AJ Woods

AJ Woods

[CS; Tinyamp Records]

I wonder if people think there’s some kind of unwritten rule that new music out on cassette has to be weird or progressive? I’ll admit that maybe 70 percent of the tapes walked up to my door by Mr. Postman are indeed of the whack-job variety (which is great!), but any die-hard Cerberus follower should know by now that artists of all shapes, sizes and sounds are turning to tapes to spread their accessible missives to the mini-masses as well. The reasons for and advantages to having your music released on this format are many and have been so described, despite the quarterly-or-so assertions from major publications who still seem to think that the cassette is dead, or should be put to death in an expedient and gruesome manner. Well, I guess that means there are more of the 100-or-less copies of tapes like this lovely folk song collection from Albuquerque’s AJ Woods for you and me to flip at leisure, dear Cerberus reader. And leisure is what it’s all about here with the breezy and easy, hammock-swinging tunes sung on this tape. Don’t worry about any cassette warble here, that’s the endearing quake of Woods’ croon, a meek but strongly delivered voice, cracked under the pressure of upper-octave reach to reveal each song’s own little passions. All eight are minor-keyed, but in their soft sadness gaze up longingly with a starry-eyed wonder that feels hopeful and a little hopeless at the same time. Except “Ya Ta Hey,” – that one is a trudger, bleak and blackened with coal soot. Most of what we hear comes from Woods himself, on guitar, vox, and a little harmonica, but he also put a nice little band together for a couple of songs, including horns, organ, mandolin, and a sobbing pedal steel that underscore’s the record’s Southern twang. Since I can’t invite Woods or Clay Cantrell to come out to the Mountains personally, I’m sure glad to have a boombox and these tapes as my official camping companions this summer. So again: thanks, cassette tapes! You’re the best, but you already knew that.

Links: AJ Woods - Tinyamp Records

Zach Phillips

Recorded in Hell

[CS; Lillerne]

The backlash toward a blog or the strange looks attracted by Blanche Blanche Blanche matters not to Zach Phillips, which is what makes Recorded in Hell all the more fascinating. A sequel only in the spectral limits of the cassette and instrumentation itself, Phillips’ latest solo tape is a great look at the broken spectrum of pop music. The creativity comes in short bursts, proving any idea deserves a bit of timed exercise. Recorded in Hell is in fact an expansive release considering its mere 30-minute length. It exists in the land of tossed off-Sentridoh, throwaway Matthew Friedberger, and Trachtenberg Family Slideshow follies. Grand in style, reserved in execution, which is why its listening value is infinite. As everything blends, you’ll find the sections and songs to pick out from the happy mire to focus attention until a new nuance or sound drags you by the ear. Pop renewed anew!

Links: Lillerne

Dhow

Amara

[7-inch; Inam]

Amara is such a strange beast, and I can’t figure out which side is which (no Gumshoe am I), so try to stay with me while I work out the nutz/boltz of this 7-inch lathe. (Also, side note: My needle wasn’t catching on occasion; had to re-dip the sonofabitch the get a good play going. I do, however, possess an old needle, so it could be me.) I’d liken this to an even more washed-out version of the first Guardian Alien LP on Swill Children. There’s a band playing three houses away yadda-yadda, BUT THERE’S MORE: Well, actually, there’s not that much more than that; or is there? I’m not sure if I’m hearing a band jamming or a wash of effects that is mimicking the sound’s traditional curvatures and tricking my senses. Eat yr fuckin’ heart out, Sutekh Hexen! If you’re one of the Cerberus readers interested in Fedora Corpse and In Context, pick this one up on the down-low (no one has ta’ see ya, pal).

Links: Dhow

Christophe Bailleau

Sonic Pool Hypnose Club

[CS; Sacred Phrases]

Right this way! I hope you find the accommodations to your liking. Remember to fasten your harness tightly, but after launch you will be welcome to unlatch and float in zero gravity. It will be unlike your greatest fantasy because only through experience can you know the truth. Otherwise, you’re just projecting a lifetime of literature, media, and imagination on a moment with no actual life experience. But this is only natural, and once we return to solid ground, this will become the new basis for new literature, media, and imagination. We here at the Sonic Pool Hypnose Club enjoy the challenge of transforming your dreams into tangibility. You can now feel weightlessness. Understand the rises and falls of your emotions to the physical peaks and valleys of flight. Intuition becomes imperative to survival. We are all made of star stuff but the only way to grasp it is to ditch the ship of the imagination and board a vessel made to carry you home. Welcome aboard. This has been your captain, Christophe Bailleau speaking. Sit back, absorb the sounds of your birth, and enjoy the sensation.

Links: Christophe Bailleau - Sacred Phrases

M. Mucci

Midnights

[CS; Ambivalent Soap]

Quickly developing into my favorite label, Ambivalent Soap may have come out of the gate with my favorite cassette of 2014 (NOTE: thus far). M. Mucci’s guitar meditations on Midnights touch the familiar, airy strands of his influences and contemporaries. Why bore you with that list when it comes to the docile spaces of Connors & Haino to best place Mucci’s work? If that weren’t enough of a clue, the tape’s title should settle your internal debate. This is late-night, long-road listening for those that need a real world set-up. Its 3 A.M. and I must be lonely without the bullshit pomp. This is what it’s really like when you’re left alone with your thoughts. No internet trolling, no bed for miles, and stretches of pitch black dotted by flickering bulbs and neon. Mucci’s guitar is but that flicker, the spaces between the time you spend getting to know the real you. It’s easy to face yourself in the mirror every morning and pretend to be the person you want to be, but Midnights delivers the person you are. Don’t be so fearful, you aren’t as inherently evil or misguided as the media or your family would have you believe. We’re all searching for that mythical something, so take notice when someone like Mucci creates and shares it.

Links: M. Mucci - Ambivalent Soap

Sparkling Wide Pressure

Press the Reverse and Give Me the Tape

[CS; Lillerne]

Frank Baugh, in addition to running the most-excellent 3-inch specializing CD-R imprint in all the land, Kimberly Dawn, has made a modest name for himself in the ambient music realm by producing tapes just like the one I’m listening to and reviewing for you right here and now. That’s not to say that he’s a guy who’s in the habit of repeating himself, but that is to say he’s in the habit of being incredibly consistent with his work, spinning yards of audio-yarn with his guitar and pedals, swirling moody ambiance between folk and soft-pop stylings. And of the five thousand or so Baugh-related releases out there, although I’ve only heard a small fraction of them, I’m inclined to name Press the Reverse and Give Me the Tape my favorite, if only for the reason that it’s the best-of what’s best of what Sparkling Wide Pressure is all about. Which is truly a tough thing to describe, a sound that belongs wholly unto one person and one person only. But I’ve yet to hear anyone match Baugh’s wonderful way, a way that is on full display here with a fluid vision and rounded arc – guitar, tape loops, found sounds, some synths and a desperate and distant vocal haunting the entire mix. It’s delicate, thoughtful, full of sadness and love and heartache. It flows like your backyard creek, and rocks like your grandmother’s rocking chair on the porch. Its skin is withered like an old newspaper, and its blue eyes have tears in them that refuse to fall. Wind blows through its hair, and the sun is rising off to its West, warming the Earth around it to the touch. Memory itself as an agent of pure meditative speculation; that seems to be the best I can do to sum up the Sparkling Wide Pressure thing. It ain’t perfect, but it’ll have to do.

Links: Sparkling Wide Pressure - Lillerne

Bataille Solaire

Jap

[7-inch; Mind]

Asaël Robitaille moonlights as Bataille Solaire (or is it the other way around?) and is often lumped in with the vaporwave gang. If he’s truly a card-carrying member of the v-wave glitter posse, he shows why the genre deserves respect as much as it does fealty/jeers/over-analysis/a swift death/etc. with Jap, a goddamn-tasty limited-to-99 release on the Mind Records label (circa: Japan and $35 price tag w/ shipping AND YES, an obi strip). Furthermore, Robitaille seems to be pushing back against the supposed limitations of the artform, indulging in a great deal of kitschy come-ons yet employing them to ascend to a plain unattainable through concept alone. “Choose Your Character,” from its title on up, is a shrine built for Konami and Capcom that becomes a huge mind-gulp. You grab a controller and navigate through its wacky sprites and moody bosses, care of a glee-ass glowmop beat that serves as the equivalent of a clip-art image of 80s people skating to the Ghostbusters soundtrack on lazer night. Then, when you reach the end, instead of a lame credit-roll that makes you wonder why you bothered, you encounter a crystal-clear arpeggio sequence that flies in the face of every criticism of ‘the vaporwave’ I’ve ever heard. It’s stone-cold kickin’ and not afraid to take you home with it. It peacocks, you might say. I treasure this damn trak; I honestly hope you take the time to steep yourself in its juices, as I have. “Décoration Moléculaire,” the b-side, doesn’t requite the listener’s affection as openly as “Choose Your Character,” but its perfume is just as alluring and 80s-encompassing, giggling in the backroom with cheap martial-arts-movie soundtracks, Palm/Highway Chase, and keyboards better than a Casio but bad enough to embarrass the hell out of an expensive Korg in a nostalgia fight. I love being surprised and Jap, which by dint of its title and alluring double-silk-screen packaging was bound to raise eyebrows, delivers on both ends of the conceptual bargain. From front-to-back one of the most impressive audio artifacts of the year, from an upstart label on but its third release (first two: Umberto and, you guessed it, Femminielli Noir).

Links: Mind

Michael Wohl

“Moonfeeder” b/w “Song of Impermanence”

[7-inch; Knick Knack]

Wohl serves up a new slice of traditional interpretation while also giving audiences a revisit from his recent cassette. “Moonfeeder” was a personal fav from Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar, so having it handy to play on 7 inches of vinyl rather than wearing out the tape is worth the price of admission. But it’s the flip, “Song of Impermanence,” where Wohl begins to expand his Takoma influenced tendrils back into the history of his home base of Seattle. There’s a bit of psychedelia on display as the song progresses from its ancestral roots. As Wohl begins to get lost in the cat’s cradle melody, it begins to free his fingers and expand the sound. It’s subtle but you’ll pick it up after a few listens – and you will listen repeatedly. Wohl may not be a fast riser on your radar but give him a few more releases and you’ll find yourself a fan if you’re on the old Fahey/Kottke trip. Only so much of that old pizzazz left to go ‘round.

Links: Michael Wohl - Knick Knack

Dry Socket

Violator EP

[CS; NO!]

Drekka and Dylan. This is going electric; this is Woodstock babies pregnant with babies. Bloomington, Indiana’s big guns delivery a hefty, sexless child into the world. Where the joint moniker Dry Socket fits into such an analogy…I’d rather not pain the women readers. Regardless, this creation from Michael Anderson and Dylan Ettinger seems a long time coming just by virtue of their standing within the college community that harbors (well, not Dylan anymore) them. But nothing else about this is very collegiate or bro-ish or even underground. Both sides play with the idea of industrial’s humble beginnings while also giving a nudge and a wink to Depeche Mode. Though neither are Gahan, both do retell a fascinating story through their own no-holds-barred prism of cool noises and rudimentary melody. The A side is the bouncing, blushing newborn being heaped with unheralded praise; the B side angry and inconsolable in the middle of night for no other reason than because. When you’re a parent, you learn to love the extremes. So goes Violator. You can’t have the happy lasting memories without the growing pains.

Links: Dry Socket - NO!

Tereshkova

Fog and Other Memories

[CS; Already Dead Tapes]

One of the best projects happening in the world right now is called Tereshkova, and it comes from the mind of Portlander Jeff Lane. Hot on the heels of last year’s outstanding Intergalactic Letdown tape, Lane’s new work keeps all the project’s soul-swallowing qualities – the oceans of reverb, the flipping and twisting electronic effects, and yards of delaying tape. But there’s something about this new album that gives even further access into the true genius of Tereshkova. There’s a sharper attack of melody and rhythm, picked guitars, plucked synths, and the drums just groove. But the important thing is that you really hear it all out in front this time, unburied, slicing through the fogs and ahead of the clouds of color left behind. Before I was thinking along twee lines, but now I’m getting straight psych pop, the kind Dave Fridmann loves to get his hands on. In either case, Tereshkova’s knack here is for that big symphonic sound, hurling the arranging prowess of people like Brian Wilson into the world of pedal power and monster amplifiers, and doing it with really pretty, understated songs. Lane builds little worlds of drifting, pastoral choral harmonies from his wash of guitar and synth; Some of the tunes, as they slip and strip their complications, blossom and bloom out into full on hymns resulting in some of the most massive music to hit a cassette yet this year. It’s all happening at the bottom of the Grand Canyon; a quiet, private and lonely moment, shouted up through the miles of earth and out into the heavens.

I do want to take a second to talk about the vocals. One issue is that it’d be tough to pick out even a handful of real words he’s actually singing, there’s just barely anything human left from the time the voice enters the mic to get out on the other end of a speaker. Trust, it’s a really great treated sound, and definitely the right amount of fucked-up for the music that surrounds it. It’s properly mixed in the bath, and Lane’s delivery also has the right attitude in its nasally sneer. But with the intonation a little eschewed, sometimes it gives a pale, irregular sort of feeling. This is almost more like a precautionary description here, there’s a lot of people that actually prefer words are delivered that way (and admittedly I’m one of them at times, here especially). Still, you gotta wonder what an angel might do with that kind of sonic real estate.

Links: Tereshkova - Already Dead Tapes

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.