Golden Gardens

Mirror of Silver

[Cassingle; Self-Release]

For more than 6 years, I lived a stone’s throw away from Golden Gardens Park, a rough beachfront that was as cold and refreshing as it sounds. A piece of quiet on the edge of Ballard. Between it and walks to the Chittenden Locks to watch passenger and freight boats move between waterways, there was solace to be found among natures as a neighborhood was gentrifying before the historic community’s eyes. It’s this basis that boils beneath the Seattle-duo Golden Gardens, blending the serenity of nature with the hectic pace of progress. An album that divides its two selections into a dancing ballads for a world advancing much faster than we’re able to process, yet one that still treasures the lore of old. So much like Ballard, Golden Gardens are built on decades worth of the mythology glossed over by new tech: a bit of techno, house and disco bubbling beneath its new facade of droning melodies and strong pop vocals. The cassingle’s title track fights with its pop inclinations, before giving way to them. It’s not bad; sometimes the “experimental” set is looking to bust loose and dance. B-side “When Your Tears Have Drowned You,” is where Golden Gardens reflect the changing atmosphere of a city at odds with its past and future. The band lays down its dancing alms and produces a sensual composition that never climaxes, afraid it might scare away the old patrons of this growing neighborhood, and yet “When Your Tears…” should never climax because Golden Gardens – the band as well as the park – are in constant flux. There is no end to gentrification, not even the limits of sky and law. And in that moment of clarity does Golden Gardens (the band) becomes Golden Gardens (the park). A living plot of land that will always change both by the decision of man and nature. Seattle has a real reflection of itself, and a nice one-two punch of drone-age dance to match.

Links: Golden Gardens


To the Firmament

[LP; Drawing Room]

It has been 8 years since Michael Gibbons has graced us with a full-length work from his 500mg pseudonym. As the myth and power of Bardo Pond has grown in that time, it’s fair to say Gibbons’ previous album, Apocatastisis, has been less rewarded. Which is a shame, as it’s a wonderful example of how talented the brothers Gibbons are, even if it’s just through Michael’s solitary prism. But we return nigh a decade later to an even richer tapestry of ideas and sounds with To the Firmament. Suite 1 is a modest revisit of the past. “Seven Eyes” and “The Smoke Inside Me” speak to Gibbons’ past solo outings, but deviations in sound and technique occur. “Red Eyed Howler” is a scaled down version of Bardo Pond electricity.”Qumram” is an elegant composition that has an “I’m Your Captain” classic rock majesty surrounding it, yet this lead-off to Suite 2 is hardly an indicator of what to expect on the back half of To the Firmament. The combo of “Kesaubo” and Sister Morphine” are an amalgamation of all Gibbons’ work, and yet have a particular style or grace in their jagged rock authenticity that makes them somehow unfamiliar. And it’s how To the Firmament makes its lasting impression. It eviscerates the turntable, blows out the speakers, and yet in the static wall it also speaks softly, a simple statement of intent with “Trying to Get There.” It’s where we’re all trying to go, and in 8 years Gibbons found it somehow – even if it’s just in the 40 minutes of this record.

Links: Drawing Room

Henry Knollenberg

The Neptune Social Animation, Pt. 2

[CS; 5cm]

Hesitant to combine two rather opposite fellows into one entity, Henry Knollenberg has created an album that is Steven Hawking and Gary Wilson breaking into an animal lab to free lab geese. But the lab is just a psychological projection, and you’re not really wearing any pants and it’s the last day of high school and you’re 43 and balding. It’s the sort of nightmarish subconsciousness that filters itself throughout The Neptune Social Animation, Pt. 2. A strange symphony of half-thoughts and non-sequiturs that quiz the listener about nothing, but the vibrant entertainment of the robotic messaging and rhythmic sway of the electronic melodies lock us in that projected laboratory. We are experimenting on ourselves, Knollenberg providing the musical Rorschach. A real life paranoid android.

Links: 5cm

Daniel Klag


[CS; Chill Mega Chill]

The amazing thing about ambient and drone is that unless you are explicitly told by the artist, you never really never know where what you’re hearing is actually coming from. That is, of course, unless someone tells you, which (of course) is often the case if you’re a reviewer, and is (of course) the case here as we take a closer look at Daniel Klag’s newest tape for the Chill Mega Chill label. Here’s a young synther-droner from New York who told me that this work is composed of processed piano recordings, taking listeners deeper inside the instrument than many have likely dared to travel, down to the outer edges of the sound waves themselves, and maybe even passed that into some kind of ultra-deep negaverse of sound and harmony. The black hole you’re looking at (or hearing) as waves of crunchy audio roll by is abyssal, awe-inspiring, self-awareness-raising stuff. He described the process as melting away the source material to reveal its “soft interior,” although what I’m hearing is a bit more menacing and bleak than that might sound. He’s right about the peeling-back of the tone’s outer layer, though, the porcelain sheen of the piano removed revealing a grim truth of what lies beneath. So instead of overtones, what we’re hearing is actually undertones, or maybe inner-tones, the work a true permutation of one of music’s building blocks to unveil a sort of sub-music for the listener. There’s no ascension or transcendence here, it’s all about what’s within and below, which is an area of darkness to be sure, but also a new, perhaps unexplored territory that comes with its own set of wondrous, fascinating experiences.

Links: Daniel Klag - Chill Mega Chill

Christina Carter

L’Etoile de Mer

[LP; Emerald Cocoon]

Carter’s first non-Charalambides foray is finally reissued on vinyl, and yet is nearly as limited and hard to catch as the original tape release. Nonetheless, Emerald Cocoon has done much to set this neglected butterfly free once again. It may look like a moth at first as it struggles to shed its dust and fly free from its dark home, but as the album opens up, so too do Carter’s wings. What is brave about L’Etoile de Mer is the emptiness it embraces. Soaring further into the open sky, Carter’s solo electric guitar slowly flutters and waits for the rippled air to meet its wings. As soon as she has freed herself from the binds of metamorphosis, it is her solitary voice that greets the strong wind and basking sun. It’s Carter stripped bare – and though it has become a trademark of Carter’s best work 15 years on, hearing her first outing with the gift of foresight only exposes the vulnerability and triumphant nature of L’Etoile. To hear this through fresh ears again would be most wonderful, and this packaging brings a new set. The magnificent splendor of freedom.

Links: Emerald Cocoon


Brain Water


I often feel as if technological advancement is more a curse than a blessing. The benefits far outnumber the negatives, and yet those negatives far out weight the benefits. No one wants to be completely disconnected from the Internet of Things, nor does Brain Water achieve this unplugging with its very technological basis. Yet it makes me feel less apprehensive about being so plugged in and yet non-reliant. I don’t carry my cell phone everywhere. I don’t feel alone with my thoughts and myself without a bright screen blazing in my face. There is no aimless drift when the news of the day, week or month does not pass under my nose for a set period of time. Perhaps HAXXXORS understands. Though the magnificent spatial oddity of Brain Water is silicon bones, its flesh is far more humanoid. It’s not some scary future where we surrender our conscious to the machines, but rather what happens to ourselves when we are surrounded by the creature comforts we quickly erected to showcase our brilliant minds amidst a sea of emotional chaos. Technology has created just as many new problems as it has solved, but technology is often best when coupled with the human touch. So goes Brain Water, a blend of the computerized machinations of our muscled data processors possessing the robotic and clean functionality of technology. In the right hands….and these hands of HAXXXORS are surgical.

Links: MJMJ



[CS; Self-Release]

What does a band do next when its first impression is quiet by lasting? If you’re Fountain, it’s work at your craft until the second result is as unrestrained as the first. The aptly named 2 is looser and wider, gaining mass like Marlon Brando to chew up scenery. Of course, Brando could always pull a convincing job when called upon, and Fountain are clearly capable of doing the same. The familiar odd stone-washed pop of Canada still permeates, but the kettle has become robust with the swells of nuanced pop from years (and decades) removed. Naming the whole spice shelf seems ridiculous, just know that when you’re hooked on strange pop frequencies and find that your stomach growls because it hasn’t been fed for some time, Fountain is always a go-to. 2 is another catchy set that feels at home on cassette because it’s timeless. It’s preparation is authentic, from the rather quick turnaround between albums and the self-released nature by which it enters the world. Minus Peter Grant and a major label, the growth and simplicity therein strikes a resemblance to the gods of thunder, expect replace the thunder with hand claps.

Links: Fountain

Eleven Year Old

American Lizards

[CS; Happenin]

Happenin Records has hit the mainline, tapping into the Americana zeitgeist often ignored for Route 66 and backporch nostalgia. I know I’ve fallen into that trap, as has the sort of garage rock Happenin buys stocks in with each release. And yet that sort of bread and butter version of rustic songs being banged and scrapped out of hovels and basements is no longer the same Dick Dale surfing dream of old. It’s barely Californian anymore if not for the hazy feel of the best garage prognosticators eking it out in middle America. Such goes Eleven Year Old, who hit my jammed radar for the first time with American Lizards. Being one to avoid hyperbole and proverb, let me hamfist this up by saying American Lizards is album of the year material for the garage rock set. Its steely bends, frenetic pacing and psychedelic shellac are all comforting forms of the genre scrunching together in an attic riddled with ancient artifacts long left to the dust bunnies and spiders. The giant billow of microscopic granules that rise from Eleven Year Old’s din isn’t to raise forgotten slices of Americana to prominence but rather akin to the plethora of relic hunters scouring every hoarder’s premises. They find that piece of lost freedom that tickles a niche. Such goes American Lizards, so while most will ignore it because the prospect of this much outlandish fun runs contrary to the serious reminisces of what passes for Americana, the dust cloud that causes the big sneeze among Eleven Year Old’s niche will be a welcome explosion of real happiness escaping every orifice.

Links: Happenin

Drab Majesty

Unknown to the I

[Cassingle; Dais]

Unknown to the I is only a cassingle but JESUS-LORD is it ambitious in its post-punk-y stripping-down of the 80s and its distinct sensibilities. A lot of artists plumb that ground these days but Drab Majesty take the cake and eat it, too, by injecting a life’s worth of sincerity into every aching, woozy, hazy (this IS a lofi take on the 80s, after all) detail. Much like Transfx, her Majesty take the music of a bunch of coked-up icons and turn it into quavering emotional gold, a celebration disguised in dark haze. For once, I find myself cursing instrumental “Saturn Inc.” (though it’s lurid and quite special in its own right) and wanting more time with the singer and the title track, a warped take on a Chameleons motif that, to the credit of its producers, sounds grand and ampitheater-HUGE despite the oft-unreliable cassette format. “Ultra Violet” is another stunner, this time more in the mode of Depeche, especially where the vocals are concerned. But that guitar; that’s the early 80s post-punk explosion in a nutshell. In other words: classic, with another winning job behind the boards. If Drab Majesty’s recent full-length LP (Careless) is anywhere near as captivating as Unknown to the I we’ll have a nice mess on our hands, won’t we?

Links: Dais



[LP; Ehse]

Myself and a cavalcade of other “critics” love to toss komisch around like it’s a football on a cool autumn Sunday. We speak of it like a playbook, and position ourselves as backyard Lombardis and Knolls leading our team to winning seasons and championships. As if the Grammys, or a more worthy award governance, will rise up to bequeath the best of a niche musical movement with a gaudy trophy and an acceptance speech on behalf of the bands before who helped make this possible. The glitz of the ESPYs but for music, with the spirit of competition.

But it’s a stupid dream. And worse, our overuse of such flippant terms has taken the edge away from them. So after wasting a paragraph setting up some promised premise, I’m going to do you better and talk about Wume as I would have any band I loved in my youth. They groove. They make you feel high even when you’re sober. They make great late night cruising music for those of you who remember what life was like on the open highway before city life and public transportation became a thing. Or if that’s always been your life, Maintain is night bus music. But back to the whole groove thing, because Maintain is black light and incense music. It’s a return to all those fun rhythms that made us excited to run amok in a world unable to completely hold our interest. Yet Wume does, despite the simplistic presentation. That’s the difference in youth and knowledge; Maintain recalling both at their best. So while I want to throw kraut-related nonsense at you, I think it’s best to let my inner child handle this one. Because it rocks. There is no other reason to it.

Links: Wume - Ehse

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.