Peter J. Woods

Impure Gold Pt. 2

[LP; Experimental Milwaukee]

I have to say right off the bat that the approach taken by Peter Woods on his second entry in the Impure Gold series almost NEVER works. Detached narration is a tough pill to swallow, even when all systems are GO-GO-GO otherwise, so for Woods to crack the code is noteworthy in and of itself. But there’s more to Impure Gold Pt. II than this achievement, as he’s created an ode to the noise gods, creepy yet defiant in the face of convention. (Incidentally, I’m listening to this in my record room late at night as I write this and I swear to you that my French doors just rattled creepily for no reason. And there couldn’t be a worse album for an unnerving occasion such as this. It reminds me of the time my wife passed out at a Xiu Xiu show, or when my daughter said “Who’s that?” pointing to an empty room while a spine-tingling Current 93 album spun on my player; music can be terrifying.) Woods is prone to sudden BLASTS from the furnace to shake up the quiet a la John Wiese, and he also can make the mountains rumble with throbbing avalanches of sound, both necessary traits for experimental musicians. And yet the moments I prize take place in that isolated cabin up North, wherein this Milwaukee prodigal son speaks his truth while high hats flail and random noises threaten the peace. I’ve heard records that sound technically better this year, but not any that hypnotize the ear like the first half of “Skin and Movement,” not to mention the haunting piano straight out of Eyes Wide Shut that bolsters the anything-but “Comedy.” All-original, cult classic, art edition available; what else do you need to know?

Links: Experimental Milwaukee


7 (or 8)

[LP; Kill Rock Stars]

The (virtual) reams spent on the “Seattle sound” are astonishing. It should all just boil down to the collective catalog of Kinski, a band itself founded on an argument to prove out an idea. The band has somehow found its way onto Pacific Northwest labels still fostering the variants of whatever passes for the Seattle sound. It’s as if the band will never shake Seattle nor will Seattle ever shake them. 7 (or 8) is another in a long line of loud, rough and tumble rock that isn’t quite indie, never alternative, and grungy only to those still stuck in fashionable flannel. So why stick Kinski with a label that is heavily disputed in a tired and aging fight? Because they still carry the banner without waving it like a homer. They are fans of the home team but they understand its faults and choose wisely to avoid them. 7 (or 8) is typical Seattle from a time that no longer exists (to most people, Seattle is now Fleet Foxes, The Hand and the Heart, Macklemore and fossils from grunge…), but Kinski never dwell on that past. Whatever came out of alternative (post-alternative?) became failed stadium rock. And though “I Fell Like a Fucking Flower,” has a riff straight out of “Vasoline,” its ties to those ancient days of rock and roll ruling the airwaves is thin. Kinski is always a favored band within Seattle because they exemplify the hard work and continuous evolution of a tough nosed, blue collar city that has been eclipsed by capitalists and capitalizers. But they represent the soul – the underground of Seattle. And by Underground, I mean the one with speakeasys, prostitution, and pirateering that hides beneath the cobbled streets of Pioneer Square. It’s a buried past that you can pay to experience, but you’re just visiting. But Kinski live there, toiling away to do what they must to prove out their theories on what still passes as rock. So not only do Kinski stand for the mythical Seattle sound that was but a slogan with little substance for two decades, they stand as one of the last visages of rock and roll as a viable, ever-changing medium. It may not have a place at the table now but it will again, and Kinski will be the cockroach deep inside the caverns that has survived it all, after we’ve talked so much about nothing that all the oxygen has been wasted.

Links: Kinski - Kill Rock Stars

Shearing Pinx

Poison Hands

[LP; Gilgongo]

It’s been a long, long, long time since their heyday but anyone remotely familiar with TMT or, well, me, knows that Shearing Pinx were a huge part of my initial baptism into the tape underground. They used to zip those things out with alarming regularity, but they also saw the future through their cracked lenses and put out a lot of vinyl (not to mention CD-Rs, 7-inches, 10-inches, lathes; pretty much anything you can imagine) too. It’s tempting to think along the lines of, “Well, if ShxPx didn’t break through to the mainstream at all what was the point of their dozens of releases?” Well, for one, when you rule all kinds of ayse for so long, folks begin to take notice, such as James Fella, purveyor of fine vinyls in the form of Gilgongo Records. Like me, he’s a longtime Pinxist, and as a serious appreciator he’s taken on the challenge of keeping the memory of this gr(e)at(ing) band alive, starting with a split 7-inch with Soft Shoulder last year and continuing with Poison Hands, which originally was, get this, a DOUBLE 3-INCH CD-R on Not Not Fizzy back in 2006. Ahh, the format warz. Anyhoo, you should get a grip and rip this sucker to your mainframe before you, once again, miss out on the chance to get your brain sheared to a crisp. Poison Hands has everything one could want from a ShxPx project: Incisive riffing, active, fluid drumming, myriad breakdowns (and down-breaks), a schtickle of noise, and there you have it. Pissed Jeans, Das Oath, the SYR series, and a lot of other bands you probably haven’t learned enough about, factor in either as precedents or antecedents. Please don’t be afraid to learn the ways of the lung-scorchers…

Links: Gilgongo

Sunny Dunes


[CS; ((Cave))]

The darkwave scene that has enraptured France (and by proxy, Montreal) has been a sensual, but artistically lofty proposition. It’s blending that animal desire to romance with the equally feral response to new horizons. The genre’s best artists are finding themselves looking past what they can see. Sunny Dunes is no different, recalling the pop energies of Froe Char’s synthetic sine waves with the ebon chill of Marie Davidson’s recent noir. But Emmastaete takes a sharp right away from pop sensibilities with two long form pieces of shadowy isolation. Emmastaete has the Cold War seeping from its pits; pheromones of the cagey exploits and backdoor politics of a bygone era re-emerging at the turn of the century. It’s as lustful and provocative as darkwave kin. It does not, however, bow to any greater notions of man than its most animalistic totem. That the art of espionage, of passion, and of survival is not artistic at all, it’s mandatory. Does this make Sunny Dunes un-artistic or an artist with the sharpest canvas?

Links: ((Cave))

The Coolies


[LP; Feeding Tube]

The drips of releases from The Coolies is what makes Kaka such a stark listen from the moment the needle drops. The album cover, riddled with re-appropriated tags and taggings, speaks to the graffiti laced energy of Kaka. A band active since the late-90’s, Kaka is just as punkish and reckless as the band’s first impressions on New Zealand voyeurs. The album is ramshackle in the best way, maintaining an edge precisely because The Coolies are, well, cool. It feels like the trio were just hanging out, began jamming on some ideas, and out came an album that sounds haphazardly thrown together at first, but uncovers its true intricacies with a bit more prodding. Kaka is anything but shit, though the band is certainly achieving some artistic argument in line with Manzoni where consumerism, market demands and free license battle. But then again, that’s a cool debate that is won on style points. Case in point: Kaka. The Coolies will defecate when and where they want, and those of us that find scatological satisfaction in New Zealand scene watching will go two girls one cup on this.

Links: Feeding Tube

Mike Nigro

Mental Thaw

[CS; A Giant Fern]

It seems to me like Mike Nigro is everywhere lately, but then again I might just know where to look more than most (i.e.: 2 AM Tapes, Nigro’s own Oxtail label, etc.) for tape-ists with the ability to drop multiple morsels without drop-offs in quality. Mental Thaw, Nigro’s latest, betrays a restless, caffeinated sensibility, hyper-synth sequences and little match-scratches flaring out over bubbly bass. Or at least that’s the case with the first of Mental Thaw’s two tracks, “Cyprus”; “Reverse Telecine” fits into more of a drone phylum. It could represent a plane lifting above clouds, digital insects crawling in your ear or the sounds you hear when you finally walk through the tunnel of death (scary to think we’ll all do it someday, no?) … What’s most important is taking the journey and allowing Nigro to seep into your head over the full 30 minutes. If you do, you’ll see the details are less important than the ride.

Links: A Giant Fern

Angelo Harmsworth

Cerrillos Disco

[LP; Lime Lodge]

The elegant simplicity of Santa Fe based Lime Lodge is hard to explain. The clean white; the exploration of silence versus static; the gravity of weightlessness. It’s a beauty only seen on dusty, burnt orange sunsets in the still of the desert. Where life should not be, it crops up and thrives. It’s no coincidence that Cerrillos Disco is a chosen release in Lime Lodge’s first batch. It, too, mimics the harsh, yet attractive landscape of the Southwest. It begins its life in a dry, wavy heat. It scorches the turntable with its noisy pestilence before melting away for the splendor of the sand and sky meeting at a point only known to the heavens. It’s no coincidence, considering Angelo Harmsworth, head honcho of Lime Lodge, walks into the desert of his own creation, unafraid of the vision quest laid before him. Don’t be scared, because now it’s your turn. Just stare hard as the swirling wind of white vinyl opens your third eye.

Links: Lime Lodge

Drawing Trees & Ant’lrd

Balanced Breakfast


The best albums induce a physical reaction to match the emotional. Balanced Breakfast is that type of success, bringing with it a mild cool in the midst of summer’s last heatwave. A quaint white kitchen, popping with the bright colors of drying towels, washcloths and colorful china. A contempt attempt at capturing the zen of the day; indeed a balancing act of strange sounds and traditional melodies into a a complete part of our morning ritual. Drawing Trees dominates the morning conversation; the dotting mother of yore busily fixing breakfast, kick starting the day’s chores and playing to the orchestration of simple machines making complicated tasks less stressful. Ant’lrd has more concentrated passages, dad picking out interesting headlines and phrases from the newspaper. The children all run around, making clank from pots and pans. And though this wholesome picture is but a fractured fairy tale of modern reality, it’s captured here in all its glory without usurping the equality of the household. Mother has her work and opinions, father as well. The kids? With ignorance comes bliss. And I stare at this lonely Pop Tart, wondering where it all went awry…

Links: BARO

Vacant Life

Pain Compliance

[7-inch; Iron Lung]

Another column, another tough choice: Do I continue to let Iron Lung releases invade my life like a rebel force? In the case of this Vacant Life 7-inch, there was no doubt that it had to happen yet again. “Pain Compliance” is a sharp shard of hardcore punk, recorded with the utmost lack of care. Most glaring is how much ground these boys cover over four short songs. “Clairvoyant” kicks right into fourth gear like a demented modern version of “Monster Zero” as interpreted by, say, Okie Dokie, letting you know right away the sort of fun Vacant Life have during their time off. “Erasure” plays the punk role for a second before snapping off into a chorus far removed from its parameters; I don’t even know what to call that, but it meshes well considering the halting changes in tempo required. The barking vocals on this one freak me out, simply put. On the flip, “Control” starts slow, slips back into frantic, arms-flailing hardcore mode, then drives it all home with a slamming breakdown. “Press Gang” is another modern track that, to me, hearkens back to that first Racebannon records, but I’m sure someone out there is ensconced enough in these genres to take me to task. In any event, pick this up along with the Scumraid 7-inch for a quick fix of violent venom.

Links: Iron Lung

Demonstration Synthesis


[CS; Sacred Phrases]

First, a word of note: I can’t get enough of Daniel Leznoff’s Demonstration Synthesis. A Cerberus stalwart for nearly two years, I felt it was wise to push back against the sheer scope of his release schedule and let the material breath. I ingested his releases without writing reviews, because they left me speechless. I had hoped that people would come to DS themselves and discover a blossoming personality that is truly taking synthesizers to all points of the universe without falling into the orbital pull of extraterrestrial expansion. So far, Leznoff has found a way to keep his musings grounded, with is the appeal of many of his releases. So why break radio silence for DS22? It’s going to sound like a broken record but Leznoff has topped himself again. Visiting pop, rock, dance and Kubrick’s vision of the future all in the space of a single cassette, DS22 is a wizened piece of synthesized art. Though not as cohesive as past DS compendiums, that does not work against DS22. Rather than a greatest hits or some thrown together primer on his “best” work up until this point, Leznoff does what he has always done: reinvent. The purpose of his multitude is to show growth, and perhaps even in a scholarly method, present said growth. The synthesizer is often stuck in time, but Leznoff is one of the few (and yes, it really is a very small pool) who understands an instrument is just a tool that can bend will and emotion into art. Leznoff is always reaching to that next goal, so as stellar and magnificent DS22 may be, it’s not going to last. So if you’re still not on board, there will be other stops to jump on this always moving bandwagon.

Links: Sacred Phrases

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.