Henri Claudel

Technopoly

[CS; Signapore Sling Tapes]

If retro-futurism be your thing, look no further than this Henri Claudel person otherwise known as Mother Ganga (an artist I was first introduced to from one of Huckleberry Friend’s recent mixtapes on… wait wait, I’m losing you). I guess the who or why doesn’t matter as much as the WHAT. And THAT just so happens to be this amazing 7-song (not nearly enough songs, by the way) collection of silicon-skyway Depeche Mode-dance proto/whatever-wave pocket calculator pop music that is blissfully beautiful and incredibly strong. It’s the kind of cheeseball style you might expect to hear in an old, lame, teeny-bopper type of movie involving nerds, but instead of being cheeseball or lame or old, Technopoly is quite fresh and new and just really, really good (and still just a little bit teeny-bopper and also slightly nerdy). It’s real and it’s honest and sincere, too, and that’s why I am of the mind that Henri Claudel, although certainly a pseudonym, isn’t so much a joke character as it is a sturdy vehicle for whoever this person actually is to produce some really terrific songs. They start with great melodies and lyrics that skirt dance club politics/love stories via thought-provoking philosophies (“Peer into my disco ball” is an easy favorite), and each unfurls with firing squads of synthetic syncopation, fluttering arpeggio flourishes, and a locomotive pace that just will not quit. The voice, deep, reverberant and sexy, is the icing on top of this delicious cassette cake. Fucking Singapore Sling, guys. Every damn time. Starting to get a little tired of telling you, but I just gotta.

Links: Henri Claudel - Signapore Sling Tapes

Hiroyuki Usui

Sings the Blues

[LP; VHF]

Usui takes one step more toward a true reveal. Once a member of pivotal (well, to particular American audiences) Japanese groups such as Ghost and Fushitsusha, Usui’s legend was entrenched early among a growing avant garde by its slow emergence from passed around magazines toward the end of the 90s. As L, Usui began blending traditional Japanese folk with not-so traditional techniques and applications that produced the heavy (in spirit) Holy Letters. Collaborating with Ben Chasny, Usui clung to the rawer sounds of his oeuvre while also giving more of himself to his partner and audience.

Sings the Blues, which boasts most of Usui’s given name, goes further. Some of these tunes were offered to Chasny for a long anticipated follow-up to August Born’s first LP, but these confessional strands are best kept as Usui revelations. It’s a stark gamut, with much of the album a practice in solitude. Usui strums or beats a pattern, often offering up a spoken glimpse (language barrier aside) of what encompasses each blues inspired piece. Though there isn’t a 12-bar variety to be found, it’s the feeling of isolation and abandonment that has long held all disparate ideas of blues together that is truly universal. Be damned the method or lyric, if you’ve had real problems you can relate to Usui’s bared soul. Sings the Blues isn’t all pity, with a pair of songs titled “A Fake Blues” providing more playful melodies that speak to the haunted passageways of Americana’s twisted Southern twang. Truth is, no matter the source these are powerful tunes that speak to the essence of existence. That they are the product of Usui means much more because rarely does even the most forthright artist give so much of themselves and their creations openly.

Links: VHF

DF Lull

Pressing Schedule

[CS; Standard Issue]

The interrupting solitude of Zach Bodtorf’s alter ego is a continued ear punch. Shimmering guitar melodies are dissected by angry buzzing; an idyllic summer picnic being infested with wasps hungry for jello and ants picking at the meaty corpse between two slices of bread. Pressing Schedule’s title hearken to the constant tug of daily perfection with the struggle to measure up to the status quo. We all want to have our time in the sun but the steamroller of expectation (work, commitment, time) is always pressing down on our few moments of peace. As Bodtorf escapes the city life for the country, the album distances itself from its earlier horrors and blossoms into zen. Rather than a metaphor, it allows us to live in that picture inside our head. But the cassette’s finale serves as an ominous reminder that behind every rock and around every trunk is our dread waiting to reclaim us. Enjoy the weekend because the weekdays are ganging up.

Links: Standard Issue

Liz Allbee / Hans Grüsel

Strategies For Failure / Zuckerkrieg

[LP; Resipiscent]

Liz Allbee’s side of this magical LP, Strategies for Failure, to me rings closest to Edward Ka-Spel’s mellower solo material, when he’s letting a bass throb ride out as he spells out his talking points (often actually talking them). But that’s only the beginning. We’re jolted from our narcotized jaunt by a blast of noise so pure and jagged it leaves tracks, then we’re treated to a minimalistic expanse of what sounds like cornet (she invents instruments so my guesses are just that), piano, and the sands of time pouring through a skull-shaped hourglass. Or at least that’s how I like to imagine it. It’s the contrast between Allbee’s many moods — from jazz-den to improv to flat-out dronnoise — that jumps out at you like a 3D jump-kick; that and the tender touch of the xylophone and disorienting, electro-acoustic-y bobble of the electronix. Hans Grüsel exhibits a keen interest in bassery as well, dipping into the low end of the pool as the cold waters wash over slowly but violently to form the crust/crux of Zuckerkrieg. Once he gets rolling you’d be hard-pressed to find an underground musician with a firmer hold on the dark-yet-dreamy side of post-noise, his compositions churning up the earth beneath them viciously even when only wind and other trace elements are telling the story. You’d never think the creek of a cellar door could get creepier than when you first hear it in real life, but try listening to it over and over again, like some sick fucker is doing it just to yank yr crank. Those who ensure that every Emego release sells out should be ashamed of themselves for not snatching Strategies For Failure / Zuckerkrieg up by now. I’m truly smitten, if you must know, and at 250 copies it’s high time you OH YOU GET THE POINT, SHIT; STOP BEING CHEAP AND BUY MORE RECORDS BEFORE THEY GO AWAY.

Links: Liz Allbee / Hans Grüsel - Resipiscent

Frank Dullaart

Trans Harmonic Dream

[CS; Sanity Muffin]

Here’s some interesting, otherwordly synth action by the Netherlands’ Frank Dullaart, recently resurrected from the 80s with the help of Sanity Muffin. Not much is known about the guy or the recording other than the fact that not much is known, so I’ll spare the historical details this time and just go ahead and say that this is fucking weird synthesizer music from a bygone era that fans of weird synthesizer music will probably love instantly. Eno would be a really easy, lazy way to blanket this stuff, but if only to get you in the right ball-park, I’ll go ahead and drop that name, although at times it might make more sense to go with something like Kraftwerk. But Dullaart’s music dives further into outer-genre experimentation with his approach, playing in a playful way with tone, melody, and rhythm, combining disparate examples of each of these core musical elements in unwieldy sorts of ways to poke a hole in our perfect little listening world and squeeze all the air out of it like a balloon of normalcy being slowly deflated. It arrives like a science project concocted in some kind of a lab with bubbling potions and Tesla coils everywhere, and we get these twinkling, spooky ambient wonders full of dis-harmonies and mismatched rhythms and the buzzing undercurrent of electricity that might set off a bit of a brain imbalance as a result. Some tracks find the music rocking like a seesaw that’s on the deck of a ship at sea during inclement weather, others set up fairly steady electronic drum beats, only to riff on them with a sickly synth melody that’s in a completely (or slightly) different tempo or time-signature, and at one point in the tape we actually get a humanoid vocal creeping in for “Follow the Arrow” which is as completely bizarre as it is totally awesome. These odd, non-musical music-marvels, while fascinating and full of interesting textures and general crazy kinds of audio phenomena, are also not something I’d necessarily call “easy listening,” so fair warning if the bulk of this review wasn’t enough already. Anyway, you’ve had it plenty easy as it is, amirite?

Links: Sanity Muffin

Various Artists

FSDC Vol. 3

[CS; Gloryhole]

Gloryhole penetrates its third round of hat-in-hand collections from Fountain Square’s porch dwellers and shed tinkerers. The up and coming Indianapolis neighborhood that pops up the hippest new eating establishment and arts districts also plays mother to the garage, surf, and experimental pop and hip-hop of a generation tired of Baby Boomer philosophy and the continued yuppie evolution of Generation X (turns out we turned out just like our parents but they took all the monies). Those days spent playing SNES on the television fed outside the broken window into the backyard were also lightning rods of creativity for Fountain Square denizens making all sorts of noise. What makes FSDC (Fountain Square Don’t Care, FYI) such an interesting stop for people looking to Midwestern subcultures is how it doesn’t hedge any musical bets based on trend, yet amalgamates all of them. The Icks are stranded between the rock of synthesized pop goo and and serpentine rock and roll. It’s oddly (and poetically) followed by the traditional rock sways of Caleb McCoach. Peter & the Kings are a futuristic Smog, the enigmatic vocal malaise of the titular front man strangely erotic like the ticks of Bill Callahan. Sadly The Bloody Mess’ “FreeBallin’” isn’t quite the “Free Fallin’” parody I desired but it’s still the same creepo ram jam I love from the duo. When the gentrification of Fountain Square runs the cockroaches out from their interstate row houses, we’ll still have FSDC. It ain’t Paris but it’ll get you as high as the Eiffel Tower.

Links: Gloryhole

JJAAXXNN

Space Case

[CS; Translinguistic Other]

With cassettes like Space Case, who needs vinyl? Translinguistic Other did a great job on this tape, producing a ‘BOOM’ you don’t normally get from the relatively cheap medium. So just who is this JJAAXXNN? Does he jack in? Does he jack out? Does he like Apple Jacks? Is he obsessed with earphone jacks? Until those questions are answered we won’t truly know, but his spaced-out work here allots plenty of hints. His is a hyper world, full of mechanized beats that lay the high hat on heavy, bass bumps that hit the brain like lumps of caw-caine, synths launching to the sky, and… well actually that’s pretty much it. You’d think the concoction would get stale but it goes down like Jägermeister, so get ready to head back to the bar a few times no matter how much coin it costs ya. Reminds me of the Laser Palace label most of all, along with a lot of the other folks in cassette culture who, like me, don’t see the tape as a conduit for drone artists and little else. Also: CFCF, Dof, old M83, and other acronym bands you’ve probably forgotten about by now, and for good reason. Consider Space Case an update to that shit.

Links: Translinguistic Other

The Fun Years

One Quarter Descent

[CS; Spring Break Tapes!]

The Fun Years is one of those bands you just assume no one knows about. It’s not like they are totally elusive, complete shut-ins or anything, but they are still pretty quiet about everything – not much in the way of interviews with the group, they never play shows or tour… I am not entirely certain they even live on the same coast. They’ve responded to my e-mails, but their replies are always extremely short and leave me with many questions unanswered. Details! I wanna know DETAILS! And yet, the turntable + baritone guitar drone-duo manages to appear from the ether once every couple of years with a stunner that sells out instantly, having forged a strong and devoted following over two stone-classic drone LPs, 2008’s Baby It’s Cold Inside and 2011’s God Was Like, No, both with the incomparable Barge label. Here is 2014’s installment of said sold-out stunner: One Quarter Descent, this time with Spring Break Tapes! and curiously out on cassette, although this here reviewer is certainly not complaining since the sonic depth the group’s known for somehow sounds deeper than ever, even with the limited scope of tape. The music’s molecular make-up will definitely be familiar to fans of the band, textures slowly woven into a warm blanket of fuzzy bliss, all with that sepia/scratched-lens filter on everything, giving off those faint and glorious feelings of fond (if blurry) memories. With this release, they do a really nice job making their drone three-dimensional; motifs arriving softly, tremolo tones dropping lightly into the mix like rain in a pond, and the subtle ripples drifting off into a distant background as newer guitar refrains gently wash on top. I kind of think of it as like an opposite-ocean, with the waves pushing out into the endless sea… and there’s a beautiful blood-orange horizon out there, by the way, and a sailboat drifting. And a man on the sailboat, all alone, thinking about something. Or someone he misses. He is crying a little bit. Goddamn, it’s fucking gorgeous, and I’m done writing about this album now. It’s the best.

Links: The Fun Years - Spring Break Tapes!

ONO

Diegesis

[LP; Moniker]

I loved the first ONO record on Moniker so much I felt a letdown coming on. The elusive ensemble’s Diegesis, however, obliterates my concerns by stubbornly swerving even farther off the grid than its predecessor. None of the genres I’ve ever heard of apply to ONO, so we’ll have to take it slow as we identify what we’re dealing with here. Not sure who the singer is (P. Michael maybe? Liner notes, you have let me down.) but he’s a schizo to say the least. I hear traces of Wilderness and the bloke from Chameleons in the vocals, albeit with more of a street-preacher mentality, yet that’s only the beginning of his vast store of identities. The goal is to provoke the senses and revoke the power structures that have led to the enslavement of us all. To that end, ONO reach through several layers of history to grasp for inspiration, from Psychic TV to jammy Jimi rock (“Burning of the Midnight Lamp” is covered, even) to The Residents to 80s underground experimental musics in general to gospel to absurdism, the latter being perhaps their most potent weapon. Recognizing the futility of it all is the first step to a heightened understanding of why it’s important to stay motivated while there’s still time to act. Most bands try to figure out what is going on with the world. ONO sit back in tall buildings and laugh at the ridiculousness of it our “stainless steel” culture, and that has made all the difference.

Links: Moniker

Brave Radar

Message Centre

[CS; Fixture]

Five years is far too long in between Brave Radar albums, but when you’re on the fringe of poverty and pauper, sacrifices must occur. Considering I would have been too poor to buy a cassette of their during large swatches of that time, the wait has been worth it. Message Centre reignites the Micky Dolenz simplicity that made them such a find all those years ago (and a great inclusion on Kinnta’s The Lemon Tape in 2012). There is nothing fancy here, the result of a band on a budget but understanding how to get the most out of the least. It’s classic pop ruminations sung sweetly and played quickly. Not to tie the band’s fortunes to the Oneders but this is the evolution of Playtone with the same State Fair ethos of coming out, soaking up the admiration of young girls in tight sweaters and boys in letter jackets. Plug in, play, and get off the stage before the crowd gets bored and moves onto something else. But that part of the equation never happens. Something about the warm embrace of these tunes makes you smitten with Brave Radar. And like that first rush of stomach butterflies and goosebumps, you never forget it. You may have long thrown away your first love but the feeling remains. Message Centre is that fuzzy memory that keeps you chasing the phantom. You can settle down with Brave Radar, you’ll always have that chill.

Links: Brave Radar - Fixture
  

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.