Gag

Gas Mask ‘95

[Flexi; Perennial]

A better use of the one-sided flexi we may never see, Gag’s Gas Mask ‘95 providing a pristine, plump punk offering that pleasures like those first few Okie Dokie records. When you first place needle to flex it seems that way, at least, but soon the confusion leads you to think of Twin Stumps or, when the reeds join in, maybe Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower, and you wouldn’t be wrong, per say, just under-informed. Gag sneer more than they implore, and crave disorder as much as they do message-building, flipping between audio channels and fucking around when traditional punx will be asking them to kindly get to the bloody point. That’s what I love about Gas Mask ‘95 the most. You never know exactly what you’re going to receive; just rest assured you’ll get what’s coming to you and more. “Warm Milk” is particularly schizophrenic in nature, shrieking-pissed and looking to unleash the madness it feels in itself. That’s no gag. With flexis like these who needs 7-inches (don’t answer that)?

Links: Perennial

Sneaky Snake

Eventide

[CS; Holodeck]

I’m ready to be done with synth drone. Seriously dudes in your dorms, what you’re doing has been done. Look no further than City of Angels duo Sneaky Snakes. Eventide should be the most boring piece of electronic miasma I’ve heard because I’m cynical and have, at this point, heard it all. And no one in “the scene” seems to be telling it straight: that synth is boring again, your heroes are making pop muzak, and now that every Tom, Dick, and Harry is on board with making their own homemade jams and throwing them on BandSoundTrack that the movement’s gone. But here I am writing about Eventide because it isn’t a carbon copy. It sounds familiar at the first press of play but let it unfurl, let it slither into your head space. I’m ready to hate on an entire “scene” but Sneaky Snakes won’t allow it. They should because the predictable releases need righteous scolding but these two long pieces deserve only praise, prolonging my Andy Rooney old man rants until 2014. But by then I will be obsolete and Sneaky Snakes will be swallowing rats like me whole in the whitewash of mesmerizing synth.

Links: Holodeck

Laureate

Minute Detail

[CS; Hospital Productions]

Albert Einstein’s image is mugging, tongue out and hair wild, on every 3rd grade science lab wall. Einstein is now pop culture, one of the lucky few not rendered effectively faceless as humanity continues to plow forward through time, uprooting most things in its path, with only the occasional glance backwards and a sheepish “whoops, I think we needed that.”

The hulking, driving, and seemingly implacable forces of progress and history have been given form with Laureate’s Minute Detail. Throbbing, scraping, and pounding rhythms force each of the tracks forward towards some impending but still unknown outcome. Industrious might be a more applicable word than “industrial,” as every song on this cassette feels far more systematically generated than consciously created; as if it just sprung up as a natural by-product of the existence of factories and machines. This automatic, inhuman quality to the music may be exactly the point: the tracks have the dates and reasons for awarding the Nobel Prize for Physics but not the names of those awarded. The X-Ray and the discovery of energy quanta, basically the foundation for quantum physics, are hugely important, but could you pick Max Planck, Wilhelm Röntgen, or Max von Laue out of a lineup? The machinery has already been fabricated and continues to turn, even while its creators have been relegated to names and dates in history books.

Links: Hospital Productions

Wreck And Reference

No Content

[7-inch; Flenser]

It’s been a relatively slow year for 7-inches so to realize Flenser (from which I actually just ordered a Panopticon repress and probably, soon, a copy of that Ghast LP on splatter) had sent No Content in made my mother-fucking day. Wreck And Reference, like so many of the anguished shriekers out there, will get lumped in with the pack by some, but those who know their post-screamo hardcore/metal will be freaking out. The gameplan here is heaviness by dint of non-traditional means. That means no breakdowns, no limb-twisting technicality (though the drummer gets pretty gummy-armed on the flip), and no verses or choruses. The approach equates to absolute gold on “Absurdities & Echoes,” and “Abhorrence,” while it takes a tick to get going, also swarms on post-metal rather satisfyingly (it’s weird to liken it to a warped version of old Poison The Well so I won’t do it outside parentheses). Stick with “Absurdities” though, as it delivers a steady heady pummeling, like a discombobulated Red Scare bawling over a post-rock guitar sheet and slow-motion Usurp Synapse drums. Lots of stops and starts that challenge the heart, and even a noise decay to draw the curtains. One of the most surprising heavy cuts in a year of unrelentingly sharp, incisive metal. I hope it never ends.

Links: Flenser

Helen

Felt This Way

[7-inch; Exiled/Yellow Electric]

Liz Harris goes pop, pulls a Kim Novak and changes her name to Helen (avoid all ‘hear her roar’ in-jokes though the temptation to turn this into Reddy pun is strong). So does her group of similarly-oriented friends, like some cult worshiping the not-so docile strains of Flying Nun. It’s full of vertigo-inducing distortion and angry guitars, yet that icy stare is always present so we know that it’s really Madeleine. Should all these names prove too confusing, let’s go back to the beginning. “Felt this Way” makes me giddy with drowned delight, a simple melody that is uplifted by Harris’ even-keeled voice and Simmons and Bindeman’s grungy accompaniment. Flipside “Dying All the Time” is just as uproarious and unsophisticated–a bad dye job that isn’t hiding anything and the Scottie in all of us could care less, clinging to the feeling of hope and desire brought by this fine miniature circle. So when you hear this for the first time, embrace the fall from the bell tower as Harris has and admit that despite the deceit of Helen, you’ll keep coming back no matter how guilty your conscious. This fall has been long coming and its well worth battling your acrophobia.

Links: Exiled/Yellow Electric

Big French

Downtown Runnin

[LP; Wharf Cat]

I have literally gone a lifetime looking for weird people to jam with. I’ve managed to find one, maybe two in 20 years. Zach Phillips of Blanche Blanche Blanche, on the other hand, finds zany punx to jam with every other day, and Big French is his latest fling. It’s a grand affair too, Downtown Runnin spitting in the frazzled face of those who would argue the long-playing album is dead. Throw your Bran Van 3000 records into the furnace, Earnest, because you’ll have enough spazz to last you a lifetime once you grip this wax-dip. Despite the somewhat complex full-band arrangements and Panoply Academy/Danielson homage, I still feel like we’re rubbing Ariel’s Pink pussy in the end. Also, Cerb faves Bird Names, and that band that sang, “All I wanna do is thank you / Even though I don’t know who you are / You’re the one that let me change lanes / While I was driving in my car” (for the record it’s Geggy Tah). In any event, be prepared to be offended, delightfully so, by the cartoonish antics on display. The vocals, delivered in a questionable falsetto at least half the time, nevertheless convey enough melodiousness and intrigue to carry what is a solid project from top-to-bottom on their own. I’d even venture to say the busy instrumentals get in the way every so often, overcrowding the mix. I don’t think Big French would even take that as an insult; you can’t offend a band such as this by claiming they’ve gone too far. Besides, in 10 years people will hear this and wonder why it’s so restrained. Make that 50 years. This record is a unicorn.

Links: Wharf Cat

Cold Water

“Wolf Willow” b/w “Buffalo Beans”

[7-inch; Revolution Winter]

I didn’t ever expect to hear a singer with a voice so weathered he makes Dennis Wilson sound… relatively lucid, but here it is, Cold Water be thy name. I’m also reminded of Plates Of Cake’s Jonathan Byerley and James Jackson Toth at times, until the vocals start crashing and burning on “Buffalo Beans” and the dude’s larynx seems ready to collapse under the weight of his obvious emotion. Hey, that’s rock ‘n’ roll. “Wolf Willow” is a simple, up-tempo, mid-range rocker that has little to do with the desperation of “Beans,” and the contrast will make for an interesting full-length should that urge ever overtake Cold Water. For now, they’ve got a unique front man and a backing band that refuses to recede from the challenge of accompanying such a puzzling singer. A lot of bands trying to nail the Neutral Milk Hotel thing end up sounding like this, and sucking ballz while they’re at it. That Cold Water can keep their heads above it bodes well for the future.

Links: Revolution Winter

Restaurnaut

Black Crow Marathon

[CS; Self-released]

Like Jon Barba near him, Patrick Porter in Colorado or Sam Gas Can on the other side of the country, Restaurnaut’s Nicholas Dolezal is among a handful of folks out there who still appreciate the “song,” at least enough to spit the notes out in all their verse-chorus-structured glory. Yes, they’re every-damn-where, and they’re doing it in a wobbly-kneed way that seems lo-fi first out of material necessity (i.e., using what the musicians have available to them – simple instruments, crude tape recording setups, etc.), and second as something of a purposefully subversive approach to singer-songwriter tropes that seems critical in response to the hyper-gloss cheese of the mainstream. Restaurnaut’s particular brand, which I think he accurately pins as “folka-dot,” sounds like it’s scribbled across the air via cross-legged ukulele strums and a blown-out crunch that feels tangible and chunky, like it could be scooped up with a spoon. This collection of songs is indeed the marathon its title promises to be, 90 minutes of tunes with backwards time-warps, laser zaps of noise, Casio keyboard blip-beats, minimal overdubs and samples, a spoken word monologue that admits itself to being tape-filler, and at least one odd and uncomfortable minutes-on-end moment of silence that come off a bit awkward and head-scratching. But everywhere else (and despite the album’s inconsistent production, the fact that without a track list anywhere I have no idea what any of these songs are called, and that the tape itself might as well be held together with Band-Aids), the music beneath the hiss is endearing, honest and often quite beautiful, as Daniel Johnston songs are, sung out with quaint and comforting deliveries through a couple of different vocal personalities. All in all, it’s a tape for kicking back in the hammock and letting the free swing do most of the thinking for you.

Links: Restaurnaut - Self-released

The Cartoons

“She’s A Rock And Roller” b/w “Who Cares”

[7-inch; Last Laugh]

The Cartoons were a bonkers punk outfit from Yonkers who refused to decamp their levels from in-the-red status and came out sounding like a collision of Johnny Rotten vocals and relatively skillfully delivered scuzz-punk. A bassist named Georgie Go? A drummer named Chris Crash? Yep, nothin’ wrong with that at all. “She’s a Rock and Roller” doesn’t hold many surprises for seasoned punx but that’s not the point. Its effortless, hard-edged riffs and surprisingly apt drumming secure the front lines while the aforementioned Rotten-influenced shouter holds court over top. It’s nice to have such a surefire Killed By Death-style number isolated on a super-heavy 7-inch. “Who Cares” is more of a traditional rock format really; if the vocals were different you could almost pass this cut off as arena- or blues-rock from that segment of the ’70s. Of course that’s also part of the fascination. The lyrics detail the personal travails of a character named “Johnny” (of course), and the overall effect of this cut pales in comparison to Side A yet makes a decent point on its own. Once again the Almost Ready empire has the Last Laugh.

Links: Last Laugh

The Red Falcon Projects

Simply Ravishing

[LP; Dilated Time]

Care to be surprised today? Find a copy of the Red Falcon Projects, the place where synth and dance meet and it doesn’t sound like 1980s West Berlin. Despite all appearances to the contrary, Simply Ravishing is not locked in a time capsule or a smarmy electro-clash of Eurotrash dudes reliving the best of smuggled Cold War appropriation. Though RFP speak as a group reliving some alternative past, Simply Ravishing is the sound of now; of kids no longer afraid of dancing outside of the mosh pit, of a nation in desperate need of uplifting in political turmoil and propaganda, of the sloppy hand-off of responsibilities between the hapless baby boomers and the progeny they over-protected. RFP coddles and pushes away, forcing you to make your own grown up decisions on the dance floor. The album is rhythmic and smooth, but that doesn’t make it docile or unchallenged. It’s likely to fry the neurons of people too deep into synthesized syncopation and mellow out Molly kids too bug-eyed on dubstep and house. It’s the after party to the aftermath. So grow up, be your own person, dance until you can’t anymore, and embrace your path toward adulthood. All can be accomplished by grabbing your own copy of a gold chain and Simply Ravishing.

Links: Dilated Time

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.