Lazercrotch

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

Glowing

[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

split

[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

MTNS

All Songs Are Spells

[CS/LP; Trench Art]

How apropos that MTNS would release All Songs Are Spells on Trench Art, for this album is a collection of discarded and abused paraphernalia collected from the barbs and ditches of the decaying old world. Call it the remnants of war–either the literal bombardment of cities and smacking on flesh with projectiles or the figurative one where one band must be fed to another to satisfy the blood lust of record company competition. From that smoggy bog, soaked to the bone in the matter of victory comes MTNS, a boisterous duo carving out an aptly designed trench through the heart of Seattle’s stagnating national face. You are lying face down in the muck from the armaments of Macklemore, bearded folkies, and chewed bubblegum acts masticated on network television for millions. There are some noisy folks and cool labels, sure, but when I left it was clear the city was becoming a wasteland to apathy and trends. MTNS harkens to the days of Green River, when no one knew anything about Seattle except it rained all the time (it doesn’t) and it had a giant needle as a middle finger to those who would curse its drugged history. MTNS is that giant appendage erect in common step with the 90s scene of New England, not the Pacific Northwest. This Arab on Radar levels of marching aggression; Lightning Bolt assaults on traditional constructs of what “pop” is and what should be. All Songs Are Spells is far from perfect but that’s what makes it worth the penance. MTNS surveys the hyperbolic landscape of this so-called war analogy and does nothing more than play among the ruin. There is no hype or need to be part of the problem. Seattle is more than every expectation people like me have sold you for a few more blog hits and access to bands that will be erased from existence in a decade. MTNS won’t be, just like those who came before them in a scene tied to no location or aesthetic, just the idea that rock is loud, talk is cheap, and showmanship still counts for something when it’s just you and the crowd stuck knee deep in the trench. They fashioned this album from the rubble, so do your patriotic duty and listen.

Links: Trench Art

The Inverted Orange

The Inverted Orange

[CS; Prison Art]

Overall a far cry from Andrew Nerviano’s previous work with the bruised-to-black’n’blue Sarongs, which was much more about feel than it was flavor: brittle and blunted punk power that was. Here we have a different beast altogether, one that appeals to a certain tang — if not of oranges as the title might have us imagine, then the puckering power of grapefruits or juices or anything of the citrus variety will work just fine. Yes, Prison Art’s new one is sour; tart. Its sweat tastes like lemonade, but it’s got a sweet center too. Melodies loop and revolve around high pitches and tinny guitar tones as linear beats lead the way down a winding, highly scenic road of minimalism and sonic phasing. Beauty makes an appearance often as a sleepy vocal drifts its way into the dream, briefly tempting the listener to decipher its misty missives before whisking away from whence it came, swallowed back up into the shape-shifting ambiance of the guitar’s immediate surroundings. Fans of Dustin Wong’s recent work will find lots to love here and maybe more, what with the added sense of rhythmic diversity, The Inverted Orange’s propensity to wind compositions into slightly tighter narratives and mutant take on notions of pop or electronic styles. Intriguing work that nonetheless leaves a lot to be desired in the way of length… one has only the power to flip and dream of what wonders might lie in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

Links: Prison Art

German Army

Endless Phonics

[LP; Monofonus Press]

After unleashing a blizzard of tapes on a bevy of labels, many of which were chronicled by Cerberus, the Germany Army has advanced to the vinyl format via Endless Phonics. While the crisp sound of a 12-inch record is a bit too pristine for this neo-industrial, coldwave-ing, post-Disco Inferno outfit (the woozy warble of a tape is where they find womblike comfort), they make do and, when it’s all said and done, turn in one of their best efforts yet. They present a fascinating melding of traditions that would almost certainly be rendered contradictory by less-skilled craftsmen, with cold, factory-line rhythms that often harbor surprising complexity, a bleak landscape not unlike the more dissembled work of Mike Sniper, and vocals that veer into territory previously secured by Pumice’s Stefan Neville. There are even traces of the calculated despair of my all-time favorite long-lost unknown 2000s band, Audio Ovni. A lull or two early on Side B get smoothed over by “Vienna State,” a winding staircase that never ends. Fuck yes. When a band unleashes as much music into the world as German Army do, you wonder if that intense spirit is going to burn out before the mission has been accomplished. Endless Phonics puts that fear to rest and could end up charting a whole new course for this mysterious group of audio nihilists.

Links: German Army

Psychic Baos

Nuh-Uh: Death of Bob Plant

[CS; Magnetic South]

Casting Robert Plant in the role of the Walrus, Psychic Baos toss the venerable rock icon into a skinny coffin as to pronounce the end of glamorous rock star trappings. Calling him Bob seems to further disturb the Hammer of the God, placing him as your next door neighbor with the yard full of rusty cans and busted out cars. That guy, whose good-time drinking buddies show up unannounced and relive their glory days on weekend afternoons in the garage–turns out you’ve been living by Will Johnson all along; the warble of garage psychedelia penetrating the poorly soundproofed dwelling. Nuh-Uh is the end of rock and roll pretense and though it borrows nothing from Plant or Zeppelin, it does hint at the nostalgic refrain that music once meant something even if the words just sounded poetic and the melody was just loud to piss off your parents or the uptight community. Johnson lets it all fall loosely, like the buttoned-down Plant. Maybe there’s a beer gut showing and some bald patches on ol’ Bob Plant, but Johnson and crew strut with the same thunder no matter the stage.

Links: Magnetic South

Scammers

Conventions

[CS; Skrot Up]

I saw Phil Diamond do the Scammers thing along with an awkward ten-or-so others in the audience last month, and the dude freaked all ten-or-so of us completely out with his unbelievable confidence. That vibrato’d voice fluttering triumphantly over the square-by-comparison beats, floating out of a man who was shifting and contorting his body around the room, his face flying into ours, causing winces and confused looks abound. But the thing is that such confidence was warranted given the musical magic that came off of Diamond’s various instrumental devices: Beats had a very high head-nod factor. Melodies were consistently catchy. Buttery bass lines. And what really got me was the timing — brilliant pop song pacing, endless examples of tension and release, and whip-smart lyrics were wedged into the cracks to fill out the venue with boisterous bravado.

And, of course, all of that and much more makes its way onto the reels of Conventions, one of a handful of tape releases Diamond’s completed over the past twelve months, and possibly his best to date. Scammers has a sound that screams “Vegas” without ever really making the listener feel weird or unnecessarily guilty about liking that it does that. It’s a crazy phenomenon that’s difficult to describe, but nonetheless a simple thing to toss aside so that the swooning of a lovely ballad like “Effortlessly” with its soaring chorus can proceed uninhibited. Diamond’s a charmer that knows exactly what cards he has and when to play them, cashing in that sultry tenor for stunning climaxes that won’t fail to send shivers down the spines of tape deck owners everywhere. Robotic, rapid-firing stabs of synth propel tracks like “Convention” and “Terror Nights” into neon, post-disco frenzies that make me wanna bust out the running man. But whatever you do, don’t forget to take Scammers seriously — check out the words, get to know the vulnerable, thoughtful, and honest songwriter that is Phil Diamond. Something so normal never felt so weird, vice-versa, and of course none of that really matters. Scammers enjoyability is a very real, simple thing that seems universal and unequivocal and undebatable, and is yet something I fail to grasp completely with words. Let your ears do the talking, and let me know if they say whether or not the world is ready for a guy like Phil Diamond. I bet they’ll say “yes.”

Links: Scammers - Skrot Up

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.