Armure

Armure

[CS; Crudités]

Ooh! Aaaah! Oh! Tape-poppin’ fresh… D’OH??? Yes, that’s a Homer Simpson reference, employed to communicate the surprise I felt upon dropping Armure’s self-titled tape like an acid tab. This ain’t drone or experimental noise, this is NZ-style, drumless punk and yet another example of an underground artist that reminds me a lot of the unknown savant that is Timur Bimp Jones. If Siltbreeze hasn’t started sniffing around this entity a little then this brand of cracked sonics is more widespread than I thought, either that or no one’s signing anyone anymore and SDZ is basking in the fertile fruits. What I want to express more than anything is how unique this plodding, meandering cassette is. Just imagine it: The universe is stripped down to its base elements, all of us perish and the only one left is Tibo Padlock, armed with a four-track recorder, all the time in the world, and no one to share his music with but the god that has deserted him. What does he do? Why he gets the-fuck busy of course, albeit in a maddeningly deliberate manner. This is the closest thing I’ve heard to those old Ariel Pink recordings made with little but mouth-drums and a two-string guitar, but it’s truly a whole different dimension of sound. Old Kurt Vile (there’s no other brand of Vile in the Purdum household) also factors in on the lofi basement-folk tip, with just a shred of Pumice thrown in. It’s good to be alive, so let’s celebrate by sounding dead!

Links: Crudités

Opaline

Projector Mapping

[CS; Phinery]

I like a good synth album that occupies neither space or time. One that doesn’t seem beholden to some concept of science-fiction. It’s getting harder and harder not because of artistic horizons shrinking, but because of hangdog ears and a synapses that associates synthesizers with the relics of retro-futurism. It hurt to type that word, I apologize. But before we crusade against such a nega-term (as we did with hypanogogic), may I suggest Projector Mapping as the music for our march? It’s adventurous and not of this era, though to peg it as some Kubrick nightmare or Hawking dream seems disingenuous to Opaline. What we have here is a ambient pop album akin to R.O.B. Proof positive that synthesizers are not tied to one specification of sound. And though there have been many synth crashes to scare off the masses, those of us who have stuck around to rebuild find new relics such as Projector Mapping by which to restore our faith in the versatile instrument. So those of you still stuck in some teenage idea of synth as sci-fi instrument, I present to you a reason why infantile thinking still makes you think misogyny and super cars are the best things since sliced bread (and you think that phrase is still awesome). Audi 500.

Links: Phinery

Ramzi

Bébites

[CS; Pygmi Animals]

Ramzi is an odd bird. And I mean that it’s like she’s an actual bird from an alien world. Web-toed, a protruding proboscis, an un-fanned mane of neon pink and green feathers fluffing from her neck in a proud, vibrant display. It’s beautiful and intriguing to be certain, but don’t get too close! This bird’s aggressive, too. Nervous, jerky swings of the neck, threats to strike at any given moment. All this translates musically into a bulbous beat that feels like it’s constantly in reverse throughout this Bébites tape, brought to a rubbery boil in the humid, sweat-drenched tar pits of the planet from where our dear Phoebé Guillemot brings us her field report. Dance rhythms dirty enough to get all that unsavory alien anatomy positively sweating, oozing and secreting is intoxicating musk, its alluring stench, its mating call, hypnotizing everyone within earshot to sway and bob and wiggle the body about in weird ways. Everything is all squishy, like your ears can feel the synths and push back into them, change their shapes. You poke at this music almost as much as it pokes you back. You listen to it all through a microscope, observing the atoms of a synthesizer having their own little dance party. Oh, and some scrambled radio/TV-signal vocal samples thrown in there to really make you wonder… are these aliens spying on us, or what? Stealing our way of funk, warping the word and sound, molesting it with their toxic, perverted fingers?

All right then, so what, should I make an assessment about this? Some of Ramzi’s best stuff here, and I think there’s better yet to come. Scary good.

Links: Ramzi - Pygmi Animals

Persona La Ave

Temptation/Relation

[CS; MJMJ]

Can we finally be honest with each other? By this I mean, let’s accept the fact that: Most modern artists expect to never have to deal with criticism, not because they’re averse to it but because they’ve never had to deal with it in the first place and wouldn’t know it if they saw it. What does that mean for someone like me, who started delving into this madness around the turn of the century, back when everything didn’t get a four-star review (on this site and on every site) and rather than tell you about what’s good we, as reviewers, were charged with telling you what’s good but also what’s bad. That’s a key difference, and I can’t personally even remember the last time I trashed a band. These days I just avoid the shitty stuff because there’s too much out there; shining a light on the dregs only wastes valuable time as we hurtle ourselves at the void that is our inevitable death. Persona La Ave occupy a specific spot in the deep-Web universe, and have probably never been ill-reviewed. And while I definitely DON’T love Makonnen (bet you didn’t see THAT coming) I can tolerate what Temptation/Relation is attempting to achieve because it goes about its future-funk-in-the-age-of-robots-inculcated-with-strange-whiffs-of-hypnagogia with extreme care and skill. A lot of it sounds like a strange workout video from the 80s to me, but then again at least half of the videos we premiere on this very site sound like that to me so we’ll just have to deal with it. I think the extra ingredient that gets lost in the shuffle is the soul invested in this quirky, kooky material. It’s quite earnest and you can intrinsically sense the whole package means a lot to both the artist and the label (in this case I know this from experience, as MJMJ isn’t a label that will let you ignore it, never a bad thing!). I wish I had more for you on this one; the Persona La Ave machine is extremely well-oiled, and as a result I feel like it doesn’t need my lube as much as others do. Still, see that this un-squeaky wheel gets a little more grease, as I’ve listened to Temptation/Relation over and over and liked it a little more each time. That’s kind of what this whole thing is about…

Links: Persona La Ave

Zach Phillips

New Cartoons

[CS; Gnar]

For a guy whose label is releasing something like 13 cassettes and vinyls right now Zach Phillips knows how to search out the deepest corners of the cobwebbed attic that is his head, always allowing time for what’s important. New Cartoons is another sicker-than-sick tape from this fucker, and like each one before it, it’s my favorite-so-far-even-though-I-say-that-every-time and stuff. But you probably knew that already. But would it interest you to know Phillips’ lyrics and songwriting display more maturity this time around? Or that despite this progress, he’s still the edgiest piano-tinkling fool in the tape game, tweaking all sorts of nipples, often in ways I can’t rightly identify… It’s the most whimsical music you’ll find that also has a complicated, shot-out component to it, not to mention the fact that Phillips is well-versed in theory and teaches piano lessons and so forth. What’s scary to me is New Cartoons hews close to The White Album in spots; so much jaded beauty to be found, and I’m horrified many of you will never get the chance to hear it. Let’s change that, starting NOW: Listen to the sound sample doubtlessly included below, and visit good ol’ Phil-lipz himself over at OSR Tapes. He’ll be expecting you!

Links: Zach Phillips

Brother JT

Lo Bias Hi Noise

[CS; Summersteps]

A 15-year collection of lo-fi recordings that puts your right at home with the familiar 1980s typeset of Lo Bias Hi Noise’s cover. A cornucopia of festive rock music from the Philadelphia (non) fakeout. There’s not a (Cleveland) steamer to be found. Each song features a wallop to the back of the neck; JT delivering a donkey punch to the slumbering corpses of yore. Wake up! Get your heads back in the game! Rock is not dead, just a catch phrase for shock jocks and past-their-prime VJs to ask to musicians who no longer get it. But our Brother gets it. Each song on Lo Bias Hi Noise a daisy chain of ecstasy.

Links: Summersteps

Dylan Shearer

Garagearray

[LP; Empty Cellar/Castle Face]

My first instinct upon hearing Garagearray is doubtlessly going to be disappointing to those who read my rave-up on Dylan Shearer’s last record, but I have to put this out there: If it sounded like he was sinking in quicksand circa Porchpuddles, now he’s fucking DROWNing, and it’s tough not to worry just a bit. Is he OK? And while I think the music suffers just a smidge for the downcast mood, this is still, bar-none, the most beautiful solo-acoustic songwriting you’ll find, right up there with Damon McMahon, John Dwyer’s quieter work as OCS (don’t worry, it was before you were a fan), and a few others on my list of bluesy, sadly unrecognized post-millennium masters. And while Garagearray doesn’t contain the dizzying peaks of Porchpuddles, it’s more consistently engaging, buttressed by the presence of Petey Dammit and that guy that used to drum for Comets On Fire. Every single song is a weepy winner, evoking so much emotion you’ll have to stop and consider why his voice disturbs you so. I mean, yes, I think the sadness causes one to stop and listen closer, but there’s something more lurking in Shearer’s larynx, a powerful antidote to passionless living. I’m having trouble expanding upon this thought, and the best artists do that to me; all my tricks of the music-dude trade fail to stick, all my too-practiced descriptors and jargon falling by the wayside like ashes from a bobbing smoke cradled in a bike-riding San Franciscan’s mouth. Now, I told you all about how Shearer most closely resembles Syd Barrett (and I’ve reinforced this opinion through people I trust, blind taste test-style, so don’t fuck with me) last time around, and I noticed a few un-creative writers read that review and decided to present a weak rejoinder or two, tossing out names like Ray Davies (utter shite) and Kevin Ayers (damn, not so bad). In light of that, allow me to reiterate my original point: Shearer doesn’t sound like Barrett, he just happens to effortlessly channel what Barrett might have gotten around to if he had emerged at the other end of his trip. I think that just about sums it up…

Links: Empty Cellar/Castle Face

Campbell Kneale / Antony Milton / Kiyoharu Kuwayama

CKAMKK

[LP; Pseudo Arcana]

Birchville Cat Motel and A.M. (aka Antony Milton) toured together in 2006, and at some point decided to record a few eternal drones together in a studio in Japan. Being ahead of the drone curve as they were (you didn’t see it everywhere until a few years later) it’s amazing how current this tasty lathe-cut LP sounds. Campbell Kneale, Milton, and Kiyoharu Kuwayama achieved a sacred space that oddly seems perfectly suited for the lathe format because there’s no NOT hearing the performance, no matter how much a bit of hiss might obscure it. Soft melodic detritus and deep, uneasy tones gel handily with furious bouts of cello and bowed-guitar, and… frankly I’m not at liberty to tell you exactly what they do to get those shrieking-donkey/rubber-duckie noises, nor those electric crackles (though I’m guessing a guitar input jack might have played a role?), nor a lot of other things I can’t identify. The proceedings get seriously evil about 1/4 through the flip, almost like a Crucial Blast CD-R-only release or Ultramarine cassette. Jesus, the girth of the drone groove is massive throughout, but this nightmare doom on Side B is deeper than a water well; CKAMKK burrows into the skull like a right-angle drill, with ‘CK,’ ‘AM,’ and ‘KK’ killing it on all cylinders. I have a thing for lathe-cuts so, you know, I uh, appreciate that such a great long-running enterprise like PseudoArcana is putting so many out (stay tuned for more on those, including a record by Keijo and 7-inch by Samin Sun; speaking of which, a record I won’t be able to Cerb about, Pororari River Mouth by Paintings Of Windows, also on Pseu-Arc, is fucking brilliant; A.M. strikes again!), though… Sixty copies? That’s not enough, you ragamuffins! Yet it’s somehow appropriate that only five-dozen of us will get to feel what I’m feeling right now.

Links: Pseudo Arcana

The Pen Test

Interstate

[LP; Moniker]

My wife loved the pen that accompanied the latest Pen Test LP that she stole it from me. As penance for my greed at coveting the object myself, I ‘punished’ myself by listening to Interstate on repeat, searching for a stray though to connect a previous review to a new one. But I felt that would be wrong, because Interstate stands on its own. Not an easy feat when your head is swelled 20 minutes long with the titular track. It’s a hypnotic and not entirely too removed from the dreamlike stasis of the band’s recent 7-inch and yet it sounds like reveille. But where the head is heavy with deep thought, the album’s feet are locked in strident movement. The four quick steps post-“Interstate” are dancers. They unpin the wallflower, and force it into spastic candor. A band proving itself to be unafraid of deep thought and indulgent pleasure.

Links: Moniker

U Sco

Treffpunkt

[12-inch; New Atlantis]

GAAAAH! New Atlantis, I’m so sorry we lost touch because you recently made my month. So much top-tier stuff in 2014 alone, much less the last few years. I always wonder where they find their talent. U Sco? What the fuck kind of band name is that? All is answered once the needle hits the crevices of Treffpunkt and those churning piles of bass, drums, and guitar rip through your pulsating woofers. I don’t want to oversell the aggression, because U Sco can go softer and even a littly jazz-ish, but the modus operandi is absolute peanut butter-jelly SQUISH-SQUASH with these fellas. Lots of little flourishes and playful winks, with a hint of speed-dose up and Up and UPPP!!! I hate referencing Don Caballero twice in one week but there it is; also Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (old solo stuff), Upsilon Acrux; you know, the regulars. I figured Mick Barr would be a good call as a reference, guitar-wise, though this guy plays his six-string closer to the vest, investing in linear riffs and breaks while fulfilling his rhythmic duties aptly. The bassist gets a little flashy, but I’ll forgive it because I’m a drummer; if I were a bassist I’d be suckin’ this guy’s dick. Oh, and that’s the thing: The drummer absolutely SHREDS up his kit like a chopped lettuce salad and tops it all off with atmosphere when need-be. These Portland boys, they just don’t stop, it seems, as every time I turn around there’s another noteworthy metal/indie/noise/etc. band emerging from the rainiest damn city I’VE ever dealt with.

Links: New Atlantis
  

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.