S.O.A.

First Demo: 12/29/80

[7-inch; Dischord]

S.O.A. nee State Of Alert were active in the early 1980s and played Blur to Minor Threat’s Oasis, if you get me. They were rivals, ready to slit each other’s mother’s throats if that’s what it came to, dedicated to the tribe to the end. Hardcore never recovered after bands like S.O.A. either broke up or turned to metal, and Henry Rollins, so synonymous with anything but punk these days, along with his motley crew of locals is almost suspiciously game on First Demo: 12/29/80, his voice raspy and shitty and rowdy like a drunken beaver with a lethal chopper-tooth. It’s true, what they say: None of them rocked quite as hard as Bad Brains. But the fury they managed was ample evidence of their fruitful future, as Rollins rode this hard-ass rollercoaster straight into Black Flag and blew minds under their hospitality as well. At eight songs First Demo is a solid investment that gets better with every flip, fast, strong, and direct to your throat. Only $4 direct from Dischizzy, a name you’ve always trusted.

Links: S.O.A.

Various Artists

BRAINCLUB Vol. II

[12-inch; Holodeck]

Extremely limited (150 copies per volume) and barebones, BRAINCLUB is a culmination of outsider Austin. As I type it, the sumabitch in me scoffs because how more outside the lines can the Texas oasis become? It’s known just as much for its event horizon as it is for its neon lights and huge music showcases. Yet here I stand stunned at what I’m learning about a town that I have some experience with but has yet to hold me to her bosom as so many before and after me. Cerberus familiars crop up on this 7 track follow-up (Silent Land Time Machine, Ex-Person) but it’s the exotic sounds that make me see Austin a new light. Bill Converse opener “Baboonatic” is 100% Silk turned down 25%, because I can only handle about 75% Silk (less for Rayon). Pizza Hut is likely to get its pizza cred disrupted by fervent coverage of that Home Alone kid’s VU pizza shits and giggles take-off, but “Rockets” is a white-sauced delight for fans of avant 90s bands that were gone before they ever began. That makes Pizza Hut far more respectable and blog worthy than a filthy animal. Malcolm Elijah may be the keystone, combining a rich tapestry of notable sounds past and present into a composition not too far remove from early Sean McCann (before McCann went head first into classical). A new presentation to something familiar, though that is the M.O. of BRAINCLUB at its heart. A quick listen of outsiders truly disrupting from the inside. They are part of Austin, unafraid of the connotation or stereotype. From that perch, they’ve taken expectations and turned them into blown up bucket list goals. Smart men and women messing up all your Cheerios.

Links: Holodeck

Paddy Hanna

Leafy Stiletto

[CS; Already Dead]

The reels of this Already Dead Tape can barely contain the blood-boiling, neck vein-popping enthusiasm of a singer like Ireland’s Paddy Hanna. As the billowing bass rumbles the cones of your speakers and the driving drums nearly derail the entire thing, Hanna’s vibrato falsetto flutters its way out into oblivion. And the music almost suffers for it, the vocal missing a couple of the higher notes by an eye-squelching hair at the most-intense, barrier bending moment. But it’s a necessary trade-off and the kind of buy-in that’s ultimately needed for an exceedingly sweet pop tune like opener “Rosslare Tapes” to succeed like it does; if you can tell that they don’t really care, then why should you or me or anyone else? And that’s one thing you can’t really question of Hanna: his commitment to his songs. Whether he’s on acoustic or electric guitar, draining his pipes on a harmonica, strumming his way across a ballad or banging out a burner, you can bet that nine times out of ten he’s being damned cheerful about getting the chance to do it. And none of that really describes the cleverness of the songs themselves, the quick turns of phrase, or the sheer knack Hanna’s got for crafting impossible-not-to-hum-along-to melodies. It’s the kind of music that comes with built-in hooks and invisible string to magically lift the corners of your mouth when you hear it. Lips permanently pursed in a whistle, toes restlessly tapping; this is what becomes of the happy tunes of Paddy Hanna.

Links: Paddy Hanna - Already Dead

Les Halles

Invisible Cities

[CS; Constellation Tatsu]

The life and times of Bob Ross has transformed into a calming center. Fans of the PBS known painter have found themselves in deep ruminations about the cosmic beauty of evolutionary design. Those brushed evergreens look bright contrasted against the white fluffy clouds and sunlit blue sky. Ross continues to teach new generations about the inherent self that resides in all. But what does Ross’ meditations jam to, because this is a not a man built on Dylan and Baez. Though very much a product of now, one can’t help but think of the zen instructor when listening to the triumphant hums of Invisible Cities. At once New Age and mystic as it is tangible and face-front, the latest Les Halles cassette is a similar study in the forms of our physical world and how with each mistreatment of the environment, we are scarring ourselves. Though it sounds ridiculous to devote time to repairing our souls in a world overwrought and rotting, there is no solution to our ills without self-examination. Les Halles may be a bit too serene in its reflection, but it serves as a means to find your nearest purveyor of punk, noise, and nihilism. Whatever gets you thinking about our smallness and largeness. It wouldn’t hurt to worship a few happy trees either.

Links: Constellation Tatsu

Back Magic

Chorus Line to Hell

[LP; Milvia Son]

I was scared to listen to Chorus Line to Hell again after a short break because there was the slight chance I wouldn’t enjoy it as much the second time. Nope; I’m still bowled over by this spooky little rock-duo album and its hand-crafted care. Back Magic break all the rules. They’re spare even for a duo. It might even sound like less than one dude in this band. Yet they play the scarcity of sound to their advantage, their sloppy but never ill-considered riffs soon requiring you to hang on every fret slide a la Slint. I can tell you all about it, of course, without in the slightest way knowing how the guitarist is achieving this. The drummer is terrible and that’s why he’s so good, tapping out beats like a smoke from a hard pack: casually but with great importance. I’ve got a few comparisons to project onto BM like so many insecurities but none of them are duos so don’t even think that way when you approach Chorus Line to Hell. The set-up is a non-issue. I go into a lot of reviews wanting to like what I’m hearing as much as I like this, and leave dissatisfied. Wish I had a hook-y ending for this, but I don’t… More of you should kick as much dick in as Back Magic!

Links: Back Magic

Sima Kim

Intertwined

[CS; Spring Break Tapes]

Intertwined is an island in the center of your mind, a place to where your ego can swim, narrowly escaping any dangers presented by the shark-infested surrounding waters of that day to day hell we so lovingly call “Life.” A brain vacation, pure and simple – your job, calendar, phone, enemies, all barking and gnashing discriminate teeth in your ego’s general direction, sidelined and silenced for the moment so that basking in the sonic rays of Sima Kim can commence uninterrupted. It’s part and parcel of a genre of music famous for being exactly what I just described, but the importance of having these little musical getaway gateways simply cannot be overstated, and Sima Kim nails it without resorting to carbon-copy construction. His gently ebbing sounds of glitch-glittered static arrive as reminiscent-only, manufacturing good vibes and lifting listeners to the fluffy clouds of imaginative thought with treble-heavy swishes of color that are as weightless as they are transparent. Four original works and four reworkings from outside perspectives round out the whole shebang with nary a millisecond wasted. Great for when you just can’t be wherever it is you find yourself wanting to pull your hair out… Which for me is, like, right now. And most times come to think of it. I guess that Sima Kim is just good. Always.

Links: Sima Kim - Spring Break Tapes

Can Can Heads

Butter Life

[LP; Karkia Mistika / Verdura / Bottom of the Pops]

Can Can Heads finally wriggle their wormy way back into my lair with an LP so skronky you can smell the sock sweat. Why does sax work so well with punk, from The Stooges and James Chance on up to Puffy Areaolas? Not sure I even wanna know; sometimes acquiring too much insight is tantamount to lessening one’s enjoyment. Going down that road will only lead to heartbreak, and Butter Life is a record I want to cement an iron-clad relationship with, no strings attached (save the fibers of my very heart; treat me right CCH!). Considering how many disparate ideas they splatter against the wall, the success rate Can Can Heads manage is astounding. I’m not sure if I hung the ol’ Swell Maps rung around their neck last time I reviewed them, but that’s the highest compliment I can give so they’ll have to deal with it. They’ve got that sense of reckless experimental abandon it’s so hard to find in punks who also can nail it straightaway if they wish. In other words, Can Can can play it hard and fast and even precise, if they want, but what fun would that be? Not near as much, correct. Gold star! So much more to go over with you though; can you stay after school? I’ll teach you about Fad Gadget, Colour Bük, very, very early Scritti Politti, The Residents, Wire, Notekillers, OCS/Thee Oh Sees, The Fall, ShxPx, Beefheart, and all the other bands your Rock History instructor never hipped you to in college for some astray reason.

Links: Can Can Heads

Richard Youngs

A Stolen Ringbuoy

[7-inch; Dirty Knobby]

Judging by the marquee names gracing the available records page of Seattle’s Dirty Knobby (Mind Over Mirrors, Pumice, The Fresh & Onlys), we are a world unaware of this great small pressings label. So perhaps our simpleton nature won’t cause us dismay when listening to the latest 7-inch from Richard Youngs, who does his best self-impression through the oscilloscope of a drunk Bob Pollard. I mean, look no further than the mangled title (A Stolen Ringbuoy) and a history of Youngs desecrating pop music in whatever two bit hole in the wall he can muster scattered notes and the obvious comparisons of the two heavy hitters seems apropos, if only for a fleeting moment. But this moment is one that is now captured on soul black wax, a reminder that even the most expressive revisionist is capable of brilliant bursts of uncomplicated pop music. Of course, what you and I call pop music might differ greatly, so perhaps this is your gateway drug to fuzz and skronk and my ticket out of the tangled forest of atonality.

Links: Richard Youngs - Dirty Knobby

Sugarm

Pure Racket

[CS; Hausu Mountain]

Maybe we stop calling it “noise.” Maybe instead we call it “junk.” When I think of noise, I think violence, painful sorts of listening situations. Junk on the other hand has substance – junk is real, junk is stuff. Junk can be ugly and gross, I guess, if you want to think of it that way (and in the case of Sugarm, that even sort of works some of the time). But the important thing here is that junk can be useful. Junk can be constructive. To say that Pure Racket is a bunch of junk is to also say that it is a sculpture made of things like banana peels, trash can lids, remote controls… Sometimes it’s things that are slimy and slippery, sometimes it’s plastic things with empty battery cases, scraps of metal, heaps of crumpled up cardboard boxes, wooden door handles… The stuff that doesn’t work any more, or maybe was never meant to in the first place, Mike Sugarman collects these figurative building blocks and makes them functional within whatever weird universe this is. Sugarm’s sounds come from (probably) none of the objects I’ve spent my time describing here – instead it’s things like synthesizers and samplers, pieced together with nuts and bolts, ratchets and hardware, sparked to life with the flip of a circuit breaker switch. And on the other end of the production line, what we get is a robot where all the components aren’t necessarily electronic, lumbering away on some mundane task, speeding its way down a train track, or whirring quietly in recharge stasis. And if you thought all that was weird, wait until you get to side B, which is to say that things actually “normalize” themselves to a degree…. Softer, a bit less eventful, even downright pretty with some nice guitar ballad work, too. So painful? Ear splitting? Hardly. At worst (best?) it’s kind of uncomfortable, but you and me both know you were plenty comfortable before you started reading this review.

Links: Sugarm - Hausu Mountain

Bran(…)Pos

Den of Ordure and Iridescence

[LP; Resipiscent]

I took respite from Cerbs for a few weeks and realized I was becoming gradually unhinged. It’s good to be back, in particular because in order to get the man-juices flowing I’ve decided to be selfish and hand-pluck a few of the darlings of the litter, among them this sick LPiece of exp. noise-oise from the confusingly named Bran(…)Pos (confusing because… How do I say that?). Den of Ordure and Iridescence offers a cinematic experience, not unlike a Tuxedomoon sound-screening at one of those old computer-music conservatories, but with more of a ‘tingle’ factor; you’ll get the chills a few times. “Lioness” in particular sets a vivid scene with its timpani rhythm and glazed key-nutz, changing character on the spot while offering many of the same surreal chirps and buzzes that dominate the first few cuts. This one’s a classic. In other news, near the end of “Plasticized Forest” I think I hear a band jammin’ out all gnarly-tits in the next room. Can’t confirm it though. Guess you’ll just have to check on that for me, since you should be picking this up anyway before it sells out like the last Bran(…)Pos product on Resipiscent.

Links: Resipiscent
  

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.