such is the pull of mystery Merza encourages with the way he composes and presents his music. According to the somewhat vague website created to promote this thing, Merza counts White Poppy’s Crystal Dorval and the Spookfish’s Dan Goldberg as sources of inspiration and debts of thanks, which may not explain much in terms of what we’re hearing here exactly, but seemed worthy of a mention anyway (it’s all about who you know these days, or something, right?). Regardless, the “mm” moniker is now firmly cemented in my sub-consciousness, and my regular consciousness is ready for whatever’s next. I’ll be waiting, eyes and ears perpetually perked.

Links: mm


Honesty Box

[CS/12-inch; Telegraph Harp]

Taxidermists are to Pavement/Duster what Fat History Month are to Modest Mouse/Built To Spill. Does that compute? Or maybe: Taxidermists are to Stephen Malkmus what Purling Hiss are to Kurt Cobain. Hell I don’t know, Honesty Box is such an anomaly amid my tape pile I’m ready to praise it to high heavens without even being done with the first side. Half-cocked? Maybe, but I know what I like, and more importantly, I know what I’ve been missing… or at least I thought I did. Taxidermists have me rejiggering my entire listening schedule. They jar loose long-lost indie-rock memories, like my late buddy Scott J., who was an encyclopedia of Up/K/etc. and would LOVE this tape if he were with us to experience it. He was a huge Archers Of Loaf guy, of course. Random thought: This group should tour with Adam Harding. So authentic, so fragile, so wise in their unorthodox choices over the course of eight legendary entries, Taxidermists put their message across equally well with plump distortion or haunting, minor-chord subtlety. In fact I might prefer the latter by a hair, but that’s neither/nor, as I’m genuinely smitten by the tactics employed on Honesty Box from top to bottom. I hear a lot of parallels between the clean-guitar moments and what one would expect from a Back Magic composition; then the heavy guitars chime in and it’s a much more diverse universe of sound that could be pinned on all sorts of antecedents that I don’t have the time to mention. If you subtract the heavier moments, the Duster comparison holds the most weight. Where the vocals are concerned, I must again risk out-and-out flattery and venture that they’re perfect, in every way. Maybe even old-Weezer-ish when the singer strains to soar above the dirty-sludgy mess of the guitar-led choruses. And if that sounds like a dig, I’ll have you know a I possess a treasure trove of memories associated with the first two Weezer records. Just for posterity. Where were we? Oh yeah: I’ll close this out by affirming my support for the Taxidermists project one last time. Don’t miss out on Taxidermists if you feel golden-age indie still has something to offer the jaded (which it absolutely does).

Links: Telegraph Harp



[LP; Tiny Engines]

If you happen to follow any writers on social media, other than the air of self-importance we carry (we apologize, we’re really nice and down to earth, I promise), you’ve often read some take on the stock PR email. It’s not that writers dislike PR, it’s just that PR is aimed for dull radio programming dolts who need to know what marketed band loosely sounds like so it can potentially be slotted in a radio’s computerized rotation. So, PR people are often reduced to becoming cheap algorithms approximating processors and robots. They are just as much a victim of conglomerization as any band, label, publication, et al. What does this have to do with Walleater? Simple enough, their PR literature name-checked one of, if not THE, favorite band of my youth. I scoffed and made a challenge to listen. And though they sound NOTHING like said band (not just said from my pure, but selfish heart), they do match up to the time of said band’s lightning quick radio breakthrough. Which makes me sad, not only for Walleater who must exist in an era out of place from “rock” radio, but for the state of radio in general. I/II doesn’t really size up to the Cerberus crowd aside from the nostalgia bank I take withdraws from in listening to Walleater, but as far as a big 90’s rock sound, few are at the level of Walleater at doing it earnestly and with such depth of talent. I/II is robust and would have been hard to ignore on X- radio stations across the country on a playlist with the hard rock bands that preceded the nu-metal and Clear Channel invasions which “ruined” rock and roll. “Glow” may lack verses and a chorus, but it has all the alt-trappings that make me feel warm and fuzzy on cold fall days. “Give Into Me” and “Swallow You” would have kept tripe like Puddle of Mudd and 3 Doors Down at bay for at least another 6-12 months. Or maybe, it would have been perfectly placed to avoid pigeonholing hardworking PR people of the present, many stuck placating a business model that not only doesn’t do their artists justice, but their own enthusiasm for the represented. But much like the people who continue to sift through mountains of overproduced and underwhelming music to find worthy challenges to present, so goes the PR champions who forced my hand on Walleater. Of course, Walleater deserve a lot of credit for distilling a lot of that old Gen X charm into something worthy and interesting 20 years later. Though I would still prefer an astronaut.

Links: Tiny Engines

Jonas Reinhardt

Palace Savant

[LP; Further]

I can’t feel guilty about Palace Savant being sold out before I even review it because it happened so quickly considering its Sept. 18 release date. Folk in the Know don’t hesitate to buy up the product Further brings to the market, and I don’t see any reason why a repress wouldn’t be on the horizon so I think we’re good. There-there now, what is young Jonas Reinhardt, of Constellation Tatsu/Kranky/Not Not Fun fame, up to these days? To me it sounds like he’s diving into the techno resurgence like a 12-foot-deep hotel pool. But it’s a much more abstract situation than that, and I apologize for sullying his wonderful record with such a crass genre tag because Palace Savant, when all is untangled, resides closest to the Editions Mego, specifically via sub-label Spectral Spools, galaxy. And that’s a specialized, incredibly tough egg to crack if you’re coming up as an experimental musician (of course Reinhardt is seven years and as many releases, at least, in, so that means a lot). Reinhardt gets there by juxtaposing synth patches with static smears of sound that serve as mist over a swirling, heaving sea. It’s lazer-tag time; neon-greens/-blues, robots, lights flashing in rhythm with the audio, minds hypnotized by the linear, mathematical sound-tiles that, without warning, are bent by Reinhardt like pieces of warm playdough. The lazers win out, however, as they must. I’ll admit there’s a ton of competition in this field in the UK, to the point that a lot of worthy 12-inch efforts are being buried like body parts amid the deluge of quality electronic-/techno-/house-fueled material. I could see this affecting Reinhardt if he were overseas, but now seems a prime time to strike paydirt in the U.S., where efforts in these genres in particular seem, to me at least, a lot more fragmented and halfhearted. Prove me wrong, people! With Palace Savant as a fuse let’s light this shit up and show those Brits what trippin’ on electronic mind musick is all about! Further is located in Seattle, too, which is beyond perfect. I’m confident all will come together as I’ve foreseen. Until then the many synth squiggles of Reinhardt and a select-few peers, many of them on, you-guessed-it, Further, will have to do on this side of the ocean.

Links: Further


Dimming Awe, The Light is Raw

[LP; Western Vinyl]

I recall the fervor of DJ Midnight on a 90’s landscape unprepared for such a shock to genre systemics. I remember the vigor of the first RJD2 mix-up, where I felt fusion was being slowly transformed from acid jazz theory into 21st Century practice. So goes the work of Spencer Stephenson AKA Botany, who has long teased the prowess of his talents, but Dimming Awe, The Light of Raw is the mountaintop; that moment which cauterizes the musical aneurysm. A rich tapestry of hip-hop, pop and psychedelia, it’s a timely release that bridges mainstream tropes with heady experimentation. What all of Stephenson’s exploration amounts to is a drone record that happens to borrow from various genres to warp the fragility of subtlety by packing it up with density. Silence is manufactured just to be interrupted. Beats are created just to fall apart. Found sounds are synthesized to become rhythms. Everything exists as it shouldn’t, and somehow it explodes. The only downfall is accessibility, because this just isn’t the same experience digitally. With vinyl, the format is rarely complimentary to the sound; it’s often become a collector’s vessel. This is not such a case, because the rotation of the turntable is just another element of the world of Dimming Awe, The Light is Raw. It all adds up into a truly unique experience, and in a world where nouns and adjectives are thrown about without meaning (c’mon, too much shit is labeled “amazing” these days). That lord-on-high word you reserve for the very best of life, liberally sprinkle it all over Stephenson here. That only 100 copies of this is among us (and was quickly snatched up) is a travesty. This is the real deal Holyfield, and until a second pressing pops up, you’re going to have to search high and low. Pay whatever price for this.

Links: Western Vinyl

Peter Kris

Rim of the World

[CS; Spring Break Tapes]

There was a love letter to Sprawl and Sky that came not even close to explaining how enriching and unyielding Kris’ guitar work truly is to experience. So he upped the ante with Rim of the World, drawing further inspiration from the Inland Empire. Very much Lynchian in its dream state, Rim of the World is also starkly real. We daydream to escape reality, and as science tells us our wandering minds cause unhappiness – rather than unhappiness causing our minds to wander – it has made me re-evaluate just what I love about Kris’ work, particularly this piece of truth that sounds like foggy angels up on high in deep sleep. But Kris’ steely notes and airy production do much, not to put one to sleep to forget, but rather to make them focus on the reality of our situation. If the music isn’t enough to do it, the included book will bring you closer to Kris’ vision of music-as-reality-as-told-by-art. It’s a beautiful art piece that has many components, and much like the best art, it does its best to tell a story from many angles. This is Kris’ Inland Empire, away from the cinematic unraveling of Hollywood (no matter how glorious) but with the same prying lens and keen skill for capturing the mood of the everyday. Rim of the World is gritty, tear-soaked and hopeful. There’s a reason the Cerberus crew continues to return to all iterations of German Army work: because it speaks to a higher purpose without a bully pulpit and a manipulative televangelist bilking us for all we’re worth.

Links: Spring Break Tapes

Laughing Eye Weeping Eye

Once Was You

[CS; Moon Glyph]

I always thought Tarot readings were _____, but my wife is Argentine and her and her mom tend to throw down that shit every so often, so I see how it can become a part of someone’s life. This-here Laughing Eye Weeping Eye (this is a duo, one is Laughing Eye [Rebecca Schoenecker], one is Weeping Eye [Patrick Holbrook]; thoughts?) cassette is inspired by Tarot in a very real way, as Schoenecker actually performs readings in Chicago. So while I suspected the Tarot stuff to be a sneaky-but-hey-why-not PR tactic, it isn’t. Not only that, but the music of Once Was You delightfully reflects the nether-worldly delights of such pursuits with its unblinking reverence to a hallowed strain of echo-chamber folk. Schoenecker sings like an angel while she flips her cards and predicts your ultimate success or doom, while a harmonium-sounding instrument (I’m offering no guarantees) accompanies. God, so much reverence. It’s like December in the oldest church in town, and the heat is on the fritz, and you have nowhere to stay. You head to the pews and lay down. A woman’s voice emerges from the pulpit and touches your soul in a way you haven’t felt in ages. You feel inspired, you clean yourself up and refrain from giving in to earth’s lusty desires. You get a job and meet someone. You win. But then again, there’s the Weep-y side of this too, a mystical blight that corrodes the core of LEWE’s ruminations. Was this recorded in an abandoned crackhouse, a haunted grain silo, one of those tunnels they used to break that drug kingpin out of jail, or a well in Norway? I can guarantee it’s one of these four things, so if you figure it out hit me up on twitter (@gumshoegrant, I bet a ton of you don’t know that; lordy). Until then I’ll be staring into a mirror while this tape plays on a loop, a crucifix in my hand and a drink in the other (and I don’t drink). All levity aside, I admire the sacred nature of such endeavors, and assume those of you already gazing at Moon Glyph or kindred labels like Captcha and Holy Infinite Freedom Revival will fall right in line.

Links: Moon Glyph


Wk. 1

[CS; I Hate My Records]

If I’m not mistaken Wk. 1 is my favorite tape of the year. It makes me want to jump into a video game, Streets of Rage maybe, and double-drop-kick the hot SHIT out of a few drug-dealing psychos. WHOOOOBOY I’m going to try not to gush but WERK render the rest of y’all so unnecessary it’s crazy. And I’m talking about myself here; it’s all about WERK-WERK-WERK when this tape is playing. Echo-dusted drum wreckage, Colour Bük-style improv (or at least it seems improvised, and also: I miss Colour Bük), warbling noise-isms, yawning chasms of dark-grey funnel clouds set to droooooone-rock, cobra-snake lunges of guitar out of the Swans playbook, unscripted chaos; all these things and more await you within the sick, gnarly monster-lips of this twisted tape. I wish I could sit in with these guys and pound out a few LUMPA-LUMPA beats of my own, Beefheart’s band-style. Whatever. I’m not saying Wk. 1 is perfect (whatever that means anyway), mind you. I’m enamored first and foremost by WERK’s affinity for taking chances, for reaching for distant heights most bands rightly assume they’ll never trespass. A lot of spur-of-the-moment types can pull off a drone that doesn’t change much in an hour, and even more nostalgia-driven fools can pay the metaphorical indie-scene bills by plumbing the past and adding precious little to the mix. But how many of these soundalikes even conSIDer busting their delicate headz through the plate-glass barriers before them when it comes to stepping outside of their comfortable cocoons and laying down something unPRECedented? I’m sickened by the lack of quality in 80% of popular and independent music these days (particularly the former, which has betrayed me utterly) and I’m mother-fucking flummoxed as to why more people can’t hear bands like WERK do their things. These guys could fill stadiums with this shit, but their egos don’t require such things. They’re content to make music they know is, on the down-low, dollars-to-donuts superior to what’s out there, with maybe a few exceptions. I’m stoked, you should be too, so why am I so sure you’ll totally let Wk. 1 float right by you like a sinking ship’s bubble trail? You bastards owe me this much; put WERK to work and they’ll melt your mind twice, once for each tape side.

Links: I Hate My Records


Body Diffuser

[CS; Vast Arc Hues]

Usually when a band/label tells me they don’t send out review copies I sorta chuckle to myself because almost no one doesn’t send out review copies in one form or another. But with Landing I think it’s actually true. They’ve got integrity to spare and their career, though already spanning more than a decade already, seems to be just getting started. I know that sounds crazy but Body Diffuser is partly to blame for my unbridled enthusiasm. It’s a whole new side of a band I already respected a great deal, almost along the lines of a release on Moon Glyph or Trensmat. It’s a psych brew of brews on Side A, soft like a low-power lightbulb that lasts into eternity. And I thought Brocade was bad-ass! (It is.) Happy to say I enjoy the vocals too. That can be a bitch. No one ever seems to be satisfied with vocals. Landing aren’t the kind of band that have ever relied on vocals in any way, so to hear them applied to such noble effect frees the spirit like a hearty wine (or at least I’m told; not a drinker, unfortunately, got a weak tummy). Side B is vocals-bereft and mellow almost to a fault, though that’s what a lot of the tape crowd get into these days and it’s a Landing staple. I prefer the striking, drastic measures taken on Side A (I’m being lazy here, the title is “Four Keys”), but if you’re a longtime Landing lemming the title track is going to boil your bunny the quickest, with those classic mellow guitar non-riffs and non-arpeggios, cosmic in a sense but less overt about its trippy side than most. Truly wandering desert music for the nomadic soul. Like The Octopus Project earlier this year, it’s encouraging to see a veteran band with undisputed credentials such as Landing choosing the tape route, though something tells me these tunes will hit vinyl before the year is through (fuck maybe I’ll do it if I come into some scrizzle). I can’t imagine Body Diffuser being available on a long-term basis, not at all, so if you like being the dude who has That Tape, the one few of us had the wherewithal to pluck from that sparkling distro in the sky (or, like, Tomentosa), don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

Links: Landing

Ghetto Ghouls


[12-inch; Monofonus Press]

I’m not sure if there’s a single garage-rock outfit, at the present, that hits as bat-to-the-skull hard as Ghetto Ghouls, an Austin band modeled on the stylings of Fatal Flying Guilloteens, Swell Maps, and The Sonics. It’s like one of those early Thermals records: Riffs, man!!! That’s what we all want these days, no? There’s so much pent-up energy released it’s a gotta-see-‘em-in-concert situation for sure. Not that I ever get out of the house these days (though hey, I’ve had several good runs and will have several more); I don’t deserve Ghetto Ghouls the way I laze around with my babiez. But hey that’s life. I think Collisions is a genuine replacement for the ‘real thing,’ too; unlike a lot the garage rekerdz (ha anyone else remember Estrus? they were an exception to this for sure) of the 90s, folks these days are content to capture all the grit and tit of on-the-spot dynamics, and I’m grateful for that. In fact I’m listening to this with my daughter right now. Don’t get it twisted though. I’m pretty sure these guys would do a rail off the Statue of Liberty’s ass if they had the chance. This isn’t at all sanitized entertainment and I’m not going to relay the lyrics to my kid either. ONE, TWO, ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR bang-bang-bang; bang-bang; bang-bang-bang-bang BANG-BANG-BANG nenner-nenner-nenner BANG-BANG-BANG… BANG-BANG, BANG, BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG!!!!!!! That opening track on Side B is more like a, shit, I don’t even want to say because I’m not sure and there’s a broken-casio solo in there too that’s sorta Unicorns-y. Forgive me; Collisions, at 45 RPM no less, tends to scramble me up a bit, like those eggs I melted cheese over this mornin’. The flip side is a little more subtle, which some of you will appreciate. I, predictably, was hoping I’d get kicked in the teeth a few more times. Hey, no harm done. Until Ghetto Ghouls and Cool Ghouls meld together into a Byrds-ian hard-garage mess, flip your switch on in seconds with this hard-rockin’ reptile of a record.

Links: Monofonus Press

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.