Poison Girls


[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

Hearts of Oak

New England

[LP; Deer Lodge]

It might be strange to some but I was an alt-country teen. I devoured Uncle Tupelo (and those early Wilco and Son Volt records). I was entrenched with Slaid Cleaves and Whiskeytown CDs and dug into the presumed forefathers of the country-rock hybrids that led me back into new valleys lush with Richmond Fontaine and Richard Buckner. Though many of them disassociated with the confining genre identifier, it’s found a suitor with Nate Wallace’s Hearts of Oak. The Portland based band should be gracing every page of No Depression, a twisted version of country and a twangy version of rock that has been marginalized as weirder and louder have grabbed features and headlines. But this isn’t a Buzzfeed album, full of musical click bait. It’s subtle in how it gains your affection. You hold your nose at its shitty west coast 90s hip-hop mixtape cover, you scoff at the the similarly era’d photo of the band on the back cover. But low budget affairs in packaging only endear New England with a warmth of a forgotten sub-genre. Sure, there’s still alt-country boards and debates raging but its niche has shrunk even as bands and artists it first championed (Jeff Tweedy, Ryan Adams, Alejandro Escovedo) continue to gain larger audiences. So here’s a chance to make amends. Take this at face value and you’ll be damned. Cerberus welcomes Hearts of Oak with open arms, so what’s your hang-up?

Links: Deer Lodge

Sam De La Rosa


[12-inch; Burka for Everybody]

Sam De La Rosa puts forth a puzzling audio persona on Chameleon, somewhere on the map near the Atlas Sound straits and the Socrates That Practices Music plateau. Eternal sadness is a given, yet there’s hope against hope against hope, and it’s on behalf of this De La Rosa’s wriggling voice is struggling for. And wriggle it does, like an electric eel on a hook, while cold beatz and Chameleons guitars shimmer like the forsaken sun. The sense of atmosphere amid the title track, on its own, is worth the price of purchase, but stay tuned for “Tank Man” because it’s a key piece of audio legislation as well, understated and lovely. “Erase Blanco” veers into Legendary Pink Dots/Edward Ka-Spel territory, always a good thing, with a singular splendor that wouldn’t seem out of place on a small-run tape. Much like “Tank Man,” “Fungus” is there to help your brain unwind after the flourish of “Blanco,” but don’t get too comfortable, as “Cannot Meet Today” will ZAPP-a-DAP your ass back to life in a hurry with mega-drone antics and synths that mean what they say (or else they wouldn’t say it). Never turn your back on De La Rosa or …

Links: Burka for Everybody

People Skills

Tricephalic Head

[LP; Siltbreeze]

Somewhere betwixt the crust of United Waters and the sediment of Bugskull lies People Skills. The 20 years of silt and sand compressing and collapsing; the murky echoes of the Earth belching. We’re lucky to have uncovered it since its creation, for Jesse Dewlow had been keeping it in the depths. A vivid brand of noise that has transformed the soft exoskeleton of pop into a heavy burning fossil fuel incapable of speeds greater than 15 mph. Those arrowheads and rusted impressions are the foundation of a neighborhood full of oddly timed speed bumps, Dewlow starting and stopping at each pedestrian-laden intersection to pick up some new buried ghost of the upper mantle. They pile into a monstrous vehicle and sloth down the 10 lane suburban paradise to drill further until they can mine the molten outer core. Tricephalus Head oozing out of the planet’s pores with the speed of frozen sap. The decomposing bones of pop transformed into a motorized substance capable of torpid momentum. This is the workplace People Skills inhabits, a 5 days-a-week moratorium on lightweight speed while drudgery and lethargy for a rotting world envelop us all. Soon we will be awash in tarpits, the doing of Dewlow’s plaintive miracle propellant. We need more of this substance and beg him to keep burrowing down until its sucked dry. No wonder Sarah Palin urged him to “Drill, baby, drill” for so long. To hell with Humvees and helicopters, give us the saccharine of eolith; give us decayed pop until our skies and lungs are poisoned on it. We shall care for its tricephalus for we understand mutation as divinity in our locale.

Links: Siltbreeze


It Is What It Is


It Is What It Is? Really, Oldmate? You do realize that’s what the ad director at The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y., said to me as he was laying me off in 2008 right (the idea being: layoffs are what they… are?)? No? OK then, you get a pass for drudging up that memory because your smoky post-blues messenger service is quite effective at delivering the sort of rock you just don’t hear much in the underground nowadays. But consider this a warning wrapped in a query, the latter being: Is there a market for Oldmate in this day and age? I say maybe not, and that’s just about the highest praise I can give a young artist in a world of sound-a-likes. Creating music so far outside the periphery of what’s purportedly ‘happening’ is one of the best ways to organically make things ‘happen.’ The main problem is, most bands simply don’t have the guts to attempt the forbidden; it’s so much easier to settle for a solo synth album or an electronic mash-up of the indie-dance telephone book. FUCK THAT, play guitar, bass, and drums and GET YOUR GODDAMN ROCKS OFF, like Oldmate. The only problem on my end is coming up with apt comparisons for y’all to hitch your ‘should I buy this?’ wagons to. As I said before, it’s been so long since I sat back and let such a restrained, hearty blues-rock album roll over me I’ve got zippo for ya, save this entirely ridiculous stretch: Stephen Merritt fronting a slow Fresh & Onlys tune? The label that also brought you El-G’s La Chimie had absolutely no right to drop this anomaly off at my door, and I’m glad they did.

Links: SDZ

Lindsay Dobbin


[CS; Phinery]

Music is art. Art is circumstance. Circumstance is personal.

Who knows what such gibberish means, and it represents even less when listening to Arrival. It comes from a very personal experience as described by Dobbin, when a bout of temporary hearing loss found its way to transform her dreams and create a different palate of voices and sounds to discover as her hearing returned. Though easy to follow such a guide when listening to Arrival, I do think the above idea can be followed backwards to arrive at such a beautifully crafted cassette of drone reflections. Dobbin’s personal loss led to a new circumstance, that which begot art that formed as music. Simple enough. But there is much more to the narrative following such a scripted thesis. What she experienced can only be shared with others who have endured it. My recent bout with an ear infection does not qualify me. The circumstance it put her in, no matter how it is transcribed and translated in Arrival, will always be hers alone. I want to know that moment but am I willing to sacrifice a sense to understand it? That’s the key to the art form; I am able to get a sense of the isolation and beauty of those moments mixed with the fear and unknown. It will never be mine, but that Dobbins allows this shared moment is more powerful than initially expected. Arrival gives me goosebumps. And makes me talk in circles.

Links: Lindsay Dobbin - Phinery

Ballerine Nadiya

Ballerine Nadiya

[CS; Singapore Sling]

The mysterious ones are the best, of course. Who is this Ballerine Nadiya, exactly, where is she from, and is she, like, 12 years old? Is she even a she? All I have to go on here is the cutesy Lisa Frank- meets -Salvador Dali cover art, an e-mail address, and 12 wistful Casiotone keyboard songs. It’s par for the recent course Singapore Sling’s been golfing its hole-in-one tapes on if you’re familiar (and if you’ve been reading Strauss-posts as religiously as I foolhardily wish you were, you might remember folks like Mother Ganga, Piper Spray, Sam Gas Can, Erasurehead. etc.) — vaguely nostalgic pop music with minimal arrangements, keyboard drum machine programming, wavy and warbly synth tones, and a mix that feels like it’s being suffocated by a wool sock. It’s… you know, weird, but it’s not really all that weird when you peek through the curtains of tape hiss and taste the sweet sweetness of pure melody in a shy and delicate voice that drives these songs like Pow-Pow-Power Wheels through the chalk-riddled blacktops of your childhood. Music that’s built to be gritty, grimy, fuzzy and rough around the edges that’s nonetheless crystal clear, clean and crisp. Pure purity. A fountain of youth. And damned beautiful too.

Links: Singapore Sling

Shredded Nerve


[7-inch; Torn Light]

Bothered by flying gnats and assailing pests? Try Retention by Shredded Nerve. Yes, Retention’s steady dose of metallic smacks and competitive wings-in-air repetition will be guaranteed to make you embrace the natural noises of your hovel. The water leaks, the mattress springs creak, and the boiler has a steely rattle that keeps you up at all hours. But with the patent pending technology of Shredded Nerve, those irritants will be exultations to the world’s quick demise. First it’s your home, then your city, and then finally the world! It will all become a bubbling crude in the cauldron of Shredded Nerve’s Retention. Learn to speak a new, as-yet founded language. Wield a jagged weapon and protect yourself from yourself. It’s all in available in this handy dandy 7-inch guide to losing touch with reality and embracing the madness.

Links: Torn Light


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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.