Daughters of the Sun

Ride to Die

[LP; Not Not Fun]

Sit down kids, and I’ll tell you a tale of Not Not Fun. The L.A. label was once home to unimaginable psychedelic romps from a host of whippersnappers who have now gone on to do others things. Most of those other things are far more silky or poppy than those days of yonder, but the pioneer spirit is still strong. But I grew older and tethered to walls. I was no longer a dancing man, though still coiled like a snake at a good rhythmic beat. But in the midst of all the molly’d goodness rode Daughters of the Sun. They reminded me of those brightly colored times of Robedoor, Pocahaunted, and Topping Bottoms. Theirs a primal energy tapped into the root of Not Not Fun’s grungy heyday. NNF has had its share of those heydays and all have been parties that I have happily witnessed but as you’ll soon find out for yourselves, nostalgia is a powerful drug. It will lead you down paths you should never wander again but sometimes you’ll open that wardrobe door or dormant clock and catch just enough of a whiff to get you high on your past life. Ride to Die is my patchouli-soaked return to glory. It’s nag champa goodness that unravels like the strands of time before me. Why am I sitting in this rocking chair regaling you with tales of the old when they are here again. Stop playing your pipes, charmer, I’m busting out of here with venomous teeth and striking out into the wilderness once more. Go play, kids. Go play.

Links: Not Not Fun

Japanese Breakfast

American Sounds and Where is My Great Big Feeling

[CS; Seagreen Records]

I get the feeling that my brain was built to annoy people. Routinely I am told talking to me is frustrating, I talk elliptically or listing to me is like wading through 45 minutes of expositional dialogue just to get to the plot. Which actually sheds some light on why I like Japanese Breakfast; it’s 32 minutes of ADHD, nigh-schizophrenic experimentation, that will make some listeners squint in concern at their speakers. It all opens with “The Woman That Loves You” bumping a nicely synthetic beat, then a queasy 360 with buried, fuzzy vocals on “Jane Cum” that are perfect for pulling a blanket up under your chin. “Oh, okay it’s like if Grouper had a little pop-music baby,” is pretty much where your brain is right now. But your brain is wrong and bad and “Pure Handjob,” “My Mommy is Sick” and “Saturday Night 2046” will correct its shortsighted wrongness. The whole thing leaves a kind of giddy uncertainty behind, like the minutes after saying goodbye on a first date. Everything was a little too short, you want more again, but you are not even sure of how much more.

Links: Japanese Breakfast - Seagreen Records

Violent Change

Celebration of Taste

[LP; Melters]

I’d like to think we’re all Velvet Underground somehow. That Reed and Warhol’s legacy wasn’t turning pop culture on its head but exposing it for what it really is 40 years ahead of the curve: everyone’s plaything. It goes beyond the 15 minutes of fame because that’s easy to accomplish with the wealth of reality programs and internet hoopla any ambitious spotlight hoarder drums up, but the notion that your imprint can be seen for years after you’ve long grown tired of participation in pop culture is of great strength and perhaps even a bit noble. Violent Change is not Kanye Kardashian levels of big ass and ego in wet cement but rather conduits to the legacies of those before them. A lo-fi, #nofilter, sea change of buzz clips and cancelled Jools Holland appearances. The transmissions from hallowed garages and hollowed crypts. You’ve heard this all before. But this isn’t a tribute. The truth is in the title: Celebration of Taste. It’s taken nigh 40 years for these static sounds to reach the surface of pop culture. There will always be some new fad or fashion to try to beat it back down, but it can’t be tamed any longer.

Links: Melters

Poison Girls

Hex

[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

Chameleon

[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

Oldmate

It Is What It Is

[LP; SDZ]

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

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.