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


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


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


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

Servile Sect


[10-inch; King of the Monsters]

Servile Sect retain a nearly insurmountable artistic distance. An outgrowth of their refusal to commit to an established sound may be their relative obscurity, but a legion of dark-noise/black-metal freaks back them to the bone. You know you’re going to get a challenge from the Servile Sect camp anytime you invest in one of their surprisingly limited (in other words, they’re not one of those bands flooding the market with tapes) releases. The question is, will their interests of the moment intersect with your own? In my case, they always have, Glowing yet another adventure that seems to be keeping time to my heart. Side A is broken into three slices, both with molten melted lo-fi goo spilling over the side when you slice them and serve them to your speakers. The first section is comprised of an impressive synth-blur of a stomp bolstered by vocals that can only be uttered from within the folds of a droopy black cloak. Yet it’s bouncy and almost playful, replete with blazin’ lazers, when compared to Servile’s somber catalog (which includes releases by side projects like Sadness Saturn/Golden Raven and the insanely of-the-moment Ash Borer). The second entry (OK so there are three tracks total on this thing and I count four; bear with me) is more a meditation on dark noise than anything, sparklers always lit and throats always torn. Side B delves even farther into the depths of bleached-out bliss. It’s like one of those 3D posters that never seems to work; I keep waiting for something to jump out but it’s all one big corroded mass. When the charred BM riffs start to saunter from the lake of noise it’s entrancing and more than worth the wait, however.

Links: King of the Monsters

Prada & Oregon

His Past of Heaven-Floor Permanents - Her Lufa

[CS; Auditory Field Theory]

Prada & Oregon’s His Past Heaven-Floor Permanent’s – Her Lufa feels like a dissection of some past event or life, a postmortem on a relationship; time to put on the surgical mask and gown and figure out why this died. The music, created by Susan Balmar, is composed of tape loops being played over, around, and under each other. It is, in the most literal sense, a collage work and it sounds it; distorted found-sounds meshing with aged electronics to create an impression of lost time and melancholy, anchored to memory. The second side of the tape, entitled “Everything Turning into a 5L bottle of PVA,” introduces a distinct element of pain: what sounds like a distorted band-saw cuts through the majority of the track, blending with indistinct gongs and distant wind to create an uncomfortable contrast of tension and serenity. Eventually it all focuses to almost symphonic and seemingly joyous clarity, while never losing that uncomfortable edge. All of it falls apart again, and pieces itself back together, cycling in and out of stability. What’s left behind are impressions and questions:

Do home videos, scrap-books, photo albums and the other mementos we keep actually shed any light onto our pasts? When we look back on these things do they serve to sustain an idyllic illusion or illuminate some previously unrecognized truths? How can one be expected to unearth truth from something that is no longer present, that cannot be touched, held or questioned? Once something is gone, can we ever be sure if it was really there in the first place?

Links: Auditory Field Theory

Arabrot / Rabbits


[7-inch; Eolian]

If you value your mind and don’t want it blown out like a cokehead’s nostrils, avoid Rabbits’ side of this eponymous split 7-inch because it’ll kick yr head in till its boot is covered in brains. “Yr in Luck” is such a surprise considering the way this band used to sound. The edge remains, but there’s a sense of rising above it all they might not have had before. It’s a lot more like The Melvins than I remember too, albeit a continuation of a certain era of Melvins that adds a double-bass ass-pounding and mathematical stutters and jukes. You can’t really ask for more than “Yr in Luck” if you’re into Harvey Milk and want to party like Robert Downey Jr. on the set of Natural Born Killers. Arabrot bring much more of a rusty-razorblade sound, extremely intriguing instrumentally, but those post-Al Jourgensen vocals are on the verge of failing the smell test. I don’t want to judge too early on this one though because there’s a hard-to-find, warble-y bounce to it all that’s seriously heavy.

Links: Eolian

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.