Mike Nigro

Mental Thaw

[CS; A Giant Fern]

It seems to me like Mike Nigro is everywhere lately, but then again I might just know where to look more than most (i.e.: 2 AM Tapes, Nigro’s own Oxtail label, etc.) for tape-ists with the ability to drop multiple morsels without drop-offs in quality. Mental Thaw, Nigro’s latest, betrays a restless, caffeinated sensibility, hyper-synth sequences and little match-scratches flaring out over bubbly bass. Or at least that’s the case with the first of Mental Thaw’s two tracks, “Cyprus”; “Reverse Telecine” fits into more of a drone phylum. It could represent a plane lifting above clouds, digital insects crawling in your ear or the sounds you hear when you finally walk through the tunnel of death (scary to think we’ll all do it someday, no?) … What’s most important is taking the journey and allowing Nigro to seep into your head over the full 30 minutes. If you do, you’ll see the details are less important than the ride.

Links: A Giant Fern

Angelo Harmsworth

Cerrillos Disco

[LP; Lime Lodge]

The elegant simplicity of Santa Fe based Lime Lodge is hard to explain. The clean white; the exploration of silence versus static; the gravity of weightlessness. It’s a beauty only seen on dusty, burnt orange sunsets in the still of the desert. Where life should not be, it crops up and thrives. It’s no coincidence that Cerrillos Disco is a chosen release in Lime Lodge’s first batch. It, too, mimics the harsh, yet attractive landscape of the Southwest. It begins its life in a dry, wavy heat. It scorches the turntable with its noisy pestilence before melting away for the splendor of the sand and sky meeting at a point only known to the heavens. It’s no coincidence, considering Angelo Harmsworth, head honcho of Lime Lodge, walks into the desert of his own creation, unafraid of the vision quest laid before him. Don’t be scared, because now it’s your turn. Just stare hard as the swirling wind of white vinyl opens your third eye.

Links: Lime Lodge

Drawing Trees & Ant’lrd

Balanced Breakfast


The best albums induce a physical reaction to match the emotional. Balanced Breakfast is that type of success, bringing with it a mild cool in the midst of summer’s last heatwave. A quaint white kitchen, popping with the bright colors of drying towels, washcloths and colorful china. A contempt attempt at capturing the zen of the day; indeed a balancing act of strange sounds and traditional melodies into a a complete part of our morning ritual. Drawing Trees dominates the morning conversation; the dotting mother of yore busily fixing breakfast, kick starting the day’s chores and playing to the orchestration of simple machines making complicated tasks less stressful. Ant’lrd has more concentrated passages, dad picking out interesting headlines and phrases from the newspaper. The children all run around, making clank from pots and pans. And though this wholesome picture is but a fractured fairy tale of modern reality, it’s captured here in all its glory without usurping the equality of the household. Mother has her work and opinions, father as well. The kids? With ignorance comes bliss. And I stare at this lonely Pop Tart, wondering where it all went awry…

Links: BARO

Vacant Life

Pain Compliance

[7-inch; Iron Lung]

Another column, another tough choice: Do I continue to let Iron Lung releases invade my life like a rebel force? In the case of this Vacant Life 7-inch, there was no doubt that it had to happen yet again. “Pain Compliance” is a sharp shard of hardcore punk, recorded with the utmost lack of care. Most glaring is how much ground these boys cover over four short songs. “Clairvoyant” kicks right into fourth gear like a demented modern version of “Monster Zero” as interpreted by, say, Okie Dokie, letting you know right away the sort of fun Vacant Life have during their time off. “Erasure” plays the punk role for a second before snapping off into a chorus far removed from its parameters; I don’t even know what to call that, but it meshes well considering the halting changes in tempo required. The barking vocals on this one freak me out, simply put. On the flip, “Control” starts slow, slips back into frantic, arms-flailing hardcore mode, then drives it all home with a slamming breakdown. “Press Gang” is another modern track that, to me, hearkens back to that first Racebannon records, but I’m sure someone out there is ensconced enough in these genres to take me to task. In any event, pick this up along with the Scumraid 7-inch for a quick fix of violent venom.

Links: Iron Lung

Demonstration Synthesis


[CS; Sacred Phrases]

First, a word of note: I can’t get enough of Daniel Leznoff’s Demonstration Synthesis. A Cerberus stalwart for nearly two years, I felt it was wise to push back against the sheer scope of his release schedule and let the material breath. I ingested his releases without writing reviews, because they left me speechless. I had hoped that people would come to DS themselves and discover a blossoming personality that is truly taking synthesizers to all points of the universe without falling into the orbital pull of extraterrestrial expansion. So far, Leznoff has found a way to keep his musings grounded, with is the appeal of many of his releases. So why break radio silence for DS22? It’s going to sound like a broken record but Leznoff has topped himself again. Visiting pop, rock, dance and Kubrick’s vision of the future all in the space of a single cassette, DS22 is a wizened piece of synthesized art. Though not as cohesive as past DS compendiums, that does not work against DS22. Rather than a greatest hits or some thrown together primer on his “best” work up until this point, Leznoff does what he has always done: reinvent. The purpose of his multitude is to show growth, and perhaps even in a scholarly method, present said growth. The synthesizer is often stuck in time, but Leznoff is one of the few (and yes, it really is a very small pool) who understands an instrument is just a tool that can bend will and emotion into art. Leznoff is always reaching to that next goal, so as stellar and magnificent DS22 may be, it’s not going to last. So if you’re still not on board, there will be other stops to jump on this always moving bandwagon.

Links: Sacred Phrases

Joshua Medina & Paurl Walsh

Joshua Medina & Paurl Walsh

[CS; Hanged Man]

Sometimes a record will slip through the cracks. This is such a record, and for missing out on its breathtaking beauty and simplistic majesty for all these months, allow me this very public apology. The work of Joshua Medina & Paurl Walsh is restrained and unbound. The combination of isolated guitar and thick effects is nothing new, except Medina’s guitar – in its quiet reflection – is far from isolated; and Walsh’s wash of keyboards, samples and effects dare not swallow silence but rather invite it. Not only do Medina and Walsh play to each other’s strengths, they play to a whole genre’s best qualities. No good idea is cut off to fit into the mold of time, yet nothing drags out beyond its apex. Again, restrained. Not too far removed from the synergy of moody duos such as A Winged Victory for the Sullen, there is far more intent to engage guitar in its most traditional elements while still pressing its advantage toward the loudest and most feral of its instinctual inclinations. Yet Medina and Walsh never raise their voices too loudly or reach for to the booming roars their musical peers often aspire. This is proving a difficult record to put critique to because there is nothing worth adding. It slipped through the cracks and all I can offer is an apology and a plea. To anyone reading this, do not let it fall through your fingers. Do not place a bookmark or write it down and wait for a more appropriate time to listen. Take it as it is, as it comes.

Links: Hanged Man


Free World

[CS; Körper / Leib]

The warped duo of Talibam! continue to make the most discordant music(?). And now the influence is stretching its wavy gravy arm across the Atlantic, taken into grasp by Italian label Körper / Leib. And that’s all you need to know. Because if you’re at all familiar with Talibam!, the only other nugget of information is you know that what to expect is the unexpected. It seems the duo continue to move further away from anything resembling the ethos of jazz, rather focusing on the logos. Some may call it meta but seriously, don’t even. It’s a sin to the wonky ADHD of Talibam!. Though Free World does tend toward the metaphysical – the essence of jazz rather than the execution – it’s also street music, free form art and a handful of other outsider scenes smooshed together in the band’s patty-caking hands. Nobs turn, beats drop, kitchen sinks explode. All in an album’s work for a band challenging what music is supposed to be and how we are supposed to listen.

Links: Körper / Leib

Yves Malone

Golden Twilight of the Black Sun

[CS; A Giant Fern]

We move closer and closer to the scenario that the larger musical world woefully dodged decades ago: with the synth resurgence comes the opportunity to bridge the avant with the popular. Some artists are inching closer to find that magical formula, where synthesizer doesn’t just become a boring melodic trope along the lines of Falco or Flock of Seagulls, but it’s a thin line. Yves Malone is finding the right forward momentum. Golden Twilight of the Black Sun maintains an experimental brood throughout its length, and yet there are moments of pure pop bliss that weave in and out of its dark motif. Malone is wise to keep track length succinct (nothing eclipses the 4 minute mark), yet the album’s fractured tracks flow elegantly into each other to tell a larger story. While 7 rather brief songs may seem confusing to people who prefer such grand thoughts clustered into 15-20 minute exercises of will, Malone has the right idea in the short attention span theater of pop pulp. Yes, arguments can be made that such exercises stretch our patient muscle but sometimes, we just want that indulgent snack of pop-sized bites. Here it is, with a lot less calories but certainly not lacking the rich textures and fulfilling umami of synth’s best experiments.

Links: Yves Malone - A Giant Fern

Dommel Mosel


[CS; Happenin]

Hearing the sort of rock trek that unfurls throughout Crybaby is a telepathic transmission from summer youthfulness in the early 90’s. Sitting in a tincan room, sweating from the lack of air conditioner despite every available fan pointed at my body. The stereo’s turned loud to drown out the competing sounds of the (S)NES. The modest CD collection exhausted, I put in a mixtape and out comes the most comforting sounds of rock and pop at the time. Yes, I’m calling Dommel Mosel’s Crybaby a modern equivalent of a mid 90’s mixtape and if you don’t take it as the highest compliment, I assume you’re some Millennial grasping your iPod Touch while remaining completely out of touch with the wonders of navigating various genres to create a compelling mix of highs and lows and Nick Hornby pseudo-shit. Music has soul, it tells a story. Sometimes a band is able to tell theirs, often times we project ours onto those melodies and lyrics. It’s the same tug and pull with Crybaby. It checks off all those old boxes without nostalgic histrionics or stylized dialogue. It just sounds timeless; a pile of pop-rock ditties that grow with you. And sure, the trajectory of growth is slowed for those of us in advanced age but damn it if I don’t willfully dream of those too-hot days with not a care but scrounging up the money to buy more music. Scour your couch cushions and buy Crybaby. Too bad I can’t compel to jump on your bike and take the shortcut through the cornfield to the record store – because it’s likely you’re going to have to nab this the newfangled way – but you can participate in that ancient teenage ritual spiritually.

Links: Happenin



[CS; ((Cave))]

Never a gigantic Pink Floyd fan but certainly a college stoner, it was also what was underneath the Gilmore solos and Waters attitudinal shifts that occasionally pushed me to listen to the band. It was the earlier albums with Barrett that really struck, but it was the time between Barrett’s exit and the explosion of Dark Side that the band’s rhythmic heartbeat and art school tendencies were more fun than the guitar wankery and sociopolitical jabs. I don’t know if Mahjoop feels the same way, but this self-titled album certainly has the magic of those background experiments without the over-produced menagerie of what became stadium rock. In fact, Mahjoop find more common ground not in UK psychedelia but in early 70s jazz and fusion. Though Mahjoop never bear hugs either genre, it does capture the soulfulness of the era. Rarely does Mahjoop seem contrived, but rather the product of free spirits. Yet it maintains the sheen of more “acceptable” forms of experimentation that is hidden beneath some glossy goop. But that gloss is missing, as if the engineer just forgot to include that in the rough mixes. For that, we’re gifted with an impactful tape of background ruminations gone to the fore. It’s the real dark side, my friends. No blacklights and strobes needed.

Links: ((Cave))

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.