Chairs

The Droning of an Insect Wing

[CS; Kinnta]

Being earnest in pop music isn’t dead, by god! There’s Ian Jarvis, author of all music by the band Chairs, at the very least. And Kinnta Records as a whole in general, I guess – Documenters of sci-fi fantasies and love stories in pop melodies and 6/8 waltzes. All whimsy and wonder in the echo of a voice belting out beautiful little tunes. Spritely guitar and weaving McCartney-bass fills them out with a fireplace flicker, warm blankets wrapping up each and every tune on The Droning of an Insect Wing – one to keep you warm this February when the wind whistles and whips by, and the sun still barely seems to creep above the skyline, music lit by moonlight. A comfort-pop band, doing exactly the kind of comfort-pop record you’ve been searching for. Maybe a 1/4-folk and the rest heart-racing/warming indie — cascading guitar arpeggios drizzle like rain, the voice mirroring with its lyrics and the drums trotting along for the ride in sometimes pop, sometimes quasi-marches. Obvious effort put into this music, composition and performance alike, although the thing has the disposition of pure breeze and ease (which is totally unfair and I hate them). Well… at least it’s easy to listen to, so we have that going for us. One of the smoother downs I had the chance to down (again and again) in 2013.

Links: Chairs - Kinnta

Vertonen

Fait a La Machine / Machines Domestiques

[12-inch pic disc / CD-R; CIP / Ratskin]

It’s so common to read salvos from underground weirdos that extoll the virtues of: “I listen to everything! I’ll be walking by a paint-shaker and I’ll be like, ‘Damn huh-huh, that’d make a great album huh-huh!’ ” And while occasionally the found-sound folks are correct in their zeal, they often end up championing audio that’s flat, flabby, and incoherent. Anyone can find an object/structure/outgrowth/insect/industrial machine/vibrator/German porno/forest and record it; what impresses me, to the fucking bone, is the folks that can present a concept that’s just as fun to listen to as it is to plot/record/describe/discuss/fantasize about/write up a one-sheet for/masturbate to. Vertonen is one of the fellows who, nigh on 20 years now, rides a fine line and refrains from splashy overtures. He never cuts off your ear to spite your aural senses no matter how clattery and clangy his compositions get. His sense of flow and movement is singular, his fluid constructions conjuring all manner of images and sounds you didn’t know you didn’t want to hear alone in the dark. He challenges you locked-groove style, yet getting up to correct it is part of the process, and no one ever said it was going to be easy. Panicsville, Einstürzende Neubauten, Japanese noise, and a gaggle of trains that run all night and eventually crash into your room, making stumps of your furry little legs. Fuck you.

Links: CIP / Ratskin

Naked Narcotics

Bliss Metallic

[CS; They Live We Sleep]

So the coolest thing about this debut Naked Narcotics tape on the insanely reliable and criminally unknown Canadian label They Live We Sleep is that the artwork is in motherfucking 3D, and the damned thing comes with 3D glasses. Fuck. Yes. The second coolest thing (but only by a hair) is the 3D music that gets pumped out of this pink-shelled pretty. Throbbing and strobing psychotropic synth jungles, a thick marsh of hot, steamy electronics underlain with some repetitive beats that feel like they’re playing your temples like bongos. The A-side has this extended jam of ecstatic sound that feels like traveling through a twisting, turning wormhole as it gradually closes in on you… which is as maddening as it is somehow totally soothing, while also being a completely terrifying psychedelic experience. Elsewhere, the NOLA-based beatsmith finds an interesting intersection between straight psych and hip hop, casting a multitude of textured tones out into a playground of different time signatures, moving accents around the measures to keep your head-nods slightly off-balance while never missing a beat. The other great thing about getting to Cerbs this bad boy up is that it offers an excuse to share another great clip from VHS-mongerer Rob Feulner (who excellently runs this excellent label as well).

Links: Naked Narcotics - They Live We Sleep

Raw McCartney

Introducing: Raw McCartney

[CS; Tripp Tapes]

Like the tail of a turd caught at the rim of your asshole, the sushi sounds of the uncooked, but hardly vegan Raw McCartney hits your New Year’s punch bowl. You’ve culled your lists, you’ve checked them twice, but it’s likely you’ll the coal-into-diamonds scat that is Introducing… will make you rethink your selective numbering system. It was late to the party and already drunk. So what? Lists were made to be flimsy and the devolution of Indiana’s “garage” rock is now worth the crash. It was only frozen sherbet and orange juice; it needed this spike. The minds behind Raw McCartney, unlike those of other verbal name plays, have taken psychedelic rock back, further than the first prehistoric rumble of dinosaur-chasing-Biblical man. This is meat from the bone, working its way through your innards at a disruptive pace. No amount of antacids can quell this grumbling belly. It echos and sways with your every bloated waddle until you find yourself crashing the bash, anus firmly planted above the fruity drink platter. And it plops and fizzes with each sweet release. Your thought your Top 25 list was done but now you’re going to have to suffer through a revised edition. Raw McCartney may be the stumble bum you’d rather not deal with in the midst of your New Year’s resolution but we all have problems bubbling up. At least this one came as soon as it did, so you can be better prepared for the scatological disaster of 2015.

Links: Tripp Tapes

Insect Ark

Long Arms

[10-inch; Geweih Ritual]

Somewhere between Earth, Vidna Obmana, ancient Beck ruins, and your favorite Spaghetti Western lay Insect Ark, suitcase full of sand, boots full of cactus quills, and head full of left-to-right-panning soul clouds. They’re not afraid to try a different tact than you’re used to, with the shiny beats and what have you, and while the approach blights the otherwise sturdy blade of the title track a tad, “Lift Off” and “Symbols,” the b-sides, resonate with power and focus. The former concerns itself with hypnotic, rhythmic bursts and a bulbous anti-chorus while the latter trails behind a loose high hat and sends guitar sighs like smoke signals to the heaven of their god, a gentle flourish of what sounds like strings bringing the song home. Dana Schechter, at the helm of Insect Ark, used to run shit with Bee And Flower. I wasn’t familiar with them, but maybe I should be. Recommended.

Links: Insect Ark

Alcohol Party / Tropical Trash

Split

[CS; Loin Seepage]

Loin Seepage is firstly the most hilarious name for a label I’ve come across this year and secondly the most disgusting. Nonetheless, I got a nice little package from them in the mail, and aside from the tape that was wrapped up in socks, which caught my attention mostly because it was wrapped up in socks (and yes: free socks = score!), this split between Alcohol Party (whom I was unaware of previously) and Louisville’s Tropical Trash made an impression pretty quickly. I dig how the J-card is printed on plain old copy paper (I’m talking 20# BOND, yo), black and white. Mine had a little $5 price tab sticker in the corner… I dunno, everything about this tape just seems punk as fuck, and so it’s fitting that the music is straight-up no frill, bread’n’butter punk rock. TT’s side opens with “Choogle Perception” which has a really chunky, meaty groove that chugs along like Sonic Youth’s “100%” with similar effect before “Leisure Expose” attempts to rip your face off with its vicious attack and throat-shredding vocals. Solid, kick-ass. Flip it over and you’ll be treated to Alcohol Party’s math-punk acrobatics, shape-shifting song structures and mind-bending precision, which is especially impressive given the raw power of the band. Some of the drumming is truly eye-popping, twisting patterns that sound like they require more limbs than available to the human body as current evolution has yet allowed. Wow, it’s good. Great, even. This is an official endorsement: I decree this split tape on Loin Seepage to be radical and gnarly. Can you tell I’m out of things to say?

Links: Loin Seepage

Heinz Riegler

SLEEP HEALTH

[CS; A Guide to Saints]

If you have yet to check out the blonde-headed stepchild to Room 40, meet A Guide to Saints and their cavalcade of cassettes. The beautiful plastic casings, forgoing J-cards for a simpler and more effective artistic imprint; equally eye-pleasing cassettes that harmonize or contrast their casings for powerful Gestalt idealism – it’s all very art school dropout and yet, highly functional use of materials and typography that is lost in a world of collages and dystopian drawings.

The same is true for Riegler’s SLEEP HEALTH, a careful curation of the duality of good spirits and bad distractions A-side “Health” is a twinkle of chimes and buzzards; plucks playing a clock that is ticking toward decay. Time begins a slow drip that becomes a cascade of years and failing memories. “Sleep” seems more apropos as a metaphor for death than as the act of rejuvenation. Twisted bows meet taught strings as Hades plays you across Styx. But yours is not an eternity of damnation but that of reward. We’ve all sinned, given up ourselves and our faculties to forces we choose not to control. As our health fades, our dream stasis begins. Sleep is not something to be feared, it’s something to long for over the course of decades of living to best of one’s abilities. Do not covet what your neighbor has, but cherish what you have earned. Which, for now, is this tape from Riegler that you should carry with you like your lucky charm and your I.D.

Links: Heinz Riegler - A Guide to Saints

The Rainbow Body

Free Sentient Beings

[CS; Ginjoha]

Like all the work I’ve heard from The Rainbow Body this year, Free Sentient Beings is tough to write about because it makes you want to do nothing but just sit there with your eyes rolled back all tranquil, basking in its glowing warmth. With the self-released tape I reviewed earlier this year, I got some distinct solar flare-ish impressions, but this one feels much more Earthly and terrestrial, or even oceanic, although its title might suggest something more enlightened or spiritual. Or maybe it’s really a little bit of both - we listen and become one with our surroundings, something like that, right? I am the chair I’m sitting in, or the grass between my toes, or the water swirling through my hair. Free Sentient Beings, as its sine curves curl themselves up and down through space, passes through you, Matt Kattman refiguring the guitar to exist outside the realm of the instrument’s physical construction to create something that is phenomenological, metaphysical, and a bunch of other advanced philosophy adjectives that I can’t properly explain to you. So maybe I should stop trying? Let’s do this a little more simply then: Guitar-based drone. Beautiful. Maybe my favorite cover art of the year. That should cover it.

Links: The Rainbow Body - Ginjoha

Teenage Moods

Best ‘Tudes

[2xCS; MJMJ]

Best ‘Tudes is the kind of collection that has a bunch of songs where the titles of said songs are sung in the lyrics. Is there like a genre for that kind of music or something? Oh yeah: Pop music. Teenage Moods make pop music (of the lightly-punk persuasion), and a lot of it apparently. MJMJ scooped up more than an hour of their output from a handful of limited-run tapes the band have released since 2009, and according to the liner notes, the tracks sort of traverse a backward timeline. Each side of the cassette represents one of those previous releases, but the way the songs rattle off, it might as well be this ONE, EPIC Teenage Moods album — and that suits the band just fine here. Fans of Sebadoh, The Thermals, and even, say, The Shins’ first record for those softies buried in there (see: “Grow”) will find a lot to love in these four-tracked marvels, namely tight, concise songwriting with clever arrangements, cheery melodies, and grooves made for cruising. There’s not a lot in the way of dynamic range, and tempos hang around a basic mid-jog pace, but that’s OK though that stuff might come in handy for them down the line. Still, they’ve got that volume and that tempo down absolutely pat, and the band’s energy bursts through it all with those splashy cymbals, hand-claps, chunky guitar riffs, vocals with a neck-vein-visible throat to them, playfully vicious as a tiger kitten might be, so it’s all good. So very, very good. If you missed the photo at the top-left corner of this review, this comes on a super-sweet 2xCS format, tunes tucked away on red and blue tapes in one of those over-sized nylon cases with a photocopied ‘zine inside. What a great introduction to a great band that’s destined for nothing but more greatness.

Links: MJMJ

William Clay Martin

Sadler

[CS; Self-Released]

There’s an internal migration. The American Romes crumble in the face of changing economic and sociopolitical tides. We are dividing ourselves in the pursuit of cultural congeniality. We’d rather cover our faces and plug our ears to any dissenting opinion or false idol of morality. We are no longer one unified country but one gerrymandered by any characteristic deemed different than those we wish to pursue. Are liberal, free-thinking communities really as open-minded as they claim? Maybe back wood haunts and conservative strongholds are no longer the closed-off meccas of ignorance and hate many believe them to be? The deck is reshuffling and among the redistricted ruins is Sadler, capturing the dynamism of a country that is ripping itself apart just to sew its bare threads back together. Doomsdayers and eternal optimists out of syncopation and yet in total harmony. We’re all running from each other, back into each other’s embrace. We can keep building walls and stacking rules but yet we bring the sledgehammer to them all in the end. In division we find unity, a trait that is not lost on Sadler and its opposites-attract philosophy.

Links: William Clay Martin
  

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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.