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


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

Broken Machine Films

Album 01 Part 01 - The Time - Freshman

[CS; Sicsic]

I think that the official genre of this music is what’s known in the business as “noodle-scratcher.” At least that is what I, self-described professional noodle-scratcher cassette tape archivist and historian, would file Broken Machine Films under. A young man named Josh Rogers pieced this and a few other tapes together in recent months, music from what sounds like little more than video cassette tape samples from the 80s and 90s with little (or probably no) effectual affectations added. It’s just cut, pasted, and represented here in no particular order. Think Everything is Terrible, but audio only, and although funny, more by accident than on purpose. It’s a drum solo, then a Hawaiian luau tune, then the music from a network television station’s “Be right back” technical difficulties card. Side B starts with something that sounds like Mancini, and then rolls into maybe the opening credits of Baywatch(?), and so on. It is informative! It is educational! It is wearing neon sunglasses (cooooool)! It is four easy installments of $19.99, but only for a limited time! It is a couch potato! And it is even kind of sexy! You can see the horizontal tracking lines, you can feel the tint-adjust knob rolling around your index finger, trying to get that perfect, clear picture you know is hidden somewhere in the ol’ boob tube. You might not ever get there, but this should still provide ample entertainment nonetheless.

Links: Broken Machine Films - Sicsic

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


[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


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


Iridescent Intent


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


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


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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.