Journey of Mind

Soma String

[CS; Field Studies]

Jimmy Billingham has a hand in so many different jars, it’s tough to know which cookie he’s gonna grab for next, although in the end it doesn’t really matter: It’s a cookie. It’s going to taste really good. I think a lot of folks probably say that his work as Tidal is the most celebrated, but I’ve always leaned toward the tapes I’ve gotten under the Venn Rain moniker. There’s a handful of others he’s recorded as, but Journey of Mind is a name that’s rung out over the past year or so that I hadn’t had a chance to check out yet, so I was delighted to receive this marvelous looking, gorgeously green tape from Chicago imprint Field Studies. And the music definitely presents a different side to the Billingham dodecahedron, starting out on side A with what sounds like could be the soundtrack for those poor souls who rowed galley ships back in the first millennium. It rocks back and forth along an oblong rhythm to the beat of an intimidating drum while a flute sings in its minor mode softly over the top. Side B lightens the mood considerably with an aching ballad plunked from a piano in a lovely, lilting (and wilting) sort of melody. But even if the letters of the signature are different, you can still kind of see it’s Billingham’s handwriting. It’s in the wobbly way he goes about it, tapes taped gingerly together, compositionally balanced to give everything a full, deep sound that also feels old, classic, and vintage. Understated and brilliant work from a composer working in a medium akin to the likes of Basinski, but attacking the canvas in a different way.

Links: Journey of Mind - Field Studies

Vaadat Charigim

The World is Well Lost

[CS/LP; Burger/Warm Ratio]

So rarely has the veil between now and the past been so thin. The wormhole has opened, funneling forgotten and neglected sounds into our future. I’m sure this was covered on Fringe or some alternate JJ Abrams timeline. For a sound refresher, look no further than The World is Well Lost, a sad, shoegazing look backward (or downward). Though slight rattles of Interpol circa 2002 are rattling throughout Vaadat Charigim’s breakthrough (and that’s what this is – a band a world away creating music a generation removed), there’s plenty of Ride, Catherine Wheel, and New Order touchstones to make it seem more than just a decade’s retelling of the a singular moment in the resurgence of New York City cool. This is NOT that and we should be thankful. And for all its familiar influences, it also is removed from being a carbon copy of a genre emerging from stasis. The Tel Aviv band may not be breaking new ground in melody but certainly are returning to an emotional state that seems appropriate for a world repeating prior mistakes of sour economics, heightened emotions, and tense histrionics. While those without the psychological capacity to invoke change and accept reality turn to trollop pop idols, Vaadat Charigim exist on the realm of the other movement: revisionism. We’ve visited the pop 80s, now we turn to its seedier side as well as the grungy underbelly of 90s grit. It’s not a PG world despite rating systems and parental controls to the contrary. The World is Well Lost but that doesn’t mean we can’t find it. Let’s begin here and see where we end up.

Links: Burger/Warm Ratio

Lazy

Obsession

[LP; Moniker]

I can see why the head honcho over at Moniker Recs was all piss-jazzed about this one. Lazy propel punk forward by way of the bounciest riffs/beats since The Je Ne Se Quoi and the meatiest choruses since… The Ramones? Yeah, against all odds, one of these blokes apes Johnny pretty hard and well. If short and to-the-point is your thing, meet Lazy and watch as they mega-blast through nine songs in 23-or-so minutes of feverish fuzz. It’s a double-pronged attack that sees a fanged female jumping on the megaphone for some choice words, giving Johnny a rest, and once he gets back it’s as if we’re meeting for the first time. It’s shitty of him to leave us wanting more as he does, but Lazy gotta go. Chicago punk may never be the same.

Links: Moniker

ssleeperhold

Ruleth

[CS; Holodeck]

The driving drum and clatter introduction of Ruleth reminds me of the urban gothic subcultural, best brought to American audience through old John Carpenter films and the work of Xander Harris. It’s a genre littered with posed moments of horror and anxiety but somehow ssleeperhold make it a positive experience rather than a nightmarish chase in which we run slower and slower until the clock or a palpitation wakes us. The 70s and 80s are all over Ruleth–but not in the Big Bang Boom of tossed aside demographic catering. This rings of a lost childhood, one where Freddy Krueger is the hero, eliminating the youthful minds of treasonous, doubting children in a world that needs optimism. It’s a happy grim, where there is no moral or fleshy decay, just a horror figure (pick your favorite) doing what is right to correct the course of a planet tilting toward disaster. We could have eliminated big hair caused by chlorofluorocarbons in hair spray. We could have stifled the industrial military complex. We could have seen Weekend at Bernie’s as the early battle cry in support of reanimation. ssleeperhold is all of that wrapped up in a Sandman’s worth of crusty eye flakes. The world could have been better had we only picked up a machete of love and whacked away the weeds of [Andrew] McCarthyism 20 years ago.

Links: Holodeck

Edward Ka-Spel

This Saturated Land

[CS; Tolmie Terrapin]

Man, who knew that to drown was such a beautiful way to die? And Ka-Spel’s latest is that: Dying, drowning. Cold and wet, submerged in the briny deep, the endless blue. An ocean of tears? Nah, I don’t think This Saturated Land is all that depressing or serious, or really even that emotional. No no, the legendary Legendary Pink Dots legend merely found the beauty in an especially rainy summer day. And it killed him, it was beautiful, and we can hear all that now on this tape. It starts with an especially chilly passage of what sounds like woodwinds, a foreshadow of winter’s frigid future, before things really set into a groove with the sunken centerpiece that is “A Beautiful Pea Green Boat,” the album’s real gem. It’s a lengthier work, washed out in bleeding pastel colors putting you six feet under the water’s surface. And it flows around you, and you’re there floating face-up so that the sunshine can streak through and warm your face, and you don’t breathe because you can’t and it doesn’t matter because you forget to anyway. It’s just gorgeous, harrowing but comforting, and when it’s over and the voice on the ham radio chimes in as it does, “…are you receiving me?”— like you’re on your way up to heaven — it’s almost a disappointment, and the stabbing synths in the conclusion that follows, “Always October,” makes for a gruesome, mystifying finish. Yeah sure, dying was great, but death? Let’s go back to dying… and let’s do that forever.

Links: Edward Ka-Spel - Tolmie Terrapin

Division Four

1983 Demo Cassette

[12-inch; Smartguy]

Thirty years too late, yet right on time: 1983 Demo Cassette demonstrates yet again what the smartguys out there already know – Australians play punk with a plug-ugly edge, not to mention abandon, that transcends most other nations. Division Four foster an approach from which comparisons to PIL are inevitably going to arise. That being said, the thick synth lines and shaggy dedication to rhythm throw the formula into arrears it can’t repay, and it leads to a lot of strangely rewarding moments. Picture this: A buzz of effects and synth are laid directly overtop a lead vocal that was meant to be heard. Then machine-gun keys erupt in the background briefly then never return, as if these guys were just sitting around jumping from distraction to distraction. Very quirky, and occasionally so spot-on you’ll swear you’ve heard it before somehow, somewhere. But you haven’t. At the very least, seek out “Blank Prostitutes” and hear half of the Atoms Of Peace synth lines 30 years in advance. Too late, yet right on time, bitch.

Links: Smartguy

Black Deer

Black Deer

[12-inch; Peak Oil]

From the label that released a slightly ignored Liz Harris & Lawrence English collaboration album comes another sure to be under the radar effort from William Burnett. As Black Deer (this better be a parody name of all the color/animal names cluttering up Spotify playlists), Burnett has created an energetic, spastic piece of electronic prog that obliterates the overcrowded space synth crowd from their luxury galactic cruiser. But I’m loathe to follow this space metaphor any longer; Black Deer may seem otherworldly but in fact it is quite grounded despite its alien appearance. Though it pulses with the energy of a thousand unseen suns, it is psychedelic sheen and grounded melodies keep it driving across the equator in search of earthly mystical sites of power rather than those of Hawking and Sagan. And that’s how I like it because I’m tired of the jet lag. I’m a road warrior and Burnett has given me the juice to hit the gas pedal and find my own fountain of youth. He’s delivered the diving gear to finally discover Atlantis. This is more than just an escape from reality, it’s the first in a hopeful serious of getting-back-in-touch with our world albums.

Links: Peak Oil

Shahman

Sounds That Look Like Us

[12-inch; Revolution Winter]

I’ll say this about the batch of Revolution Winter Records product I received: The label doesn’t play games. That much is obvious enough now that Shahman’s Sounds That Look Like Us is etched firmly into my mind. A coffee ground-gritty manifestation of the ideas Refused never got around to exploring, Shah push even further into the void of Lack-style hardcore and punch harder than a fruit juice box. What’s exceptional about Sounds is the delicate nature of the quieter interludes, in that they lose absolutely no momentum once the louder sections melt away. It’s a quality reserved for the best (Drive Like Jehu, etc.) and I don’t take it lightly. At 45 RPMs the audio roars from the speakers as well. The cymbals get a bit too up close and personal but hey the drummer’s playing too loud at times! Fuck it, I’m done; the revolution will be mostly listened to.

Links: Revolution Winter

q///q

q///q

[3-inch CD-R; Beko]

OK, the German Army “family tree” thing has grown yet another branch, further entrenching your humble Strauss into something that I fully believe is OK to call a “universe” at this point. These people have seriously taken over the Cerberus feed of late, so sorry if you’re having trouble realizing how great these mysterious beings are, and also you’re welcome, by the way, for continually bashing the notion into your skull. Gumshoe’s gotten all the recent good cracks, so it’s my turn since I got this smart little impossible-to-pronounce 3-inch from French label Beko in the mail. One half of the enigmatic sludge-ravers comes up for air on this one with a clearer, cleaner sort of sound. Though the voice is still shrouded with reverb and delay, the synths themselves beam lighter and brighter and the beats, they snap, crackle and pop with some real tempos to them. The songs quiver and shake with life, dark dance tunes made for frigid temperatures, complete with a shivering vocalist and feverish hooks to get the goose bumps going. If you were on the fence about Germany Army and were maybe looking for something that tipped the scales a bit more on the pop side of things, q///q is probably the closest you’re gonna get… which is close enough, trust. You’re reading Cerbs, after all, I mean did you expect this to be completely normal? You saw all the stuff about this being one half of German Army, right?

Links: Beko

Cairo Pythian

Unity Mitford

[12-inch; Perennial]

It’s fucking insane how close a lot of Unity Mitford comes to “Save a Prayer”-era Duran Duran, and it’s also a bit fucking insane how appealing this update to the sound can be. Cairo Pythian leave the listener no wiggle room; you HAVE to dig “Jaguar Music” if you have a morsel of life left in your brittle bones. Were the 80s even this… quality? I’m not so sure. “Walking Around” is a remix, and like most remixes it feels forced and a little tacky, yet jam it on a dancefloor and watch the magic. YEAH, baby, YEAH!!?! “Spider Life” represents the longest artistic reach, and if woozy flutes loops aren’t a deal-breaker for you maybe the lollygagging tempo will be. Just to be clear, however, you’d be wrong to be so flippant. Unity Mitford saves more souls than it reaps, and that’s all you can ask of a four-song EP. Exciting things are afoot, I’m guessing.

Links: Cairo Pythian - Perennial
  

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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.