The Scrapes

The Songs of Baron Samedi

[CS; Soft Abuse]

I told you all that labels, more and more each friggin’ DAY, endeavor to become our ultimate source for aural delights. I communicated this to you years ago and it’s true now more than ever. I’m not bragging either, I’m just stoked because I think a lot of high-quality labels in this era are making their finances work against all odds, almost in direct opposition to the fat felines who cram their expensive vinyl reissues down our throats. Soft Abuse is a label whose products I wrote about YEARS AGO, when I lived in Glens Falls, NY, and worked for a fat cunt. Boy, she was a fat, fat cunt. Anyway, it’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed any of Soft Abuse’s fine releases, and it’s funny because while we’re both AT-IT and trying to keep our heads in this crazy sub-level music game, I’ve changed over the 7-8 years (!) and they have too. Cassettes are now a ‘thing,’ and Soft Abuse are doin’ it and doin’ it in style while also pumping out vinyl and CDs (don’t forget about the plum-wonderful Pumice either, Soft Abuse’s crown jewel). I’m not going to get into how I’ve personally morphed since then; suffice to say I feel the years have been incredibly kind, mostly because I am no longer working for a big, fat cunt. Back to reality: The Scrapes; another band name you’ll have trouble remembering in the morning because, you know (The _____s bands, so many of them, lord my face hurts thinking about it.), that’s the breaks. But I’ll tell you what, The Songs of Baron Samedi will stick with you long after the spool has wilted. It’s a mad mishmash of colliding concerns you’ll only hear if you put your ear to the ground on an international basis; for some reason NZ and Aussie bands seem to specialize in this brand of dronoise, but I hear traces of it all over these days. Difference ‘tween The Scrapes and your favorite drone duo is, well, they’re better. They also delve into world-music themes I won’t get into (wouldn’t want to spoil it for you), yet I sense more of a Fedora Corpse (label, frequently covered by me, specializing in heady ambient drone with special features rarely found anywhere else; run via a houseboat, so cool) vibe than anything. Gotta love that. To me the shiniest sequences arrive when the percussive elements form a vital part of the compositions. The floor-toms hit heavy and dddeeep, while the shakers and other ephemera fade in and out, drawing attention when they’re present. Much beauty to be had within Songs of Baron Samedi too, courtesy of plucked strings and interwoven scraps of what sounds to me like recorder. Yes, it’s difficult for me to ascertain which track is which, so I’m leaving the titles out, but when these cuts I’m describing hit you’re gonna be like “yyyeah he gggets it.” More spiritual experiences rarely are had in my record room; props to The Scrapes for going ‘there’ and further, to decidedly un-deleterious effect. And yes, I forced that word in, have been wanting to use it. Build those vocabs campers! Signing off on another stellar Soft Abuse joint, now…

Links: Soft Abuse

Kill West

Smoke Beach

[CS; Dismal Niche]

Psychedelic music always seems born outside its place and time. Even in its 60’s heyday, it felt remote and removed from what was bubbling around it. It’s limited run in the hearts and minds of the populace (save for the rare band) only sealed it as music of a revolution that was never self-sustaining. It had its brushes again with near-mainstream acclaim (The Grateful Dead’s brush with Billboard in the late 80’s, bands such as Mazzy Star, Kula Shaker and even Black Rebel Motorcycle Club sneaking onto MTV and radio in the 90’s and early 00’s) but it’s always found itself nothing more than a niche movement enveloped by more faddish trends. So Kill West have no shot at winning the collective hearts and minds of bubblegum pre-teens and 20 year-olds looking for good time music. But there are always fervent fans of psychedelia in its many reverted forms and that’s where Smoke Beach will hit its mark. It feels like a release made for cassette, with its heavy reverb and charred rock and roll. It unravels as slowly as the tape within the plastic casing. The music bends to the quality of the tape player, with each device and play-through adding a different layer to the hanging notes and technicolor riffs. It’s not quite the first Stone Roses album, but it isn’t some hap-dashed Noel Gallagher solo that is attempting to tap into a make-believe psychedelia. However, it is born out of place and time and that’s why it is so alluring. It’s an angel with a dirty face; a dark soul (but at least it possesses soul). The band’s named is scratched out, like a bathroom stall ambassador. Only a few have the guts to make that call, so pick up the phone and do it already. Going down this rabbit hole and asking for a 10 feet tall Alice is worth the risk.

Links: Kill West - Dismal Niche

German Army

Culp Valley

[CS; Castle Bravo]

Culp Valley might be the closest German Army come to unmasking themselves. This boxed item (which also comes with a T-shirt that I think is fucking AWEsome) unclutters the mystery just a bit. In fact, my daughter asked me “what kind of music is this?” when I was listening to a different GeAr tape (Remain in Exhile) and I didn’t even know what to tell her (Exhile is one of the weirder ones; I went with, “Darkwave?”). But Culp is a prog tape first and foremost, redolent of Harmonia and Neu! more than what you’d normally associate with the shady San Bernadino, Calif., duo. But the guttural, yet soothing, litany of fell voices remains, like a tamer DJ Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting, stuttering and hiccuping like a children’s toy running out of batteries. I’m loving the linear synth programming and motorik beat, coupled with the usual icy-cold crispies we’ve come to expect when GeAr gets snapping, crackling, and popping. The other side is more of a chill, post-Portishead’s-latest-album, but bleaker, groove, a head-nodder that will surprise you with how much it packs into a minimalist template. Explorations such as this render it almost impossible to wait patiently for the next German Army aural communication. Then again, in the last month or two a Peter Kris solo tape, and three other GeAr releases have come in, so I should just be happy Kris and partner-in-crack Norm Heston are so dedicated to flooding the market — in a good way — for all of us to hear. What’s most exciting is who knows where this project is going. German Army could end up winning an Oscar for soundtracking a particularly dark war film or dying in the gutter when none of us are looking. Let’s hope they keep delivering the heroin highs, and lows, we’ve come so accustomed to nodding off to.

Links: Castle Bravo

Christian Michael Filardo


[LP; Lime Lodge]

It’s odd how often I find my palette cleansers from more “challenging” releases to be the 90’s alternative music of my youth. That, too, has become an exploration of sorts as I’ve aged and discovered music and bands that never crossed my path as a landlocked youth in the Midwest. I always return to my current self, because as I begin to dissect those older albums and their flaws (and the love I have regardless of said flaws for many both celebrated and rejected), I also recall the isolation of the era. Everything was manufactured to the point that the word “alternative” became bastardized. It became a rhetorical question. But allow me to apply it to Christian Michael Filardo’s Justice, an album that absolutely nothing in common with the alternative music of two decades ago, but truly frames what alternative could mean in the 21st century. At its core, Justice is a difficult listen because it scatters random ideas into dots and patterns that speak as some modern Morse code I’m unable to parse. But that’s the point – it’s an alternative to just about any sort of experimentation I can compare it to. It’s glitch, but only in how it handles the production of noise and the intervals in which it is unveiled. It’s avant-garde, but only in lip service, for Justice also seems to be taking the piss out of the idea of avant-garde as it is blanketed across a cornucopia of sounds. So here I am, about to do the same to Justice by somehow labeling it alternative? But at the core of alternative – the idea that what everyone else is listening to is set, but this one thing is a stark departure from those set ideas – Justice is indeed such. Not only does it deviate from anything remotely pop, but it really has little in common with most treasured and hyped experimental and underground musics. Each listen is a challenge beyond a mere palette cleanse. This has a flavor and texture all its own; an alternative to taste all together. An alternative to music and art, entirely.

Links: Lime Lodge

Ed Askew

Little Houses

[CS; Summersteps]

Damn, this originally came out in 1997? Because it sounds like every self-centered ____wave kid in the tape game in modern times, squashed together in their bedrooms and forced to compose one titular album. Bary Center and Jerry Paper HAVE to have heard Ed Askew, is what I’m saying. If Ariel Pink really did invent chillwave I think Mr. Askew should get credit for spraying vapors (among other fumes) before it turned into an obi-strip nightmare. He sounds like Lou Reed, too. A lot like Lou Reed. OK he sounds EXACTLY LIKE Lou Reed. That’s not a bad thing either, and his cute lil’ keyboard jams remind me of the Scarface sndtrk. When he whips his harmonica out like a hard… carafe I become even more entranced, ready to rush out and do a ton of research and marry off my eldest sister to this guy. But the truth is, it’s totally killer, also, to just be happy with this-here tape, because Little Houses stands on its own apart from any Askew legend that may or may not have been cultivated over the years. You’re gonna love this fuckin’ guy if you haven’t met him yet, as he accomplishes much with a few synth arpeggios and that aforementioned harmonica. In addition to those influenced by Askew mentioned above, it would also be prudent to catch up on Bobby Trimble, Edward Ka-Spel/Legendary Pink Dots, and Galactic Nightmare before you take this trip. Kick up the dust, kids.

Links: Summersteps

Sea Witch/Ecferus

Of Water and Wood

[CS; Small Doses]

Sea Witch endeavor to break through to the most sacred elements of doom; that’s why they stand out, in my mind. I’m not sure who these Ecferus fellas are but a friend of the witch is a friend o’ mine. Of Water & Wood is a coupling that produces one new track from SW, two collaborative cuts, and, in a strange twist, in addition to an Ecferus entry there’s a final song by Ecferus featuring Sea Witch. Huh? Whatever, that’s not what you’re going to focus on when you break up and ingest the elements of this release. Sea Witch are up to their usual tricks, attending the funeral of the world and providing accompaniment. When they team up with Ecferus it’s more of a Hell-ish experience, with strictly drawn-out doom passages dominating throughout. Then Ec-Fer take over and throw in a little black metal for good balance, culminating in the aforementioned ‘featuring Sea Witch’ track. This sucker proves to be one of the most compelling pieces of work on Of Water and Wood, adhering to a motif of relative subtlety (guitars cleaner than usual, lots of voice samples, no screaming) before a brief plunge into double-bass MADNESS that’s intensely satisfying and unexpected. Cloaked in black, wreathed in flame, Sea Witch / Ecferus, know thy name…

Links: Small Doses



[LP; Dirty Knobby]

There is an entire genre of music that relies on the missing piece that was GAM’s only record, Eiszeit. Much like the Ice Age from wince its title comes, the glacial moving album sat undiscovered amid a cold, barren landscape upon its 1978 recording. The band shelved the record, became noticeable figures in other arenas of music creation, and then were unearthed by intrepid musical archaeologists in the early Aughts. What was found was the sounds of a scene that birthed both the spiritual vivid and electronic psychedelia that spanned a wide range of folk, rock and experimental music was in line with GAM’s vision, 25 years removed from an album they had never heard and a legend that is just now growing. When Cosmic Egg released Eiszeit on CD in 2004, it became an underground sensation. Now re-released on vinyl by venerable (but quiet) Dirty Knobby, we are part of the expedition that has spanned more than 35 years. Too many bands both before and after GAM to wrap up in this beast of a record, but consider the missing link between the motorik of Germany and the psychedelia of California found. Consider the fusion they created–at first slowly and underground in the 80’s, slowly rising toward the crust in the 90’s, and then dusted off for a whole new generation in the 00’s –sourced from GAM, even if no one knew it existed. Just as new civilizations are unearthed where once nothing existed, so goes Eiszeit. It came before and should not be ignored.

Links: Dirty Knobby

Richard Garet

60’ Cassette

[CS; Helen Scarsdale Agency]

You take the goood, you take the bad, you take them all and then you have 60’ Cassette. The vibrant long playing cassette from Richard Garet is a mind meld of atonal earth; the ghastly sounds of magnetic fields colliding with the eroding waves of a perpetual tide. Steam engines, gas giants and man-made beasts tear up the landscape, but within that din comes a centered hum by which we all tune in or out as mood appropriates. 60’ Cassette has many rhythms around its titled doctrine, and each one is hard to take as a complete statement. It’s rare that, as someone who worships the idea of the album, I’d recommend taking anything related to music individually but I think too much time with Garet’s work minimizes the moments that DO hit hardest. The loud static may subside on the recording, but its buzzing will echo into the compositions more thoughtful and quiet moments. Perhaps that was Garet’s intent, as if to force us to shut out the noise of our maddening word, always running amok as we try to run away. But here, we can take back some of that power and remember that is our own wiring that is keeping us perpetually stuck on a hamster wheel.

Links: Richard Garet - Helen Scarsdale Agency

Peter J. Woods

Impure Gold Pt. 2

[LP; Experimental Milwaukee]

I have to say right off the bat that the approach taken by Peter Woods on his second entry in the Impure Gold series almost NEVER works. Detached narration is a tough pill to swallow, even when all systems are GO-GO-GO otherwise, so for Woods to crack the code is noteworthy in and of itself. But there’s more to Impure Gold Pt. II than this achievement, as he’s created an ode to the noise gods, creepy yet defiant in the face of convention. (Incidentally, I’m listening to this in my record room late at night as I write this and I swear to you that my French doors just rattled creepily for no reason. And there couldn’t be a worse album for an unnerving occasion such as this. It reminds me of the time my wife passed out at a Xiu Xiu show, or when my daughter said “Who’s that?” pointing to an empty room while a spine-tingling Current 93 album spun on my player; music can be terrifying.) Woods is prone to sudden BLASTS from the furnace to shake up the quiet a la John Wiese, and he also can make the mountains rumble with throbbing avalanches of sound, both necessary traits for experimental musicians. And yet the moments I prize take place in that isolated cabin up North, wherein this Milwaukee prodigal son speaks his truth while high hats flail and random noises threaten the peace. I’ve heard records that sound technically better this year, but not any that hypnotize the ear like the first half of “Skin and Movement,” not to mention the haunting piano straight out of Eyes Wide Shut that bolsters the anything-but “Comedy.” All-original, cult classic, art edition available; what else do you need to know?

Links: Experimental Milwaukee


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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.