Clay Cantrell

High on the Gallows

[CS; House of Alchemy]

I did an inventory check the other night and discovered that House of Alchemy is just dominating my tape racks, second only to the fabled Hooker Vision. While I would never try to pigeonhole an imprint, I think it’s safe to say that Adam Richards has built his massive catalog on an underlying theme of noise music, releasing tapes by folks like Parishi, DeTrop, his own project Chapels, and others that exhibit the more forward-thinkers within the harsher realms of avant-everything. It’s a surprise then (or I guess it’s totally obvious) that a couple of cassettes that stand out among the ranks come in the form of delicate folk from a Southern songwriter named Clay Cantrell. A cloud hangs low over his second release with the label as the shy, quiet tunes make their way out of the tape shyly, quietly. It’s a very, very soft delivery we’re dealing with, Cantrell pitch-shifting his vocals up an octave at times to lend the songs a falsetto that keeps things a bit on the lighter side, which is nice – keeps the sadness of it all from weighing quite so heavily upon the brow. Campfire acoustic guitar strums and clenched-eyed, o-faced electric leads, some bass, and vocals. With the first tape I would have used Neil Young as a quick reference point, and now I’d lean more towards a sound like Six Organs of Admittance… but that’s all those are anyway: reference points. Cantrell’s got his own voice here, and even if it’s disguised in certain spots and sounds like it could crumble like a cracker at others, a sense of improving confidence and progress in the artist is clear and present with High on the Gallows – Cantrell continues to be a talented musician with a knack for the hushed beauty of a ballad that escapes so many of his contemporaries.

Links: House of Alchemy

Cool Person

Future Person

[CS; Rainbow Pyramid]

I popped a bunch of tapes leading up to this one, looking for the last of the 2013 worthies before the self-imposed Cerbs shutdown, and it was like one of those old-timey directors going through auditions:

“Already heard it.”
“Too… loagy.”
“Work on it kid, and you’ll have a shot.”
“Boring.”
“Who let this drone fuck in? Gerald get the EFF in here!”
“A bit meaty.”
“Sounds like a fat guy sittin’ on a synth.”
“Next. NEXT. NEXT!!!”

To be honest Future Person, by Cool Person, didn’t stand out from the crowd that much at first. It was a rough night, and they benefited from a few factors beyond my control, which I won’t explain right now. Once I sunk into their groove, however, the Mountains comparisons seemed a little silly, my reservations emerging from a stylistic standpoint rather than any beef I had with the audio. What’s more, there’s a lot more to Future Person than your standard tape-label muddy-muddy. Cool Person spin yarns like cotton candy cones, starting with a ‘plink’ and a ‘plunk’ and evolving into what sounds a bit like an aural flow chart, strictly coordinated to enable the mind to get all Metroid-ed out. What I admire most is the restraint to stop once the mix is still relatively bare, let that develop, then branch out further, then pull it back, then add just a squinch more, etc. Quick playin’ games with my heart, you Cool fucker!

Links: Rainbow Pyramid

Hobo Cubes

Apex Ideals

[LP; Debacle]

What’s long been the draw of Francesco De Gallo’s work is the line it straddles between all-out noise and all-in ambiance. A gifted composer able to combine the serene with the severe, Apex Ideals comes heavy with a lofty proclamation and knocks us cold with its fascist fist of proof. Step inside “Subtle Sleep” and realize for all its slumbering melody, eyelid flutters, nighttime buzzes and creaks, and short circuiting synapses interrupt truly peaceful dreams. The restless “Unit” cuts through the white noise with a pulsating buzz saw, not unlike the Art Deco rainbow that scores the blank canvas of the album’s cover. It’s a never-ending cascade of colorful annoyances that ruins tranquility and subverts the everyday fracas. De Gallo, you truly have presented a thesis statement of heft and to truly understand it – you’re going to have to give me a lifetime. For now, let’s just say it’s well worth the research for 249 adventurous listeners.

Links: Hobo Cubes - Debacle

Karen Novotny X

Nothing Here Now But These Recordings ‘78-‘79

[CS; Golden Cloud Tapes]

There’s not much in the way of information on this band, nor much in the way of actual music you can actually listen to, which makes the crackpot story behind Karen Novotny X all the more difficult to corroborate (or does that make it easier to assume it as truth?). Anyway, you didn’t hear it from me, but this is apparently a trio led by Cy Levene that has so far released only one full length collection of tunes, Nothing Here Now But These Recordings and a 7-inch, all of it showcasing music that was created in 1978 and ‘79. Somehow Samantha Glass mastermind Beau Devereaux caught the attention of Levene, and his music wound up on one half of the aforementioned (split) 7-inch record. Devereaux, you may recall, is also in charge over at Wisconsin label upstart Golden Cloud Tapes, which has the reissue credits on this album. OK, so now my (half-assed and skeptical-at-best) history lesson is now behind us and I can proceed in telling you lovely readers what this thing sounds like, which is dark, brooding electronic dance music created by a mysterious trio… some years later than 1978 and ‘79. Computer algorithms seem to be the heart beating behind the curtain of stained skin, serving up accent-less stabs of quickly-paced synths to propel these pieces forward like robotic zombies or swirl themselves into sonic gyroscopes while drum machines thump catchy beats beneath. Frenetic frenzies or downtrodden trots appear in equal measure while Vocoders whisper along in a ghostly way that borders apathy with something else entirely menacing, washing across the stereo field to give the otherwise unfailingly steady music a tilted, off-center sickliness that is frigid to the touch. Giorgio’s evil twin sister or something, Karen Novotny X is awesome and sinister synthesizer music that is awesome and sinister no matter what year it was created in. The Great Pop Supplement’s issue of the LP is, of course, long gone, so one would be well advised to jump on this limited 2nd edition quick, especially since it sounds as amazing as it does on cassette anyway.

Links: Golden Cloud Tapes

Sujo

Repent / Ondan

[CS; Auris Apothecary]

Digesting release after release from Sujo, my main concern over the last few has been: I hope these guys don’t, in the process of progressing, start to sound like the other bands they’ve been ruling like a dictator (which is why I paid attention in the first place). While Repent (truth be told this is a double cassette but I’ve already reviewed Ondan elsewhere and refuse to repeat myself. Plus, Repent is worth it on its own.) dabbles in more drum beats than usual, and skirts dangerously close to an odd form of blackened shoegaze, which I will call deathgaze, ‘Jo, by Jove, have still bloody got it. None of the ominousness is withheld, nor any of the broad strokes of noise-doom that remind me of that old 20 Buck Spin band, Pussygutt. If you’re looking for a concise summary of what Sujo represent in the here-and-lately, the title track wraps it all up neatly, from hyper-speed black-metal beats to more of those MBV ride-cymbal glides to punishing Locrian aural cavities that continue to rot whether the drums exist or not. I feel like I should be fine-polishing a human skull while I listen to portions of Repent, so if you have one handy, make with that store-bought shine!

Links: Auris Apothecary

Red Boiling Springs

Alaxsxaq

[CS; Nailbat Tapes]

I don’t really have nightmares anymore. Not the kind of where you are chased by a boogie-man or something nasty creeps out from under you bed in the middle of the night. To be honest, I kind of miss it. There is innocence in those night-sweat inducing visions; avatars of a time when our young minds were so worry-free that we had the luxury of being terrified by the fictitious.

I think that is part of why Alaxsxaq appeals to me so much; on this cassette Red Boiling Springs have brought the sound of that unconscious, monster-filled, bump-in-the-night realm to the surface. Here are the whispers and pops of dead voices over a walkie-talkie, the possibly imagined distant scream of something lumbering through a fog filled forest, the deep groaning that seems to come from inside the earth itself at precisely 3:15 AM every night. All of those childhood terrors, obscured with a thick film of memory and time, are here captured on tape to be replayed whenever an escape from the world of everyday horrors is needed, whenever we want to go back to the dreams of dark shadows at the end of the hall and fingers scraping against windowpanes while we pull the covers over our heads.

Links: Nailbat Tapes

Los Condenados

Yeppers

[LP; Feeding Tube]

Yeppers is experimental in the old-school improv style, so messy you know that shit it legitimately unpracticed, so endearing you figure the three in charge (Andrea Pensado, Jules Vasylenko, Walter Wright) have survived many-a knife fight. Los Condenados fuse Esplendor Geometrico synths with traditional noise slaughter that gets messy but never (d)evolves into a Smegma-style, go-for-broke circle jerk. OK, it totally, totally does just that, but, as my daughter might say, “Not all of the times.” A lot of small, soft pauses, punctuated by vicious reprisals that slap the hand of silence till it bleeds. You’re not going to want to go near this platter if you’re working at a construction site but if you sit around listening to hollow laughter all day like so many of us Yeppers could be the catharsis you need.

Links: Feeding Tube

Universal Son

Universal Son

[CS; Drone Warfare]

As a child weened on late 80s and early 90s alterna-rock, I find myself often gravitating toward sounds that replicate those melodies and build upon them. It seems what was brewing at the time was cut short by the resurgence of bubblegum and boy band teen beats. Of course, maybe it had run its course naturally and I just ignored it. No matter, as Universal Son dust off those treasured moments and plug them into the now. Familiar strains of melodious guitar and simple drum beats. Yes, it seems all too easy and clean. Which is where Universal Son changes it up a bit, adding distortion and odd interruptions in the most peculiar places. Seemingly on the track of 1994, Universal Son’s self-titled cassette is curious reinvention not unlike David Bowie; a chameleon able to change color and mood mid-song. Is it a joke on a genre or a forward tear down and repair – one never knows with the Thin White Duke. Though let’s not put Universal Son in such thin air, the lack of oxygen experience at one point in their life cycle has ruined traditional alternative machinations. In their place, this cassette of mismatched ideas that speak to the sum of parts. Much like the rhetoric of this review, so goes Universal Son all to our benefit. Go in expecting the unexpected and still come away surprised in spite of its familiarity.

Links: Universal Son - Drone Warfare

Social Junk

Renewal

[12-inch; sPLeeNCoFFin]

I’m always amazed when some of these cassette-only labels manage to move themselves into the terrifying world of vinyl. But then, of course, these labels never fail to pull through with absolutely worthwhile efforts. At least… worthwhile to them. And to me, the reviewer of said efforts. And maybe you? Well, if you’re a fan of the veteran weirdo-troupe Social Junk, this one should be a no-brainer, since it’s a beautiful wax reproduction of a cassette tape previously issued by the label Human Conduct. But for the rest of you (and by “the rest of you” I mean, “us,” since I had not heard of Social Junk before Tim Wisniewski popped this one into cardboard and shipped ‘er right to my doorstep), prepare yourself for… some weirdness. In all seriousness, Social Junk isn’t for everyone. It’s the kind of music Dracula might put on when trying to get to sleep maybe, but more macabre than even that. Super spare and sparse arranging of generally synth and percussion elements, softly positioned into expansive formless masses of composition, everything in a decidedly minor and morose mode with crawling melodies and electronic swoops whizzing by. Two-note chromatic melodies pervade a lá Jaws to give the album a suffocating blanket of tension, but this is one animal that never strikes: Social Junk creeps ever-toward you while keeping it tight, close. And it’s all the creepier for it, slithering as a snake through a dank, torch-lit sewer of sound. While a title like “Renewal” beckons for something upbeat and uplifting, you certainly won’t find any of that crap here. Instead you’ll descend into the menacing, malevolent presence that is Social Junk.

Links: sPLeeNCoFFin

Papillon

Papillon

[LP; Discrepant]

I have what you might call warm and/or fuzzy relations with a lot of labels out there because I’m not only a Cerberus club employee; I’m also a client! But here’s the thing: Finding an imprint like Discrepant is such a thrill not because you know what to expect aesthetically or artistically, though I’d argue there’s a thread or two, but because quality is considered a right, not a privilege. Considering how keen I’ve been to absorb his label’s oeuvre, that Gonçalo F Cardoso’s debut as Papillon moves me is no surprise, as he is aided by old hands like Cédric Stevens (who digitally treats modular synths on this one). That it genuinely surpasses my lofty expectations is a flat-out shock. What I truly treasure is his lack of reverence for the time-honored customs of outsider electronic music. We’re talking drum solos, long ones, hives of bees devolving into piles of chunked-up corpses, and found-sound town squares invaded by static rumbles; we’re talking the complete breakdown of the post-Warp world, on vinyl. You can feel its columns begin to crumble on “La Cavale Des Chinois.” Then, “Petite Viande” the earth starts quaking; you’re in the storeroom looking for supplies but your special-made shelves are shaking and decades-old cans of tomato sauce are making indents on your skull. JUST GET OUT, MAN! “Le Chemin De La Pourriturre” helps you do just that, but you can hear the distant shooting still. You tune in to the local radio broadcasts and are greeted by descriptions of carnage you can’t imagine to be true. You walk up to your window, unfog the glass, look through, and ______…

Links: Discrepant

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In this ever-expanding musical world, there's a wealth of 7-inches, cassettes, CD-Rs, and objet d'art being released that, due to their limited quantities and adventurous sonics, go unnoticed by the public at large. Cerberus seeks to document the aesthetic of these home recorders and backyard labels. Email us here.