156

A Life Lived as if In Hell

[CS; Out-of-Body]

A Life Lived As If In Hell is a sick one, indeed. Literally. We’re talking ladies crying in hospital beds, gagging and probably spewing into the air as all manner of experimental electronic detritus clutters the room. Not easy listening, to say the least, and that’s exactly why you must stick around. Whether 156 are creating rhythmic jams out of mysterious sources or rat-tat-tat-ing on a garbage-can lid or sampling the voice of pure suffering, they keep their boots on your neck from start to finish in a cinematic display of pace-setting and mangled porn-noise showmanship. As a fellow who cringes at the thought of ever hearing another Mama Baer tape, it seems out-of-whack for me to recommend a dick-splitter like A Life Lived, but this isn’t torture for torture’s sake. It’s evocative and will-testing, but only because, and when, it has to be. I sat on this one for awhile but it’s still available over at Out-of-Body so there’s still time.

Links: Out-of-Body

The Christmas Bride

(He’s Not a) Mongreloid

[CS; Teen River]

Remember cassingles!? Now they’re back, in cassingle form! The Christmas Bride embrace the medium that I so treasured in the early 90s, before 99 cent MP3s and [even] after I got a CD player. I figured cassettes with “Bad Boys,” “A Girl Like You,” and “100%” meant eclectic taste. The sort of taste The Christmas Bride display twenty years after my last dalliance with the cassingle. Now everyone can share a love of Revenge of the Nerds and Rolling Stones references and a lot of Teen River in-jokes about 80s teenage culture that millennials seem to slurp up like chicken soup of the retro soul. But this is more than a brush with the classics, as The Christmas Bride somehow hit on the untouched fun of pop. Not the bubblegum or rock/country/R&B variants but of simple, no frills kind. It’s why a cassingle is perfect for the title track and it’s B-side, “D.I.Y. Hi-Skool.” It’s playful and fleeting, a feeling that is sure to erode as quickly as the tape upon too many listens. But that’s the brilliance of pop, it keeps you coming back for more and when you hit the bottom of that saccharine tub, there’s someone or something else to fill the empty void in your rotting stomach. Even with my arms crossed and my cynicism keen, I can’t deny being caught up in Christmas Bride fever, if only for a blink-of-an-eye. Then it’ll join the ranks of my dusty pile of relics but oh what a triumphant pile of momentary bliss it is.

Links: Teen River

Comfort Link

The Complex Moods of Comfort Link

[CS; sPLeeNCoFFiN]

First, the packaging: Tim Wisniewski (who also runs tape label sPLeeNCoFFiN, and yes, capitalization is absolutely important, I checked) nestled this one, a follow-up to his debut Comfort Link release, inside a re-purposed accordion file folder outfitted with some nice collage art. Sure, commendable for its green methods of construction, but the aesthetic is also indicative of the sounds you’ll hear on this very strange musical personality’s tapes, and “The Complex Moods of…” is no exception, as the release reflects Comfort Link’s ability to recycle a dusty-brown set of sound sources through an analog tape loop/effect conduit. Wisniewski weaves old easy listening records, open reel tapes, ambient background sounds re-recorded from old films, and sounds of the magnetic recording process itself into a subdued drift, stitching it all together with dental floss to reveal a patch-worked quilt of colorful and, yes, very moody drone. Things shift from mechanical to organic with a long fluid sweep leaving you in a completely different spot by the end of each side from where you began, although that journey itself, when looked back upon, is like a weirdly blurry and instantly-forgotten memory. This latest tape is a bit on the bleaker end of what I’ve heard Wisniewski come up with, these tapes winding and grinding themselves down into a dank and dimly lit place that almost has a sickly after-effect. You can see it: the visors and bow ties, blue collars toiling away at oily machines under the light of a hot lamp. It’s uncomfortable, but ultimately inevitable, and necessary; Comfort Link is the loops of life.

Links: sPLeeNCoFFiN

Ancestral Diet

Official Waste

[LP; Torrid Orb / Saxwand]

Ancestral Diet loom in the shadows of Bauhaus-laced goth oddity yet hint at a pop precept or two along the lines of a Devo or mid-’80s Wire. You could throw on one of those Weird coldwave compilations and find the skeleton for a lot of these ideas, but tracks like “Uptight General” represent Biafra or Mike Anderson fronting Dead & Gone with the distortion turned off and drums excised. Oh, and Maria Minerva is manning the synth-pads. I’m getting just a flutter of folk too, particularly in cuts like “Water Burns,” along with a whiff of Religious Knives I wasn’t expecting. The Haute Magie crew would be all over this one, bet on that. Then the Dead Reptile Shrine shrieks come in and I feel like giving up. Must… find common thread; nothing to hold onto… And how! The flip might deliver even more zing-zang for your hard-earned clam, Official Waste proving to test the endurance of even the most steadfast trance-seeker. Could have done without such an emphasis on the deadpan vocals; what can you do? It’s forgivable, and not just because of the nice see-through orange wax. Call it what you will, Ancestral Diet seize the moment with an iron fist.

Links: Torrid Orb / Saxwand

Amen Dunes

Spoiler

[LP; Perfect Lives]

The sparse nature of Through Donkey Jaw was quickly supplanted by the Jah psychedelia of “Ethio Song.” Now Damon McMahon does another trick with the catch-all Spoiler. Three hundred pieces of memorabilia of a bygone era; trinkets of experiments and half-thoughts before, during, and after Through Donkey Jaw that shake with uncertainty. But it’s why McMahon’s work is so enduring — that quivering delight at starring into the unknown and sharing it with those of us without a clue. Moments of musique concrète (“Camels in Amsterdam”), raw guitar repetition (“Watching Cartoons”), and oblique prog (“The Night I Joined the Navy”) are as confessional as they are confusing, just as any Amen Dunes fan would want. The only enigma these days are those dreamed up by those who can’t go with the flow. As antiquated an idea, it’s the crux of Spoiler. It’s challenging but not anymore so than Dark Souls or cinéma vérité. The only losing proposition — the only one ever prospered by McMahon–is to those who ignore his work and fear repeated deaths attempting enlightenment. If you fear abstraction, you cannot tread here. For everyone else, meet your equally confused tour guide as you are lead into the recesses of…

Links: Amen Dunes

Best Available Technology

Bangers & Ash

[12-inch; Styles Upon Styles]

Finally some of that dirty UK techno is hitting the misty shores of Cerberus! Only this ain’t London, this be New York, so strap on your heavy boots and get ready to lay some rusty pipe. Best Available Technology use sides A and B to create a captivating contrast that pits more experimental electronic sounds (A) against crowd-pleasing 4/4 bliss (B). If you’ve been reading Cerbs for any amount of time at all you know which side of the fence we’re going to fall on, but both serve a worthy purpose. Bangers & Ash covers a lot of ground for a 45 RPM 12-inch (which, incidentally, weighs a metric ton), particularly amid the gruesome sound-blurs of “Venom, Pheromone, and Phosphorus” and “Vulgar Geometry,” when I can’t help but bring up the synth blurs of Metasplice once again and marvel at how few acts cut to the core of techno quite like B.A.T. Hopefully this is just a tiny finger-dab taste of a dealer’s ransom to come.

Links: Best Available Technology - Styles Upon Styles

Mariposa

Holy Ghost

[CS; Bridgetown Records]

Madeline Johnston, tape sorceress of Denver’s Tinyamp Records, dropped a real stunner for Bridgetown this past summer, one that has segued itself nicely into Autumn with an unimaginably soft touch and reverb-soaked everything gently drifting down, down, down; to the ground, to your body. Or deeper, really, this is surface-digging stuff, ballads with a voice and a guitar, simple lyrics repeated in trance-like chants to get all the way under the skin. Paper-thin, bare-boned and beautiful, Mariposa at once seems like she is barely there while also having a miraculously robust and powerful presence. Her voice is a snowflake — fragile, complex, ready to melt. Guitar chords swaying gingerly between two chords are winds, rustling the leaves or rocking the empty tire swing. But none of it is quite as chilly as I’ve described either. Holy Ghost feels like a familiar place, a dwelling you’ve occupied for years, full of fleece blankets and fireplaces, maybe a photograph or two — tools are simple and sparse, there for survival and nothing in excess or unneeded. “Did you ever feel at home inside this house?” Johnston asks waist-deep into side-B, and it’s not exactly an easy question to answer, let alone comprehend.

Links: Mariposa - Bridgetown Records

German Army

German Army

[LP; Skrot Up]

The more tapes/LPs I hear from German Army the more convinced I am that they are slowly decamping to a climate not unlike that explored, previously and currently, by Edward Ka-Spel. The misty fields, essentially spoken dialogues, seemingly aimless instrumentals (which, conversely, are anything but), and bleak landscapes reek of Legendary Pink Dots’ founder. My only question is where is this all going? German Army have slain so many enemies on the post-post-post-punk battlefield you wonder if they’re going to go the way of Disco Inferno and disappear before the population at-large can hear them. That would be a dick-kicking shame, as the swirling, colder-than-ice environs they cocoon us in are more comfortable than my descriptions would suggest. How does one express anger/dissatisfaction without screaming one’s brains out? Listen to German Army and find out, and don’t worry; the material is out there if you know where to look (i.e. Skrot Up, yo!).

Links: Skrot Up

Benjamin Finger

Listen to My Nerves Hum

[LP; Time Released]

Listening to Benjamin Finger’s latest is to do so with kid gloves, afraid the slightest mishandling or heavy breath will shatter the one and only copy of Listen to My Nerves Hum. It’s the still reverb of footsteps echoing in a museum, where every piece seems so well curated and painstakingly built that to disturb their resting place is to belittle the art. But that isn’t the goal of Benjamin Finger as dainty as his compositions may seem. Art is about participation, smearing the blood and guts onto the canvas or molding and casting with soft hands that will become rock. You need to listen over and over again but the feeling of scarcity will pass, to be replaced by sanctuary. You will begin to curl inside the grooves, caress the beautiful cover art, and be inspired. The album is no longer a stale exhibit hall but a bristling, interactive composition that cries out for your own flourishes and embellishments taken from your life. You will cook to these docile strains. You will clean with the sway of the airy spaces. Though great care should be taken to protect your copy of Listen to My Nerves Hum for just 300 exist, it’s meant to be lived in and not protected by bulletproof glass inside a sterilized bubble.

Links: Time Released

Lame Drivers

Flexi Book EP

[flexi art book; Self-released]

Can’t get this thing to play at the beginning of most of the songs but once that needle sets in all troubles evaporate. The flexi-book idea seems to be a relatively new phenomenon (Castle Face and Famous Class both did one) and while I have reservations about the aforementioned playability the art direction of this piece is outstanding. Lame Drivers are an extremely game band, capable of spitting out common-guy indie-rock without going all Meneguar on us (too soon?). If you like the ragged rawk of The Replacements and Cloud Nothings you will find a lot of kindred traits on this record, though there’s nothing sloppy about “Frozen Egg”; quite the opposite. Their instinctive rockist approach is pure and beguiling in a ramshackle way without giving up on its smarts, even when the singer is quacking up a bit out there. “We R Notified,” an intriguing tangle of random guitar figures, is another keeper for your trapper. Five flexis, five artists designing the lustrous pages in between, and one TMT reader who should get going on this before it goes hella-OOP (are you trying to make a schmuck of me?).

Links: Lame Drivers
  

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.