John Dikeman

The Double Trio

[CS; Astral Spirits]

Wow, I was wroooong about that, wasn’t I? You see, about five years ago when my musical tastes started to really fall into the depths of underground extremity, I figured I’d soon be awash in submissions just like John Dikeman’s The Double Trio and reviewing Talibam! between breaths while I straddled a few Owl Xounds tapes and a No-Neck-a-thon or two. JESUS I was not only incorrect but very possibly challenged in some way because that simply has not happened. Hell, the last time I reviewed a skronkfest was probably back when Weasel Walter’s label was still ug-XPLODE-ing all over those nuts. Where are the post-jazz improvisers, and what is their collective email address, I ask you? Now that I’m done asking readers for things they can’t technically submit to me (I come and go, in the shadows, as I please; call me TMT’s Gandalf) unless they’re crafty, allow me to finally begin to speak about The Double Trio and its amazing cycles and mating habits. While Dikeman is the frontman for this operation, his supporting cast is easily enough to get TMT followers in titters and tatters (Jeb Bishop, Jason Roebke, Joshua Abrams, friend-of-Cerbs Frank Rosaly, and Mike Reed ring a bell? I thought they might.) on its own. And I know I don’t even have to say it, much less spray it like these fuckers do, but this is a quintet you don’t wanna fuck with. There’s so much energy afoot I get a little shock every so often if I close my eyes and listen to this tape for 10 seconds and touch something. I don’t know what each guy does unfortunately (I’m assuming Rosaly is on percussion?), so I won’t be able to relate individual exploits other than to say the bass and trombone, to me, lead the charge and provide the most provocative punch. This is some truly sick boning, too; Fishbone’s Dirty Walt would be proud, as would Bill Watrous. What I dig the most is the fact that these folks jam for about 60 minutes or so on each side and never seem to tire of each other, and the connection is not only cosmic but contagious. My record room just became a fuckin’ jazz den, man. This is what the tape format was resuscitated for; our jazzheads need room to stretch/spool out.

Links: John Dikeman - Astral Spirits

Amanda Feery

Spells from the Ice Age

[CS; Fort Evil Fruit]

Improvised piano compositions seem so rare. Perhaps it’s the shock that such a stately instrument is being used so carelessly, and even the most savant and adventurous feel that to proceed with a record of such improprieties is akin to the first step in a virgin snow. A singular footprint turns into a stampede of untraceable soles lost in a rush toward nothing. Bravo to Amanda Feery for planting her left foot down, as Spells from the Ice Age is a lush, organic expose of piano as tool-to-fool. There is very much a stately air to be found, but it does not preclude Feery to dally around, as if searching for a particular discordant moment to ruin the black tie stiffness. This is not Mozart composing songs concerning flatulence in a royal court, but there is hardly any stoicism to be found. Music is a plaything, and though its power to carry ideas through language barriers and artistic critique allows it to maintain its lofty residence in pop culture, it is meant to be freely explored out in the open. There is no right process and Feery’s fearlessness proves that if there is, its merits are in finding and exploiting those flaws until the right process becomes whatever works best. So beat away on that piano until your fingers bleed and the stigma of coldness is thawed.

Links: Fort Evil Fruit

The Bilders

The Utopians

[7-inch; Smart Guy Records]

One of my all-time favorite obscure (even for ME) discoveries is Timur Bimp Jones, a San Francisco musician who released some unusual punk-ish records in the early 80s. The reason I bring up my buddy Bimp-y (yes, of course I eventually got in touch with him!) is this new Bilders 7-inch carries a lot of the qualities I’ve always ascribed to TBJ, including a tough-to-pin-down, quirky, hauntingly melodic vocal presence, and arrangements that invert/subvert/pervert the idea of punk almost completely, to the point where you wonder why they can even be considered ‘punk.’ But ‘punk’ The Bilders are, and they’ve been honing their craft since those crazy, aforementioned early 80s, blowing through 15 members at one time or another (including members of The Clean and other NZ compats) and making it onto the much-respected roster of Siltbreeze. What they have to offer the scene now is simple: Thinking-man’s punk with lyrics you’ll want to follow along with, recorded under dreadful conditions and featuring quasi-drumming that sounds to be submerged in some way, whether it be under water, quicksand, or the feeble minds of the commercial music biz. (That still exists, kind of!) And — this is important — even though the lyrics jump into some heavy stuff, it never sounds like the singer is reciting a litany of grievances. The music, albeit delightfully shoddy production-wise, comes first. Another winner from Smartguy, one of Cerberus’ only windows into the crazy-fertile punk happenings in NZ and Australia…

Links: Smart Guy Records

Blood Sister

Blood Sister

[CS; Bloodmoss]

I worry about uniqueness for its own sake, particularly with a band so saturated in pop-rock tendencies that it bogs down what could otherwise be an enjoyable, slightly askew album. No fear to be had with outlandish Blood Sister, who do the whole post-glam west coast big rock synth pop sound with all the irony but none of the cynicism (or peacocking). This is set for your XM dial or that struggling college radio station that your university still tries to push forward. There is one DJ who is looking to expand his/her “indie” horizons and stumbled upon Blood Sister and now wishes to share them. Put me in the same boat, though much older and never beholden to college radio because I was too busy being stoned in my dorm room. So even as I had to grow up, Blood Sister’s self-titled allows me wallow in the muck of rock and jock pop without feeling [too] dirty. This is the good ol’ fashioned stuff that 1970s roadies used to climb Zion to speak about. Now you can fit it in your tape deck, not in a vein.

Links: Bloodmoss

Anne Waldman

Oasis at Biskra

[CS; Taping Policies]

Only in Cerberus do I get the opportunity to receive and review pieces of work like this one, a new collection of thoughts from renowned poet Anne Waldman, here collaborating with musicians like Daniel Carter on sax and trumpet, Thurston Moore on guitar, and more. Quick research tells us about the 69 years young Waldman’s connection to the Beat movement, her involvement with the famed School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa in Boulder, and her general passion for social change — all part of a history that led up to this harrowing new work, which is a scathing, searing critique on war and patriarchal domination that is at times cold and violent, and others oddly sensual. This is my first engagement with her art, and it’s certainly a powerful thing; not exactly your lazy Sunday, feet up cassette. Oasis at Biskra rather feels more like listening to a recent Scott Walker edition — it is an event, a performance. The tracks flow like acts of an opera, Waldman’s low-hanging jaw producing a voice that seems to fill a cavernous concert hall as “Empty Set” opens up side A with flurries of alto sax and a submerged synthetic noise slowly rising to a boil beneath, a constant threatening counter-voice to her scornful, mournful tone. The title track follows and she sneaks in closer, softer this time but infinitely more intense, tapping your ear drums from all sides with the fingers of her voice, her poetry arriving with playful rhythms and melodious musicality. Moore joins in on guitar for this one, his shrieking feedback and low-end distorted rumbles adding to the chaotic backdrop. With excellent, hyper-aware improvisational instrumental performances, a challenging lyrical underbelly delivered with all the heightened drama you’d expect as dive-bombing synths drop all around and ghostly vocals haunt in the background, plus some keen mixing and editing to further accentuate the various moods and atmospheres Waldman paints with her words, Oasis at Biskra is a goosebump-raiser through and through.

Links: Anne Waldman - Taping Policies

Jeff Henderson, Vicky Mettler, Raphael Foisy and Felix Lachance

Built Like a Brick Shithouse

[CS; Small Scale Music]

In days of yore, jazz was a playing field with no boundaries and rarely a dull moment. It wasn’t the stuff of stuffy community clubs and late night band leaders for vanilla hosts. There was something dangerous and unpredictable about its appeal; a rebel yell that became the impetus for hip-hop, punk, and rock alike. Or so I’m led to believe by the unbelievable amount of material now at our disposal. I never lived it – too young and far too un-hip to ever do more than put in a CD or lay needle to vinyl for some many years. But listening to this foursome (so brazen as to not even name themselves beyond what was supplied at birth), I begin to get a sense of what it meant to be a musician romanticized by jazz in its heyday. It’s a sexy and dangerous, a shift from our milquetoast existence. It requires something more than passive listening, and to be more than a bit player, you must work well with a group but be unafraid to steal the spotlight when its your turn. Built Like a Brick Shithouse does its muscle bound job, jumping you into this gang of post-orchestration deconstruction. It’s punch after punch under a heavy strobe, until all that’s left is a willing pulp of flesh now able to understand that there’s few musics are ferocious and independent as jazz. Those left to still call its name do so with a passion that is unmatched. Henderson, Mettler, Foisy and Lachance are but a chosen few.

Links: Small Scale Music

Stara Rzeka

Stara Rzeka

[10-inch; Infinite Greyscale]

Stara Rzeka, named after a Polish village according to BandCamp, is helmed by Kuba Ziołek, and if there’s one thing you need to know going into this self-titled effort, it’s that Ziołek doesn’t really belong on this planet. He’s too ahead of the game; a movie bad-guy would say, “He knows too mushhh.” YOU know the type: No matter how much of himself he puts out into the world, none of us can pin him down, and rather than repel us the artistic distance only causes us to crave it with additional fervor. It’s not a ‘leave them wanting more’ thing as much as simply: ‘leave them.’ And when he does it’s like HOLY FUCK, I barely caught a glimpse of him when he was here, and now he’s but a memory! Thank god I have this wonderful 10-inch to remember him by, silk-screened and ready to party whenever 12 units just won’t do it. The production is fabulous too, bolstered by a 45 RPM clip and low end that creeps underneath softly, subtly creating a cocoon for the electronics to crawl around in. About halfway through an acoustic wash, complete with plaintive vocals, turns into a spider web that keeps expanding until the individual threads become too stretched out to trace. Enjoy getting lost in it too, a slow-motion waterslide that doesn’t stop until you’re dropped into liquid, calm, complete, and ready to take the ride again. The aforementioned packaging is as next-level as the audio, complete with a numbered insert, dark-green wax, a slick silk-screened Side B, and a few other fixin’s, just like mom used to make (but cooler). Three-hundred copies and a cloud of dust, fellow traveler; looks like it’s time to settle up.

Links: Infinite Greyscale

Flesh World

A Line in Wet Grass

[7-inch; Iron Lung]

I know before I even throw on a record from Iron Lung that it’s going to be HARD and RAGGED, like an junkie jacket that’s seen its share of cold days, and that it’s going to remind me of at least a few of the idiosyncratic bands I used to worship while the rest of the world didn’t care (and still doesn’t). In the case of Flesh World I’m getting weird whiffs of this and that – including several bands on the Moniker/Super Secret rosters – and a generous portion of, now that I have my bearings, a darker, blurrier The Je Ne Sais Quoi circa their first EP. Or maybe I’ll just shoehorn them into a shoegaze-punk phylum and call it a day. Regardless I think you’ll like, not love, this one at first, but from there, if you let the relationship develop, as so few of you are willing to do these days, you never know where things might go. Trust the post-punk process as the title track piles on its addictive guitar runs and steady, frills-free beat, not too fast and not too slow. Meanwhile, there’s a fierce groove on “Not a Soul” that continues long after the wax and needle have parted ways, with an icy confidence behind it all; the vocals disappear for long stretches then reappear when you’re ready for them and not a second before. And it’s all so simple. No I’ve-got-to-show-you-my-chops insecurity, no flabby layers, no guitar breaks that reach beyond a few root notes. B-sides like this get you noticed, and while Flesh World easily are the least distinctive band I’ve heard on the Iron Lung roster, I can hear why the signing made sense because they obviously work hard to craft their compositions until they’re just right, and the production represents a near-perfect example of what you want a post-punk 7” to sound like.

Links: Iron Lung

Glou Glou

Hymn Her Hum

[CS; Full Spectrum]

Just as Glou Glou seem playfully aware of the joys of language manipulation, the toying expands throughout the Machiavellian Hymn Her Hum. I find the title imprints a particular set of listening rules into the mind before one even presses play, but then works to deconstruct and re-evaluate those parameters as it unfurls. Do you sexualize the material due to the aggressive pink cover art and implicit speed with which title and music move (“Her her hum”)? Maybe it’s more historically misogynistic (“Him harem”)? Perhaps it deals with polyandry (“Him or ‘em”)? The music is just as ambidextrous as the wordplay. The emphasis placed on a particular tone or preconceptions brought into the process transform the tape with each listen. Glou Glou have created their own aural mind game. Welcome to the fold.

Links: Full Spectrum

Robert Turman

Way Down

[LP; Burka for Everybody]

Robert Turman’s legendary Way Down was constructed back in 1987 and its many examples of deep-genre fracking resonate in the underground to this day. A lot of modern records seem to aspire to recreate, almost exactly, what Turman accomplished here, and while there’s no shame in that, why not go straight to the source if you missed out on Dais’ reissue a half decade ago? The cracked electronics and murky sense of place sit well side by side with the post-EDM madness that is TODAY, but really you could introduce Way Down into any era and it would shine. I know as a kid I would have been stoked to hear cuts like “Lotek” as I watched Blade Runner (disclosure: I didn’t actually watch Blade Runner as a kid, though I was alive when it came out) and geek’d out to Bionic Commando, and I want you to pay particular attention to the video-game soundtrack angle because to me that’s what Turman foresaw more than anything: A future where robotic instrumental music would have a place not just in our minds but in our kids’ hearts. And that’s yet another caveat I want to tack on: Few lyric-less records with such a forward-knowing (fuck thinking) bent endeavor to carry so much emotional weight on their shoulders, and above all the other achievements I’ve mentioned, that is the true purity of Way Down. Handling the head and the heart with such care is tantamount to success, particularly when you’re cranking out tapes in a basement and you assume most people will never get the chance to hear what you’ve accomplished. It might be the ultimate irony that a guy (me!) who was 9 years old when Way Down came out and at the time knew little outside of bands with ‘Guns’ in the name progressed to the point, almost 20 years later, where he could review this amazing record and point out how singular it is/was despite the fact that what it is/was held no treasure for him (again, that’s me!) back when it came out. Or maybe it’s like this: I was the child of a gangster father whose rivals, upon killing my daddy, decided to leave me alive even though one day I might exact my revenge, but instead of killing the head of the ____ clan I decided to write up that record I unknowingly avoided hearing instead. THE ULTIMATE PAYBACK! This is fucked up…

Links: Burka for Everybody

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.