VATS

Iridescent Intent

[CS; MJ MJ]

VATS’ new tape may or may not be called Iridescent Intent, based on how good I am at reading 60s psychedelic font. The orange/green color scheme and the cat on the cover combined with the typeface give a pretty good sonic mental-description of the trip you’re getting into by clicking your play button on this one. Jangly guitar rattling off modal chord progressions that build and swirl around wah pedals, chunky gobs of bass fuzz, plodding drums and a vocalist’s low hanging jaw. Those are the basic elements, but the context is what really gives you the feeling of what VATS is all about – that the band might as well have recorded this whole thing from inside a damned aluminum can with all that reverb. Yes, it’s rock and roll with a reflective surface, light bouncing off its streaky sheen with blinding abandon and breakneck bounce (yeah, the rhythm could very well break your neck, so be careful). Great energy from a great band, and yet another slam dunk from the two Michael Jordans who make up this label’s acronymous name.

Links: VATS - MJ MJ

Gonzo

Dies Irae

[CS; Discrepant]

I’m a little late on this one but I wanted to weigh in because Gonzo has created one of the best tapes I’ve ever heard, bar none, with Dies Irae. Never to these ears, at least on a cassette, has a collage-style collection of samples and other assorted sounds/noises/atmospheric devices come together so convincingly, as if each element was created strictly to serve the purposes of the end product. This is the work of an artist possessing rare mastery of his trade, able to effortlessly locate audio locales and voice samples that coalesce into a wondrous whole. The soundtrack to Temple of Doom never had it so good. What Gonzo and his oft-partner Lowdjo, not to menion most of the releases on the Discrepant label, are accomplishing is superior enough to warrant much more than the occasional piece of passive praise. Seek Dies Irae out if you want to live.

Links: Discrepant

Dura

Altered Resonance

[CS; Patient Sounds]

Mister Mattson Ogg (aka Dura) hit me with a tape a couple of months ago, and it’s dodged my Cerberus queue for… I don’t know, let’s call them “personal reasons.” It’s not that I haven’t listened to it. This, being one of the finest albums available in 2014, has been a tough one to justify pulling from my Walkman. It’s just that music like this – beautiful and extremely gorgeous drone music – is starting to seem a bit beyond words in general, or mine at the very least. What other fluffy adjectives are there that I haven’t used yet that might let you know what this sounds like? Altered Resonance is not a tape for reviewing. It’s a tape for simply being. Being on my bike. Being in my office. Being in my bed. Being on the couch next to my cat. Being at the record store. Being in front of a camp fire. Being with Jamie. It has both the emptiness and fullness of such situations. Ogg’s soft paws pawing at guitar strings and letting the transparent layers drift through one another feels like it makes up the substance of the every day, which isn’t to say that it’s boring. But neither is it necessarily interesting or exciting either. Neither background nor foreground; just ground. Wind, water, air and Earth and something else too…

Links: Dura - Patient Sounds

Zapoppin’

Ugly Musick

[CS; Damnsonic]

I lost my soul. I lost a sole. I lost the sol. I’m lost.

It’s a manic episode that attacks Ugly Musick, which is neither ugly nor sick despite the oddness of Zapoppin’. Truth is, the frantic speed and topsy-turvy nature of this latest disasterpiece from the noise-pop outfit is exactly the deconstructed regurgitation of all things mainstream needed to truly appreciate where we’ve been and where we’re going. No pretentiousness, unafraid of making the obvious lyrical flourish, Ugly Musick transforms you into something unrecognizable for only a moment, but it’s the sort of pigbelly mindless tramps oopsy-daisy tallywacker that upsets the rhythm of….look, a bluejay!

Soul is lost. Sole is last. Sol is bueno. Am I lost?

Links: Damnsonic

Guerilla Toss / Sediment Club

Kicked Back Into the Crypt

[LP; Feeding Tube / Sophomore Lounge]

I’ve been hearing about Guerilla Toss but I didn’t know they roll like that. This is absolute madness, ordained by some of best and brightest of the experimental elite, from Sleetmute Nightmute to Gay Beast to Ruins to Arab On Radar to Aa to PRE to Landed. Could this band be from Rhode Island? Nope, Boston, thank you very much. But keep Providence in mind when you slip this LP on because it’s sure as SHIT on mine. I must admit though, Guerilla Toss, at least on Kicked Back Into the Crypt, transcend a lot of the influences cited above. They’re on a new level, like Danielson fronting latter-period Daughters and sticking the landing like a goddamn gymnast. It’s not simply a matter of traditional no-wave tropes either, though they’re definitely in there somewhere. What drives GT’s engine is no less than the full support each member lends to the other, every one endeavoring to rise above rock’s cliches (and sub-sub-cliches) and present a fresh way of thinkin’ about things. The Sediment Club have their work cut out for them; in fact I was thinking before even spinning their side of this split platter that I couldn’t imagine how they would match their counterparts. What an aching pleasure it is to be so wrong. Sediment Club gash open the ear and sprinkle sand in the audio wound, coming from a much more woozy place yet rocking pretty damn dedicatedly all the same and, when the time is right, absolutely SCREAM-SHANKING their message home with a double-dagger shriek. There are sections that almost swing, too, tom-toms blingin’ all over the place and drum sticks clickin’ like finger-snaps. I’m enamored with some of the Boston Hassle stuff but I had no idea they partied like this in Beantown; take me with you?

Links: Feeding Tube / Sophomore Lounge

Car Phyte

Fail

[CS; Brain Plan]

I just read a review of this tape wherein you could tell the writer listened to the first few minutes then put down his pen after jotting down a few sentences mentioning Brooklyn and that though it wasn’t to his tastes there likely is a scene for Fail, by Car Phyte. Don’t make the same mistake. Give this ambitious act a try and you’ll be surprised at their generosity spanning several influences and generations, from Sonic Youth to lofi soul to jagged mutant dance to bedroom 4-track tapes. Some might even have dubbed this chillwave a few years back. The trick: Instead of merely whirling a few styles together, the mixture feels organic, a term many musicians aspire to use when describing their wares that so rarely applies. I’m feeling love for Car Phyte right now, and the fact that their experiments might be a chore for some of you to sit through is all the more reason to give them a try and expand yr mind, man.

Links: Brain Plan

Black Unicorn

Traced Landscapes

[CS; Field Hymns]

How many ingenious synth people must we have, people, really? The answer to my not-rhetorical question is this: at least one more. There’s room for the Black Unicorn, even if there wasn’t on old Noah’s boat. So alongside works by Bastian Void, Panabrite, Andreas Brandal, Guenter Schlienz and others Traced Landscapes shall get its own little typed card in the catalog of my mental musical-weirdo library, providing a compelling chapter to history’s Big Book of Modified Electronics. Both A and B are split with short, eye-crossing scrambles of scribbling tones somewhere on the middle, and on either side of those, Curt Brown (as friends and familiars call him otherwise) pitches rolling planes of tone that stretch deep into sub-space. Sometimes there’s softly throbbing motorik synth loops that balance themselves like a spinning gyroscope, and sometimes seismic waves of sounds gently breathe an icy breath into the tape’s majestic life force. It’s pretty and twinkling and expansive and cosmic and celestial – all those things that make the great synthesists great these days while retaining its own unique stamp on things that should give it a calling card of sorts for future releases (as all the great ones have). Here’s hoping and looking forward to what becomes of the mythical beast and its beatific beauty.

Links: Field Hymns

Sara Lee / Giving Up

split

[CS; Sophomore Lounge]

Both sides of this split cassette from the reliable Sophomore Lounge label hold intrigue, but I find myself returning to the Sara Lee side more reliably. I just happened to look up The No Nos on Spotify last week and maybe that’s the reason I’m equating luscious Mrs. Lee to that classic Pac-Northwest band, but my ample gut’s telling me there’s a similar lilt to the vocals and riffs. Love the fuzz that clings to the guitars like pollin to a windowpane, and I wouldn’t want to scrape it off if I could. Giving Up pack a more explosive sound and will likely appease a higher percentage of the masses. Jesus, I’m at a loss here. Superdrag? Shit this is pretty poppy and powerful and ppplayful in its own way, and a lot louder too, the bass rumbling my record room, if you play one side then the other, as I just did. And will again. Find this, listen to it once like you’ve never listened before, then bury it for 20 years, dig it up, and listen to it again in your antique Walkman and FREAK THE FUCK OUT. Or not; just sounded like a cool gesture there for a second… Truly one of those rare split-tape couplings that seems ordained by heaven.

Links: Sophomore Lounge

The Skywriters

Skywriter Blue (1998-2000)

[CS; Lost Sound]

My name is Justin and I am stuck in the 90s. Pay no mind to my obligations to this sub-section of Tiny Mix Tapes, where I toil neck deep in all sorts of belches, screams, and telepathic microwaves. It’s all a front. Sure, my flannels are a bit more tailored, my jeans nowhere as baggy, and my hair much more tame but I still spend waking hours in front of a computer living out a 9-to-5 fantasy propped up by a lengthy (and ever-growing) playlist of 90s alterna-hits and has-beens. And it’s a fight that I hope someday warrants Gumball or Drop Nineteens a 10 cent royalty after 1,000 plays. It’s not a pay-it-forward I can pass onto defunct Philadelphia outfit The Skywriters, who find themselves out of place and time with the retrospective cassette, Skywriter Blue. But so what? I still have a stash of mid-90s CMJ mix CDs and I can’t help but think fondly of how well The Skywriters would have snuggled up next to Sun 60 or Jen Trynin. But the look back of this cassette is between 1998 and 2000, a two year stretch that signaled the decline of the always cloudy grunge forecast for bubblegum droplets and blooming foliage. And though the attitude of the late 90s pop scene is reflected throughout, The Skywriters were a few years too late to be anything more than a footnote. But considering we stand 15 years removed from that rose-colored decade, it was for the best. Hearing Skywriter Blue now is a much needed reminder that there was something left unsaid at the end of the 90s. The asteroid crash that killed off grunge all-too-soon meant a different species emerged, even if it’s taken too long for us to notice.

Links: Lost Sound

The Charles Ives Singers

The Unbuilt

[CS; Alberts Basement]

I had to pick one last 2013 tape to review out of a pile of Albert’s Basement goodies and came up with this convincingly caffeinated, ‘caw’ing cassette of cacophany and mind-crags. The Charles Ives Singers (please let that be a nod to Burl Ives, the singing-snowman guy) blow like Smegma, layer like Avarus, and can even synth-up a bit in a fashion I’m not used to hearing. It’s all fun and/or games until the two sets of keys open disparate doors and wander off on their own, never to be retrieved. Then the horns come in again and we’re in skronk territory, which, when applied directly to a wound… will cause the wound to bleed more. That’s GOOd. That’s SIck but GOOd. Now, break out that auctioneer’s cap and start breakin’ out some numbers; that’s it, boy. From here you already know if you’re gonna head this way or not so I’ll spare you the shenanigans. Kiwi-for-life, bitches.

  

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In this ever-expanding musical world, there's a wealth of 7-inches, cassettes, CD-Rs, and objet d'art being released that, due to their limited quantities and adventurous sonics, go unnoticed by the public at large. Cerberus seeks to document the aesthetic of these home recorders and backyard labels. Email us here.