Günter Schlienz / Kyle Landstra / N Chambers / Cliffsides

Swim Trunks

[2xCS; Space Slave Editions]

With just a sliver of summer remaining, you still have time to don these Swim Trunks and take one last deep sea plunge before you pack up the cats for winter. And who should be waiting for you at poolside but a formidable foursome, though they promise they just want to rub sunscreen on your back and scribble love letters in Lisa Frank notebooks about Davy Jones because he’s so dreamy. But then they serenade you with four songs so far underwater that you can’t help but blush a little at the attention. Günter has the sweetest lullaby, that it makes falling asleep on a lounge chair in the midday sun a worthy proposition. Kyle and Norm are night owls, waiting for the sun to begin its descent before feeling comfortable enough to jump in the water and go for a swim. Cliff may be the weirdest but sexiest. He avoids the water, rarely makes eye contact, and whenever I pass him the notebook for him to take his turn at M.A.S.H.; he seems bored of the idea. But I caught him last night, dipping his toes into the water and splashing about when no one was looking. I get it, he’s a little shy and plays hard to get. But what they don’t realize is that summer is fading and it’ll be time to leave poolside, to say goodbye to camp, and head back to the city for school and heartache. But at least I’ll still have their Swim Trunks as innocent mementos of our fleeting time together.

Links: Space Slave Editions

Vertonen

“HACE/26,250’” b/w “11° 22.4’N 142° 35.5’E”

[LP; Misanthropic Agenda]

There’s nothing like owning an immensely heavy, sleek slab of wax and knowing that only 200-or-so other people own it. But there’s a rub, and it lies therein: Not enough people are going to get the chance to enjoy this fuckin’ thing, man. Don’t take that statement lightly, either. A metric-ton of disposable dronoise LP clog the indie caves in which we dwell, but “HACE/26,250’” b/w “11° 22.4’N 142° 35.5’E”, by Vertonen, is not one of them. In fact, it’s one of the best examples of the artform I’ve ever heard, consistently enchanting, loud and ominous, flecked with just enough light to keep you peering to the tops of the trees, and eery enough to haunt your soul. Blake Edwards owns a Russian Polivoks synthesizer and nurtures a deep conceptual framework, but as always I just want to hear interesting music, and he never loses sight of the ear even as he appeals to every other faculty. Side B is just short of terrifying and based on High Altitude Cerebral Edema, a condition wherein oxygen doesn’t travel to the brain, and the heaves and throbs of bass bring the track to breathing life before cruelly snuffing it out again amid harrowing harsh-noise soft-squeal and a doom-y drift. Eventually the chaotic audio debris bottlenecks into a surging stream of sorrow, thick with the mists of time.

Links: Misanthropic Agenda

Cool Ghouls

Cool Ghouls

[CS/LP; Burger/Empty Cellar]

I’ll never forget the way that little green turd from the cover of Ghoulies 2 stared back at me in the vibrant video-rental shops of Post Falls, Idaho; if movie covers could talk, that one would have said, “Good luck sleeping again, fucker!” That was then, this is now, and the Cool Ghouls are just like me: They wanna live a natural life. But what exactly does that entail in this day and age? (And are vinyls and cassettes ‘natural’?) Do we have to live in tents in the middle of fields to enjoy a consequence-free environment? I say no: Throw on Cool Ghouls and you can have your rock and beat it, too. Tuning in/out is easy when the chords swing in that psychedelic-rock ‘n’ roll style, the rhythms plod along satisfactorily, swimmingly you might even say, and the vocals, against all odds, hold up their end of the bargain melodically and lyrically. What’s amazing to me is how few comparisons I am ready to throw out there. Despite tiny pinches of this and that, Cool Ghouls’ sound is elusive. Production work from Tim Cohen is revealing, yet Fresh & Onlys aren’t what I would call a kindred spirit when the rubber hits the record. Some of those Nuggets bands possessed a similar guitar sound, and The Seeds/Byrds/Tyde certainly aren’t strangers to the CG abode, but I can’t in good conscience ‘name names’ beyond that. You’ll have to just trust me and the good people at Burger and Empty Cellar, reliable hands if there ever were ones.

Links: Cool Ghouls

Joy and Revolution

Synthophonic Lush

[CS; Singapore Sling]

Synthophonic Lush is totally an album you could have made. But you didn’t, did you? And you’re kicking yourself now, aren’t you? There are synthesizers on Synthophonic Lush, and voices — instruments of music making that require a certain skill set employable towards a common goal as a band to create a unique and beautiful work of art (in this case, an album, or more specifically, an album on cassette tape). And indeed Joy and Revolution has employed a technical prowess to whatever degree it needed to in order to achieve this mini-pop, micro-twee miracle of a tape… But still, you could have made it, and you didn’t. The point is that the melodies, lyrics and song structures (upon which this album hinge all but entirely) are all forehead-slappingly simple, and therein of course lies their true genius. From a shy and wispy girl who sounds like she could give about one-and-a-half damns come questions of morals and self-worth and love-lost that only she can answer, yet refuses to (although we adore hearing all about them), while repetitive verses of synth and electro-beats swing or sway or stomp or slink or saunter gingerly beneath, most often between a grand total of two chords each. And the end result is magnificently intoxicating: Dreamy, psychedelic, coma-inducing… As much for a night drive as it is for falling asleep to, or maybe doing nothing at all. Joy and Revolution put in an effort here that works really hard at sounding like it’s lazy.

Links: Joy and Revolution - Singapore Sling

John Thill

Water Wars

[CS; Juniper Tree]

I’m reminded of Ike Reilly, Donovan, Richard Buckner, and Jandek–a whole gamut of wonderfully odd but rudimentary folk-pop artists who bring out the best with simplicity. Water Wars is really that simple, running itself roughshod over sing-alongs that you don’t need to know the words to; air guitar strums you don’t yet have memorized. Thill is not a first timer; having amassed a lengthy catalog of wonderful releases and retrospectives but that he’s still brimming with three minute hooks is why I keep coming back. Even after I promised to give up name-checking, Thill makes me fail and I dare not care. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more jaunty punches at the air around my belly to make as I tear down the house to “Wild Iris.”

Links: Juniper Tree

Bird Names

Naming Names

[CD-R; self-released]

Thank Grohl this doesn’t suck because I love the presentation of Bird Names’ Naming Names: 105 copies, of which all are posted on the Bird Names site and available for the plucking. They look good too, honey-baby-mama, and the music therein is a wonderfully chaotic mix of hamhanded psych, spindly lofi indie, and outsider pop. It goes on forever too, never yielding a single piece of scabby fruit. Elephant 6, Happy Jawbone Family Band, Tonstartssbandht, fellow Vermont vermin Blanche Blanche Blanche, early Of Montreal, Avey Tare maybe, if you’re feeling lucky… get a potpourri going with those and huff the shit out of them while you stare at the colorful paintings on the cover. Then break your guitar to splinters and burn it because if there are bands this good in the deeeeeep underground your little vanity project isn’t going to mean dick. That Naming Names was recorded in Athens, Ga., is the final straw: Someone sign these fuckin’ guys or I’ll do it myself. A lot of people labor over ambitious, indulgent works like this and come out sounding as appealing as a grandma goat’s vagina, so when a lofty peak is reached in this area not paying attention is not an option. I sat on this one for a long time and paid the price; don’t make the same mistake I made, brothers.

Links: Bird Names

Marriage

For Brötzmann

[LP; Monofonus Press]

Lord, it’s been such a long time since I had this much fun listening to a record. (Am I allowed to say that as a douchebag critic? I know I am, I know…) It’s no surprise Marriage is full of history, most prominently Dischord’s Black Eyes, the outfit that also sorta birthed that fellow goin’ by the name Ital/Mi Ami. Not that Ital/Mi Ami have anything to do with what’s happening here. For Brötzmann represents the blessed union of “Shut the Door” bass lines and pounding, measured drum attacks, buttressed by bulbous bursts of noisy guitar and swarms of feedback and FX. There’s an emphasis on consistent noise current, and the rare instances of vocals reinforce the heaviness that’s already implied throughout the rest of the record. At times, when it gets right and roused, For Brötzmann is almost too good to be true, positively stomping down its myriad chord changes and fearlessly tattering the corners of taste and convention. I don’t see these as songs. They’re more like experiments that happened to be caught by a discerning engineer. Marriage approach rock with a complete lack of baggage and/or cynicism, such a rare feat in itself the obvious skills of all involved resemble but a bonus. Don’t miss this one, yo their uzi weighs a ton, etc. Three-hundred copies-large.

Links: Monofonus Press

Rangefinder

Night Ride

[CS; Bun Tapes]

Night Ride has traveled a long distance to reach my Walkman-cum-stereo but much like its physical adventure from Kokubunji, Japan to [PARTS UNKNOWN], the metaphysical journey of Will Long’s newest project absorbs all the scenic pastures and cityscapes, spewing them out in equal parts toxin and organic matter. Lush scenery is invaded by harsh technology, and though I flash to thoughts “Broken Household Appliance National Forest” as an ideology on which to base this tape, it’s a blind grasp. The only sonic relationship shared is a fondness for electronic-based pop, but Rangefinder is lighter in subject matter if sometimes darker in melody. As you might imagine, the album is a whiz of synthesized sounds hurling past at high speeds as moments of natural beauty slow down the chaotic trip across the global space of location. When I listen to Night Ride, I’m transported into the travels of this singular cassette through a wormhole of cultures. I’m picking up dialects and customs unbeknownst to me before its arrival. And though there’s a familiar tinge to the music, its exotic existence makes me think of Long and his transplanted life from that of rural America to Japan. So it seems only right that he would craft such a fulfilling and open-minded road mix that would spiritually complete his earthly trek back to his homeland. It seems so detached from his roots but so wholly aware of them. Or maybe this is just a good tape to put in your ‘92 Honda Civic and cruise to at night because who wants to be burdened with heady thoughts when you’re just looking for a good breezy buzz.

Links: Bun Tapes

Lazercrotch

Gemini Air Systems

[CS; Field Hymns]

I could very well be the only idiot within the walls of TMT’s CMS system who didn’t know what the fuck “skweee” was before getting this tape in the mail. Normally I wouldn’t think this to be such a big deal, what with micro-genres and made-up bullshit descriptors floating around music criticism all the time (fails and fouls of which your humble Strauss has ashamedly been guilty of in the past…). But this “skweee” thing, which apparently began in Sweden and Finland some years ago, seems legitimately established enough to the point that I’ll have to lick boot, realize that it’s its own thing, that it is strangely sexy and amazing, and that I am (one of) the moron(s) who just didn’t know that the thing existed. Sorry about that. For those of you in a similar camp to the one I found myself in before this Lazercrotch album arrived safely in my tape deck, I would invite them to reference this compilation as a primer, studiously assembled by one John Calvin Murphy, which is the name of the guy behind Lazercrotch and runs the USA’s premiere skweee export label Poisonous Gases.

Gemini Air Systems for Portland’s Field Hymns is the newest domestic statement in skweee and seems to exemplify the style: simple little melodies “squeezed” out of a set of synthesizers, harping on textures as yet unheard in the dance forum, all woven into pixelated funk grooves that are bent in such a way as to twist the mouth and raise a single eyebrow. Wiki cites the genre as a precursor to what dub-step has morphed into of late, and I think there’s a legitimate claim to be made there, but comparisons for Lazercrotch to something like Mouse on Mars or better yet FRAK and its similarly prickly rhythmic core might make more sense. What’s most amazing to me about Gemini Air Systems is the tape’s massive weight despite a notable lack of bass, letting subdivisions and syncopation define the beat for some undeniably punchy dance (that’s also catchy on the melody front: Bonus!). Long live skweee and its many e’s.

Links: Lazercrotch - Field Hymns

Brett Naucke

The Visitor

[LP; Nihilist]

Finally, we welcome Nihilist to the Cerberus fold, and what better artist to bring this union about than Brett Naucke, an experimental musician with a handful of releases to his name on labels like Arbor and Catholic Tapes, but no deluge by any means. The Visitor charts artists like Nihilist’s Andy Ortmann and Ben Vida on its way to celestial bliss, also retaining a healthy respect for pitch bends and synths that drip like liquid mercury. I used to imagine music like this sitting at my dad’s synths (a temporary fascination for him when I was like 12), and here it is, crystalline and delicate as the finest china. That’s “Sun Room,” anyway. Other portals lead to tunnels full of crickets and fast-scattering crabs, flapping wings, ominous thumps, croaking blobs of sound, and more of that sweet liquidity. At his best, Naucke structures his compositions as one would a drone, yet imbues them with lots of little fragments rather than an overarching throb. At his worst he obsesses over clankery more than necessary. There are far worse sins to commit, and the former far eclipses the latter, so seek this out. I would say you gotta get high to listen to this shit, but The Visitor might just take you there on its own. Drucq fugs.

Links: Nihilist
  

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.