Michael O.

Face the Facts EP

[7-inch; Fruits & Flowers]

Giving an honest representation of self in music is a fun exploration of id. But often it becomes a battle of ego, and we’re stuck with Mariah Carey insisting her lovers play her music while they make love or whatever the hell you call it when two filthy rich people have sex in a 46th floor loft full of candles without romance. But Michael Olivares spent that time in his Oakland…well, we don’t want to know what else he was doing but making sides that have lead to this 7-inch. Though focusing in on the quick one-two of the A, let’s first focus on the cover of Scorpions’ “Speedy’s Coming” on the B, because nothing is as honest as admitting to a less than flattering love of a band that hasn’t been hip since a Berlin Wall ballad 20-odd years ago. Olivares’ honest pop rendition is a carryover from the same crackling pop-rock from a bygone era that envelopes the two originals (the EP’s namesake and the sub-minute “Fear of Balance.” Again, there’s a genuine to feel to Face the Facts because as en vogue as it should be in a world of Real Estate and Beach Fossils, there’ still an earnest simplicity that makes this basement made EP just different enough that the freaks and geeks can gravitate toward it and claim it as their secret crush in 10-20 years when they continue to cycle of releasing their own truths from their own basements.

Links: Fruits & Flowers

Pulse Emitter

Equinox

[CS; Constellation Tatsu]

Who would have thought years ago that some of the synth effects we were hearing in the background of Tears For Fears tunes and that cut from the The Goonies soundtrack would be a focal element of so many underground LPs and tapes? I’m not complaining, either. I keep telling myself I won’t write about synth artists that have released a shit-glut of tapes and LPs on like two-dozen different labels, but what can I do when my spirit continues to be compelled despite its deep reservations about their oft-repetitive nature? I even remember sort of nodding to myself in agreement when Britt from Not Not Fizzy talked about how trendy underground music cycles can be. Yet here I am, praising Pulse Emitter/Daryl Groetsch to the sky, popping his tape in at home (which, fyi, sounds great for a tape, on four speakers too), and zoning out to his music at work. Groetsch is predictable but consistent, causing the ear(s) to prick up every time he sits at his keys, breathing life into the room. There’s a reason his name keeps popping up in the tape-tradin’ leagues, his having moved up to the majors years ago. So sit back and let the tones bake your big, chalky bones. Edition of 250, copies still available via friends-of-Cerb-life Constellation Tatsu.

Links: Constellation Tatsu

The Movies

American Oil

[CS; Spring Break Tapes]

Remember The Movies? If you don’t remember them from a decade ago when the California troupe was doing it’s thang, then at the very least you should remember that I wrote about the reissue of their debut, right? Because you, dear readers, read every single word that I write. Right? Right. Ok, didn’t mean to make that awkward there, but hey, listen up! Pay attention! This band was real good, see, and the wonderful Spring Break Tapes has made it a mission to let every boy and girl know just how good, hence we have the 2nd album from The Movies lovingly repackaged on a cassette tape with awesome landscaped album art in tow. While not as good as its predecessor, missing just a touch of that record’s built-in sweetness and melodic charm, American Oil still finds many moments of indie-pop brilliance – peppy drums drive the bus while punchy keys and strolling bass lines riff on some repeating rockers and singer Timothy James rambles on about the fact that he is Timothy James, being broke, forgetting lyrics, learning how to drive(?)… I guess not a whole lot in general. But his lyrical apathy, when matched with that belligerent bark of his, pulls and strains the tight seams of the band’s music to give everything an added tension missing from some of the more vanilla rock that was coming out around the same time (that’s 2005, by the way). Recorded by Phil Manley of Trans Am, too. Even if someone wanted to call this a “sophomore slump” when it came out, today it serves as an essential chapter in the story of the band you should’a been there for, man.

Links: Spring Break Tapes

Scarab

Procession Towards the Unknown

[11-inch; Mental Groove]

To explain such an artifact such as this seems a task for an archaeology or sociologist, and though we often don our fedoras and brandish a collegiate diploma, it does little to surmise the true patterns and disruptions to an unfamiliar nation or culture. The translucent amber on which a darkly mysterious echo is carried is the brainchild of artist Sandrine Pelletier and Oliver Ducret, the ominous beauty of its music from Egyptian black metal outfit Scarab, Only 9 exist in its true form but here I am, starring at the loving intricacies of the amber shellac as it spins on my turntable. Already at 11 inches, the album is playing its first track – to set up my turntable for 10 or 12 to slightly speed up or slow down the message. The forbidden nature of the recording bear Gizah’s pyramids adds a particular weightiness to the unintelligible yet international message of hope and loss encased within its amber rings. Change has been brutal to Egypt in the past few years, but it also brings with it a light of freedom. We know only what we are told; most of us separated from the norms of everyday Egypt, and the brand of freedom many wish for and many are dying for on a daily basis. It’s all captured in the heart-wrenching compositions of Scarab, who forego any typical telling of black metal tropes in favor of lyrical eulogies. It’s touching and eerie, so Scarab still maintain a bit of mysticism and terror in the face of an otherwise ecumenical hymnal of what so many of us take for granted. But this is all from a semi-privileged, semi-adult male whose suffering amounts to growing up slightly poor in a well-to-do town. It’s not up for me to decipher, just to protect. This is beyond an artistic piece, it is an artifact and one I will cherish until such a time I can hand it to the right person for its proper presentation.

Links: Scarab - Mental Groove

Crystal Soda Cream

Escape From Vienna

[12-inch; Totally Wired]

Crystal Soda Cream’s Escape From Vienna is one of those rare records that excels despite its obvious tendency to borrow from artists of the past. To say this record is influenced by The Cure (and maybe old-time Nick Cave) would be merely where you start; from there you might have to mention total worship and perhaps even venture to view Vienna as an attempt to further the work of CSC’s heroes. But the picture I’m drawing for you is an inaccurate one somewhat because I haven’t communicated how much I love listening to this band. They take their craft so seriously you can’t help but join them in their somber rituals, and the sudden detours the songs take will thrill you like the jarring lefts and rights of your favorite San Francisco cab driver. And the production is absolutely flawless, a bit trebly just like they used to make ‘em yet bass-y enough to beat a few coins outta you if they catch you in a dark alley drunken. Really excited to see/hear what this band does next, provided they stay hungry and heartless.

Links: Totally Wired

VATS

Iridescent Intent

[CS; MJ MJ]

VATS’ new tape may or may not be called Iridescent Intent, based on how good I am at reading 60s psychedelic font. The orange/green color scheme and the cat on the cover combined with the typeface give a pretty good sonic mental-description of the trip you’re getting into by clicking your play button on this one. Jangly guitar rattling off modal chord progressions that build and swirl around wah pedals, chunky gobs of bass fuzz, plodding drums and a vocalist’s low hanging jaw. Those are the basic elements, but the context is what really gives you the feeling of what VATS is all about – that the band might as well have recorded this whole thing from inside a damned aluminum can with all that reverb. Yes, it’s rock and roll with a reflective surface, light bouncing off its streaky sheen with blinding abandon and breakneck bounce (yeah, the rhythm could very well break your neck, so be careful). Great energy from a great band, and yet another slam dunk from the two Michael Jordans who make up this label’s acronymous name.

Links: VATS - MJ MJ

Gonzo

Dies Irae

[CS; Discrepant]

I’m a little late on this one but I wanted to weigh in because Gonzo has created one of the best tapes I’ve ever heard, bar none, with Dies Irae. Never to these ears, at least on a cassette, has a collage-style collection of samples and other assorted sounds/noises/atmospheric devices come together so convincingly, as if each element was created strictly to serve the purposes of the end product. This is the work of an artist possessing rare mastery of his trade, able to effortlessly locate audio locales and voice samples that coalesce into a wondrous whole. The soundtrack to Temple of Doom never had it so good. What Gonzo and his oft-partner Lowdjo, not to menion most of the releases on the Discrepant label, are accomplishing is superior enough to warrant much more than the occasional piece of passive praise. Seek Dies Irae out if you want to live.

Links: Discrepant

Dura

Altered Resonance

[CS; Patient Sounds]

Mister Mattson Ogg (aka Dura) hit me with a tape a couple of months ago, and it’s dodged my Cerberus queue for… I don’t know, let’s call them “personal reasons.” It’s not that I haven’t listened to it. This, being one of the finest albums available in 2014, has been a tough one to justify pulling from my Walkman. It’s just that music like this – beautiful and extremely gorgeous drone music – is starting to seem a bit beyond words in general, or mine at the very least. What other fluffy adjectives are there that I haven’t used yet that might let you know what this sounds like? Altered Resonance is not a tape for reviewing. It’s a tape for simply being. Being on my bike. Being in my office. Being in my bed. Being on the couch next to my cat. Being at the record store. Being in front of a camp fire. Being with Jamie. It has both the emptiness and fullness of such situations. Ogg’s soft paws pawing at guitar strings and letting the transparent layers drift through one another feels like it makes up the substance of the every day, which isn’t to say that it’s boring. But neither is it necessarily interesting or exciting either. Neither background nor foreground; just ground. Wind, water, air and Earth and something else too…

Links: Dura - Patient Sounds

Zapoppin’

Ugly Musick

[CS; Damnsonic]

I lost my soul. I lost a sole. I lost the sol. I’m lost.

It’s a manic episode that attacks Ugly Musick, which is neither ugly nor sick despite the oddness of Zapoppin’. Truth is, the frantic speed and topsy-turvy nature of this latest disasterpiece from the noise-pop outfit is exactly the deconstructed regurgitation of all things mainstream needed to truly appreciate where we’ve been and where we’re going. No pretentiousness, unafraid of making the obvious lyrical flourish, Ugly Musick transforms you into something unrecognizable for only a moment, but it’s the sort of pigbelly mindless tramps oopsy-daisy tallywacker that upsets the rhythm of….look, a bluejay!

Soul is lost. Sole is last. Sol is bueno. Am I lost?

Links: Damnsonic

Guerilla Toss / Sediment Club

Kicked Back Into the Crypt

[LP; Feeding Tube / Sophomore Lounge]

I’ve been hearing about Guerilla Toss but I didn’t know they roll like that. This is absolute madness, ordained by some of best and brightest of the experimental elite, from Sleetmute Nightmute to Gay Beast to Ruins to Arab On Radar to Aa to PRE to Landed. Could this band be from Rhode Island? Nope, Boston, thank you very much. But keep Providence in mind when you slip this LP on because it’s sure as SHIT on mine. I must admit though, Guerilla Toss, at least on Kicked Back Into the Crypt, transcend a lot of the influences cited above. They’re on a new level, like Danielson fronting latter-period Daughters and sticking the landing like a goddamn gymnast. It’s not simply a matter of traditional no-wave tropes either, though they’re definitely in there somewhere. What drives GT’s engine is no less than the full support each member lends to the other, every one endeavoring to rise above rock’s cliches (and sub-sub-cliches) and present a fresh way of thinkin’ about things. The Sediment Club have their work cut out for them; in fact I was thinking before even spinning their side of this split platter that I couldn’t imagine how they would match their counterparts. What an aching pleasure it is to be so wrong. Sediment Club gash open the ear and sprinkle sand in the audio wound, coming from a much more woozy place yet rocking pretty damn dedicatedly all the same and, when the time is right, absolutely SCREAM-SHANKING their message home with a double-dagger shriek. There are sections that almost swing, too, tom-toms blingin’ all over the place and drum sticks clickin’ like finger-snaps. I’m enamored with some of the Boston Hassle stuff but I had no idea they partied like this in Beantown; take me with you?

Links: Feeding Tube / Sophomore Lounge
  

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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.