DEN

Blossom Juice

[CS; The Ashton Velvet Rock Club Recording Company]

All that pure and pristine and beautiful stuff that soaks up the sun on the surface of the Earth — sure it radiates its pretty and pleasing light. But pretty things piss and shit, too. Somewhere in the bowels of our city streets, there’s a depository of all the liquid runoff of the every day. It all collects in a vile, putrid pool of sloppy sludge. And DEN swims there. Ew — OK, OK, my setup for this little review here is disgusting, but you see where I’m going with this? “Blossom Juice.” That’s the name of the album, and hey, sometimes rock and roll needs to be just that — the noisy, dirty, soupy, toxic result of whatever it was that was beautiful at the beginning, the leaky, bleak remains. DEN captures the essence of this with a sludge-metal skeleton without really being all that metal, adding its own unique vitriolic noise element. We’ve got a power-trio setup here diving into simple, slowly crawling rock figures based in the bass, shrouded with blackened tape noise and harrowing whooshes and whistles of a passing storm. I got this damned tape over the summer, but I’m almost glad I’m reviewing it now, here in October — there’s a spookiness here that’s magnetic, and terrifying harshness, and Adam Harris (who you might know as the proprietor of Retrograde Tapes) providing some blood-curdling growls on the vox to complete the effect. Mostly, though, this tape is sold on the solidness of the band itself, some sick drumming and truly awesome riffs (especially in the murderous final number, “Loustinom”) laying the foundation for the odd and unsettling melodic material that haunts the music from above, and then of course that thick, pale layer of tape noise. Yeah it’s harsh and part of that underground cassette culture, etc., but ultimately…? Horns. Throw’em if you got’em and forget about it.

Links: The Ashton Velvet Rock Club Recording Company

Ko

EP

[7-inch; Joyful Noise]

Formerly of Slothpop, Kristin Newborn’s solo-esque Ko (or KO if your CAPS LOCK is stUCK) furthers her pastime of creating musique of slower methodologies. The simply titled EP is a calm drive in the hotbox, improved by sustained exposure to the smoke and peeling vinyl. It’s a long turn of the stereo dial, flipping through variant forms of inside-the-outside pop. Though one would believe the haze to dull the senses, it’s the reverse. Each song steels your nerve, as each little loop and snare pound builds more daring and yet tightly tethered to some form of reality. Whether it’s the bumpy pavement rattling the hubcaps or the jerky steering as a result, there’s always a moment that keeps EP from drifting into the ether of nonsense. The appraisal of “Bitches Online” a long overdue response to Phil Elverum’s self-screed, “Get off the Internet.” I would like to make the same generalization with “Choke” as some anthem challenging the totality of “Don’t Smoke,” as well but there is little shared between Mount Eerie and Ko beyond enigmatic and clever songwriters occupying some sort of zen that is beyond mortal comprehension. That, and the mountains of Newborn’s world seem far brighter, like that after a virgin snow. These are songs untouched by cynicism or critique, and that’s why I stash my 7-inch in the glove compartment. There it remains to sooth me the next time I take a city cruise and need to slow my roll.

Links: Joyful Noise

Ghetto Ghouls

Ghetto Ghouls

[LP; Monofonus Press]

If you like your garage to be Coachwhips-heavy but of Black Lips fidelity, look no further than the Ghetto Ghouls (as opposed to their West Coast cousins, Cool Ghouls, also Cerbs-ees), a steamin’ Austin outfit that’s in like Flynn and out in the blink of an eye. A lot of these riffs have that 1950s locomotive feel, kicked into fourth gear and rarely hitting true overdrive (wherein distortion would become part of the equation), even kicking down into second for a few less-convincing outings on Side B. For me, the uncouth ragers of A equate to WHERE IT’S AT, and even though it’s all a bloody blur I can make out enough to pass along to you: Clean-sweeping guitars, a drummer not afraid to fill nor spill, a bassist in the middle of the shit sandwich, and a singer that’s passable in a carnival-barker kind of way while not factoring into the mix as much as you might assume. It’s all about the thrust of the arrangements, and they’re whip-tight despite the high speeds involved. Between this and that B-Lines 12-inch, looks like I chose the wrong week to quit bathtub speed. What’s more, I guess I can’t complain I haven’t had the chance to gorge on garage-rock anymore; shit’s getting real ‘round here. Keep it coming, you greasy bastardz.

Links: Monofonus Press

Sigríður Níelsdóttir

Grandma Lo-Fi: The Basement Tapes Of Sigríður Níelsdóttir

[CS; Hornbuckle]

In a growing epidemic of grandparents being cooler than you originally thought, Nana Sigríður Níelsdóttir created tape recorded gems starting at the age of 70 in her native Iceland. And though your Mamaw may be too busy playing Bingo or watching Papaw devour reruns of Matlock, truth is something fun festers inside her gardening bonnet. These whimsical home recordings present the most honest interpretations of pop music (and you’re only as old as you think you are). While I’m tempted to list off a bunch of American outsiders that you’re all too sick of hearing bandied about, let’s keep it simple because in reality Sigríður Níelsdóttir was her own popular cult figure in Iceland. 7 years and 59 albums before her second (third? forth?) career was finished, she had become a legend in her own right thanks to a Casio keyboard and a quaint voice. Now’s the time to pester your beloved grandparent about being the next Ariana Grande or Church Lady. Give ‘em this for Christmas and send them on their way to glory! But make sure concerts end by 4pm.

Links: Hornbuckle

Daughters of the Sun

Ride to Die

[LP; Not Not Fun]

Sit down kids, and I’ll tell you a tale of Not Not Fun. The L.A. label was once home to unimaginable psychedelic romps from a host of whippersnappers who have now gone on to do others things. Most of those other things are far more silky or poppy than those days of yonder, but the pioneer spirit is still strong. But I grew older and tethered to walls. I was no longer a dancing man, though still coiled like a snake at a good rhythmic beat. But in the midst of all the molly’d goodness rode Daughters of the Sun. They reminded me of those brightly colored times of Robedoor, Pocahaunted, and Topping Bottoms. Theirs a primal energy tapped into the root of Not Not Fun’s grungy heyday. NNF has had its share of those heydays and all have been parties that I have happily witnessed but as you’ll soon find out for yourselves, nostalgia is a powerful drug. It will lead you down paths you should never wander again but sometimes you’ll open that wardrobe door or dormant clock and catch just enough of a whiff to get you high on your past life. Ride to Die is my patchouli-soaked return to glory. It’s nag champa goodness that unravels like the strands of time before me. Why am I sitting in this rocking chair regaling you with tales of the old when they are here again. Stop playing your pipes, charmer, I’m busting out of here with venomous teeth and striking out into the wilderness once more. Go play, kids. Go play.

Links: Not Not Fun

Japanese Breakfast

American Sounds and Where is My Great Big Feeling

[CS; Seagreen Records]

I get the feeling that my brain was built to annoy people. Routinely I am told talking to me is frustrating, I talk elliptically or listing to me is like wading through 45 minutes of expositional dialogue just to get to the plot. Which actually sheds some light on why I like Japanese Breakfast; it’s 32 minutes of ADHD, nigh-schizophrenic experimentation, that will make some listeners squint in concern at their speakers. It all opens with “The Woman That Loves You” bumping a nicely synthetic beat, then a queasy 360 with buried, fuzzy vocals on “Jane Cum” that are perfect for pulling a blanket up under your chin. “Oh, okay it’s like if Grouper had a little pop-music baby,” is pretty much where your brain is right now. But your brain is wrong and bad and “Pure Handjob,” “My Mommy is Sick” and “Saturday Night 2046” will correct its shortsighted wrongness. The whole thing leaves a kind of giddy uncertainty behind, like the minutes after saying goodbye on a first date. Everything was a little too short, you want more again, but you are not even sure of how much more.

Links: Japanese Breakfast - Seagreen Records

Violent Change

Celebration of Taste

[LP; Melters]

I’d like to think we’re all Velvet Underground somehow. That Reed and Warhol’s legacy wasn’t turning pop culture on its head but exposing it for what it really is 40 years ahead of the curve: everyone’s plaything. It goes beyond the 15 minutes of fame because that’s easy to accomplish with the wealth of reality programs and internet hoopla any ambitious spotlight hoarder drums up, but the notion that your imprint can be seen for years after you’ve long grown tired of participation in pop culture is of great strength and perhaps even a bit noble. Violent Change is not Kanye Kardashian levels of big ass and ego in wet cement but rather conduits to the legacies of those before them. A lo-fi, #nofilter, sea change of buzz clips and cancelled Jools Holland appearances. The transmissions from hallowed garages and hollowed crypts. You’ve heard this all before. But this isn’t a tribute. The truth is in the title: Celebration of Taste. It’s taken nigh 40 years for these static sounds to reach the surface of pop culture. There will always be some new fad or fashion to try to beat it back down, but it can’t be tamed any longer.

Links: Melters

Poison Girls

Hex

[12-inch; Water Wing]

Releases like Hex and those Division Four demos (on Smart Guy Records) are proving to the Cerberus faithful (god bless you) just how fun punk can be. But where are y’all on this? The D4 record is already OOP so you’ll have to focus on Poison Girls, a bombastic outfit that shot Johnny Rotten’s pistol but elevated themselves even higher via a constitution that included punk, reggae, spiky guitar swipes reminiscent of early Scritti Politti, and even electronics every so often (though a traditional four-piece band always provides backing). And these lyrics; if ever there were a band that, more than 30 years hence, completely embarrasses the lyrical conceits of modern-day indie artists, Poison Girls are it. They didn’t couch their protestations in vague imagery and fortified inside jokes. They wrote songs about women’s rights (“What I’m trying to say is you gotta be strong / Nothing takes the pain away for long”), politics, the politics of artistic integrity (“I used to be a tart, I sold myself as art / Now I feel just like my mother / Her price is low — she doesn’t bother”), and, perhaps most shocking to the crybabies of today, the Holocaust (“They burned, sisters, they burned / And the fire is still burning,” care of “Bremen Song”). Think about it; have you ever, even once, heard one of your musical heroes mention the Holocaust? There are a few exceptions, but for the most part it simply isn’t done. Yet here are the Poison Girls, born back when this writer was 1 year old, not only broaching the subject but challenging the idea that the persecutive realities of it have dissipated. Whether we’ve made any progress at all since then is an open question; protest this fact by celebrating PG for what they are: Way too ahead of their time, at the time, but ideally suited for the vagaries of today.

Links: Water Wing

Terence Hannum

Via Negativa

[LP; Utech]

No matter what Terence Hannum attempts from tape to zine to LP to CD-R, you can always tell he’s done his homework. Even when he was pumping out cassettes with regularity, you never got that half-baked gutter-drone from him, and with a new LP out on Shelter Press and Via Negativa rolling off the ash-black assembly line at Utech, this might just be Hannum’s year to shine as a solo artist. But again, don’t get stuck on the idea of quantity; it’s quality work, eternally. Via Negativa fills its luscious light-blue wax with synth-drone on Side A, so you’ll feel tension even as the soft timpani-ish percussive accompaniment lulls your senses to sleep. This is the science of synth, refined in laboratories and viewed at magnifications of up to a million times, all to deliver the gooey goods to you, cogent listener. Also note the ghostly chorus at the outset, welcoming you into a world of shimmering crystal sound-powder and hovering florescent sprites; a slight eruption then breaks up the flora/fauna into the synth-dro mentioned above, closed out by a collage of Kubrick-esque voices and apparitions, not exactly a portent of friendly relations. The flip continues the drift, albeit in a more angelic key, not unlike Tangerine Dream/Steve Hillage at their ambien(t)-chugging best yet more crystallized and frosted over than either, ideal for modern consumption. Hannum was searching for a mystical connection to the “meditative process of subtraction” when he recorded Via Negativa, and without getting too heavy-handed/ham-fisted about it, I’ll agree he achieved that and more. This is one of those records you’ll treasure as time goes by, folding sound, concept, and visual aesthetic into a stunning new shape, wreathed in black. Three-hundo copies, which is unreal because if this record came out on Southern Lord, they’d put out 1,000 on three different colors and you’d buy them all. WHAT THE FUCK. It’s time to stop trifling around, collectors.

Links: Terence Hannum

Ancient Elk

Ancient Elk EP

[CS; Moon Magnet]

Everyone meet Moon Magnet, a new-ish Denver recording studio, collective and, thankfully for us Cerberus-folk, label that’s already got a couple of nice tapes available. Moon Magnet, this is… everyone reading this review. Go ahead, show’em what you got on this li’l three-track teaser from the five-piece outfit, why don’t you? That dreamy dream-pop thing, shy, hushed, a simple beauty. Rosy cheeks, sweaters and scarves, windy, wintery and mystical. Slightly psych, too, outlined with keyboard leads, slippery guitar lines and vocals with just a hint of soft-sass to them. Side A starts off with the wistful and mysterious “When You’re Sleeping” before making way for “Psychedelic Smog,” and a snappier bounce. They save the best for last, though: tucked away on side B we have “Cones,” which is just a great, great, great tune; a strong showing from Cody Coffey on vocals this time, crooning out the melody as the band pings and pongs about an interesting song structure that unfolds almost in slow motion, all in anticipation for that wonderfully sweet chorus that sticks to your brain chewing gum on the soles of your sneakers. For those of you tired of thinking that cassette tapes are reserved for the 100%-weirdos and were looking for a good band-band to listen to on tape, well, I found (another) one.

Links: Ancient Elk - Moon Magnet
  

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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.