Mold Grows on Baby

Mold Grows on Baby

[CS; Unit Structure Sound Recordings]

I keep thinking that I’ll only be reviewing this or that ONE, SINGLE free jazz release of the year. But lo- 2013 seems to be rife with some solid stuff in this category, so either there’s more of it happening lately, or you just don’t read about it very often. Or I have no idea what I’m talking about. Or (most likely) it’s a combination of all three. From Sheldon Siegel to Nick Millevoi, and now here there appear to be a couple in USSR’s recent batch of tapes, so be it I say, especially since each and every one of these has been unique, interesting, and quite good. In the case of our friends from Vancouver (Matthew Read and John Brennan as Mold Grows on Baby, which… yeah, the name), we have a tenor sax and drum duet treading through a number of improvisations that take each instrument to textural extremes while never coming off as incessant honking or interminable banging. Granted, there’s some downright eye-squinting squelches of saxophone and bone-rattling thumps going on at various moments of dynamic climax, but still, all inflections are done with a light, artistic stroke of the sonic brush, there to counteract the real melodies and rhythms at play within the core of this duet’s sound. And those are indeed the real sweet spots on the cassette, when that great Trane tone is out front and center. Playfully improvised fun that wanders its way through a number of tempos and dynamics… It’s free jazz, kids. I think you know whether or not you like this. (Hint: you do).

Links: Unit Structure Sound Recordings

Merx

Twenty SQ FT

[CS; Skrot Up]

I thought I read somewhere that Merx is an offshoot of some sort stemming from the German Army family tree, which would be awesome. No matter: Twenty Sq Ft stands on its own at the summit of randomness, flitting from disguise to disguise until they barely recognize who’s staring back at them in the mirror. They can be muscular and threatening or, as “Swim Job” attests, quite funky, or at least as funky as a limited-run tape band can be. I suppose gloomy post-punk would have to be brought up in the conversation if you were trying to describe this cassette to a dipshit, but umbrella terms aren’t going to protect you from the unrestrained, infectious enthusiasm pouring from the pores of these sketchy tunes. Let them do their work and Merx will reward you in a perplexing manner. Which reminds me: Do you have the proper documentation to be listening to Twenty Sq Ft? Write Skrot Up to secure the appropriate paperwork.

Links: Skrot Up

156

A Life Lived as if In Hell

[CS; Out-of-Body]

A Life Lived As If In Hell is a sick one, indeed. Literally. We’re talking ladies crying in hospital beds, gagging and probably spewing into the air as all manner of experimental electronic detritus clutters the room. Not easy listening, to say the least, and that’s exactly why you must stick around. Whether 156 are creating rhythmic jams out of mysterious sources or rat-tat-tat-ing on a garbage-can lid or sampling the voice of pure suffering, they keep their boots on your neck from start to finish in a cinematic display of pace-setting and mangled porn-noise showmanship. As a fellow who cringes at the thought of ever hearing another Mama Baer tape, it seems out-of-whack for me to recommend a dick-splitter like A Life Lived, but this isn’t torture for torture’s sake. It’s evocative and will-testing, but only because, and when, it has to be. I sat on this one for awhile but it’s still available over at Out-of-Body so there’s still time.

Links: Out-of-Body

The Christmas Bride

(He’s Not a) Mongreloid

[CS; Teen River]

Remember cassingles!? Now they’re back, in cassingle form! The Christmas Bride embrace the medium that I so treasured in the early 90s, before 99 cent MP3s and [even] after I got a CD player. I figured cassettes with “Bad Boys,” “A Girl Like You,” and “100%” meant eclectic taste. The sort of taste The Christmas Bride display twenty years after my last dalliance with the cassingle. Now everyone can share a love of Revenge of the Nerds and Rolling Stones references and a lot of Teen River in-jokes about 80s teenage culture that millennials seem to slurp up like chicken soup of the retro soul. But this is more than a brush with the classics, as The Christmas Bride somehow hit on the untouched fun of pop. Not the bubblegum or rock/country/R&B variants but of simple, no frills kind. It’s why a cassingle is perfect for the title track and it’s B-side, “D.I.Y. Hi-Skool.” It’s playful and fleeting, a feeling that is sure to erode as quickly as the tape upon too many listens. But that’s the brilliance of pop, it keeps you coming back for more and when you hit the bottom of that saccharine tub, there’s someone or something else to fill the empty void in your rotting stomach. Even with my arms crossed and my cynicism keen, I can’t deny being caught up in Christmas Bride fever, if only for a blink-of-an-eye. Then it’ll join the ranks of my dusty pile of relics but oh what a triumphant pile of momentary bliss it is.

Links: Teen River

Comfort Link

The Complex Moods of Comfort Link

[CS; sPLeeNCoFFiN]

First, the packaging: Tim Wisniewski (who also runs tape label sPLeeNCoFFiN, and yes, capitalization is absolutely important, I checked) nestled this one, a follow-up to his debut Comfort Link release, inside a re-purposed accordion file folder outfitted with some nice collage art. Sure, commendable for its green methods of construction, but the aesthetic is also indicative of the sounds you’ll hear on this very strange musical personality’s tapes, and “The Complex Moods of…” is no exception, as the release reflects Comfort Link’s ability to recycle a dusty-brown set of sound sources through an analog tape loop/effect conduit. Wisniewski weaves old easy listening records, open reel tapes, ambient background sounds re-recorded from old films, and sounds of the magnetic recording process itself into a subdued drift, stitching it all together with dental floss to reveal a patch-worked quilt of colorful and, yes, very moody drone. Things shift from mechanical to organic with a long fluid sweep leaving you in a completely different spot by the end of each side from where you began, although that journey itself, when looked back upon, is like a weirdly blurry and instantly-forgotten memory. This latest tape is a bit on the bleaker end of what I’ve heard Wisniewski come up with, these tapes winding and grinding themselves down into a dank and dimly lit place that almost has a sickly after-effect. You can see it: the visors and bow ties, blue collars toiling away at oily machines under the light of a hot lamp. It’s uncomfortable, but ultimately inevitable, and necessary; Comfort Link is the loops of life.

Links: sPLeeNCoFFiN

Ancestral Diet

Official Waste

[LP; Torrid Orb / Saxwand]

Ancestral Diet loom in the shadows of Bauhaus-laced goth oddity yet hint at a pop precept or two along the lines of a Devo or mid-’80s Wire. You could throw on one of those Weird coldwave compilations and find the skeleton for a lot of these ideas, but tracks like “Uptight General” represent Biafra or Mike Anderson fronting Dead & Gone with the distortion turned off and drums excised. Oh, and Maria Minerva is manning the synth-pads. I’m getting just a flutter of folk too, particularly in cuts like “Water Burns,” along with a whiff of Religious Knives I wasn’t expecting. The Haute Magie crew would be all over this one, bet on that. Then the Dead Reptile Shrine shrieks come in and I feel like giving up. Must… find common thread; nothing to hold onto… And how! The flip might deliver even more zing-zang for your hard-earned clam, Official Waste proving to test the endurance of even the most steadfast trance-seeker. Could have done without such an emphasis on the deadpan vocals; what can you do? It’s forgivable, and not just because of the nice see-through orange wax. Call it what you will, Ancestral Diet seize the moment with an iron fist.

Links: Torrid Orb / Saxwand

Amen Dunes

Spoiler

[LP; Perfect Lives]

The sparse nature of Through Donkey Jaw was quickly supplanted by the Jah psychedelia of “Ethio Song.” Now Damon McMahon does another trick with the catch-all Spoiler. Three hundred pieces of memorabilia of a bygone era; trinkets of experiments and half-thoughts before, during, and after Through Donkey Jaw that shake with uncertainty. But it’s why McMahon’s work is so enduring — that quivering delight at starring into the unknown and sharing it with those of us without a clue. Moments of musique concrète (“Camels in Amsterdam”), raw guitar repetition (“Watching Cartoons”), and oblique prog (“The Night I Joined the Navy”) are as confessional as they are confusing, just as any Amen Dunes fan would want. The only enigma these days are those dreamed up by those who can’t go with the flow. As antiquated an idea, it’s the crux of Spoiler. It’s challenging but not anymore so than Dark Souls or cinéma vérité. The only losing proposition — the only one ever prospered by McMahon–is to those who ignore his work and fear repeated deaths attempting enlightenment. If you fear abstraction, you cannot tread here. For everyone else, meet your equally confused tour guide as you are lead into the recesses of…

Links: Amen Dunes

Best Available Technology

Bangers & Ash

[12-inch; Styles Upon Styles]

Finally some of that dirty UK techno is hitting the misty shores of Cerberus! Only this ain’t London, this be New York, so strap on your heavy boots and get ready to lay some rusty pipe. Best Available Technology use sides A and B to create a captivating contrast that pits more experimental electronic sounds (A) against crowd-pleasing 4/4 bliss (B). If you’ve been reading Cerbs for any amount of time at all you know which side of the fence we’re going to fall on, but both serve a worthy purpose. Bangers & Ash covers a lot of ground for a 45 RPM 12-inch (which, incidentally, weighs a metric ton), particularly amid the gruesome sound-blurs of “Venom, Pheromone, and Phosphorus” and “Vulgar Geometry,” when I can’t help but bring up the synth blurs of Metasplice once again and marvel at how few acts cut to the core of techno quite like B.A.T. Hopefully this is just a tiny finger-dab taste of a dealer’s ransom to come.

Links: Best Available Technology - Styles Upon Styles

Mariposa

Holy Ghost

[CS; Bridgetown Records]

Madeline Johnston, tape sorceress of Denver’s Tinyamp Records, dropped a real stunner for Bridgetown this past summer, one that has segued itself nicely into Autumn with an unimaginably soft touch and reverb-soaked everything gently drifting down, down, down; to the ground, to your body. Or deeper, really, this is surface-digging stuff, ballads with a voice and a guitar, simple lyrics repeated in trance-like chants to get all the way under the skin. Paper-thin, bare-boned and beautiful, Mariposa at once seems like she is barely there while also having a miraculously robust and powerful presence. Her voice is a snowflake — fragile, complex, ready to melt. Guitar chords swaying gingerly between two chords are winds, rustling the leaves or rocking the empty tire swing. But none of it is quite as chilly as I’ve described either. Holy Ghost feels like a familiar place, a dwelling you’ve occupied for years, full of fleece blankets and fireplaces, maybe a photograph or two — tools are simple and sparse, there for survival and nothing in excess or unneeded. “Did you ever feel at home inside this house?” Johnston asks waist-deep into side-B, and it’s not exactly an easy question to answer, let alone comprehend.

Links: Mariposa - Bridgetown Records

German Army

German Army

[LP; Skrot Up]

The more tapes/LPs I hear from German Army the more convinced I am that they are slowly decamping to a climate not unlike that explored, previously and currently, by Edward Ka-Spel. The misty fields, essentially spoken dialogues, seemingly aimless instrumentals (which, conversely, are anything but), and bleak landscapes reek of Legendary Pink Dots’ founder. My only question is where is this all going? German Army have slain so many enemies on the post-post-post-punk battlefield you wonder if they’re going to go the way of Disco Inferno and disappear before the population at-large can hear them. That would be a dick-kicking shame, as the swirling, colder-than-ice environs they cocoon us in are more comfortable than my descriptions would suggest. How does one express anger/dissatisfaction without screaming one’s brains out? Listen to German Army and find out, and don’t worry; the material is out there if you know where to look (i.e. Skrot Up, yo!).

Links: Skrot Up
  

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.