Michael Wohl

Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar


Scabs and all; it’s the sound of playing guitar in which Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar elegantly floats down its sea of Alphabets and milk (at least that’s what Michael Wohl’s cover resembles). The Seattle musician eschews the city’s current penchant for pop folk and synthesized experiments in favor of some traditional plucking, sliding, and strumming. All the old analogies myself and myriad reviewers have unpacked for decades worth of Fahey/Basho/Kottke revelry could occupy your hotel room with this album (Wohl even includes his own brand of Fahey’s “Poor Boy Long Way from Home”) and so what? When you turn to isolated guitar signatures for vacation accouterments, it’s what you want. Eight Pieces keeps it bare so you can hear the skill and jubilation of playing guitar rather than the heady study of the art form. That way Wohl makes sure to leave space in your luggage for the plush hotel robe, as warm as the music Wohl envelopes us with on what is hopefully just the start of his travel agent/guitar aficionado cross-over career.

Links: Michael Wohl

Hurricanes Of Love

Quintorian Blues

[2xLP; Feeding Tube]

I admit I was enjoying the acoustic guitar leads of this release just fine before Frank Hurricane, leading man of Hurricanes Of Love, starting yammering and tellin’ stories and shit, yet there’s something about this fella. I dig what he does. He rambles on and on, weavin’ yarns I assume are from his life, and even as he slips hints of humor into his tales the focus is never lost, and when he cuts out and the instrumentals (sounds like two gee-tars to me) rise above it’s an inspiring thing. He also attempts melodies, and while I’m not sure how successful he is in that endeavor, I don’t have a problem with it anymore than I have a problem sippin’ gumbo juice outta Dr. John’s bluesy asshole (wait, you didn’t have to do that?), dippin’ a little Dylan in my cheek, or goin’ all bohemian with Banhart. Feeding Tube are simply masters of the left-field find. Such rural, soulful sounds, undercut by Hurricane’s theatrics, make for a grainy brew you’ll need to let sit for a spell before you chug. Some of it might get caught in your beard regardless, so buck the-fuck up chump.

Ichi Ni San Shi

Slow Truth

[LP; Super Secret]

Punk-punk-punk; every time I review a punk record on this site I mention how there just isn’t enough coming into Cerbs, and never has been. What gives? Super Secret has been filling the void, or helping to, for a few years now, so when this Ichi Ni San Shi LP came in I figured I was in for another serving of punkin’ pie. What I/we (we’re all in this together, right?) got instead was a band more in line with Silent League, Of Montreal, or maybe even Half-Handed Cloud and recent Sufjan, rife with electronic elements and vocals that quiz the ear on quirk. If you were to describe their sound to me, I’d likely bristle and refuse to even give it a chance, and while at times during Slow Truth my instinct to move on kicked in, I’m glad I stuck around because there are beguiling experiments afoot. “Watch Them Grow” is a prime example, starting as an irritating, awkward interaction between elements that seem miles apart, then morphing into a positively enlightening experience with the help of a few well-placed synthpeggios and a momentum that, once it picks up, just won’t quit (kind of like this sentence, which through parenthesis is still alive!). That guy from Vampire Weekend keeps pumping money into his synths, or at least I hope he is, and he still can’t get his rig to imitate trumpets as effectively as these guys do. Just for the record.

Links: Super Secret

C.J. Boyd

The Space Between Us

[7-inch; Joyful Noise]

What does a man possess if that man possesses nothing? The clothes on his back, the tool(s) of his trade, and the comfort of the road. For a man proclaiming to be perpetually traveling–without a home–one wonders what C.J. Boyd has beyond the simplest means to identify himself. But maybe it’s the wrong question. Not to get all Tyler Durden, but we have become possessed by our possessions. I’m not giving up anything hard-gained, but I can’t help but feel that C.J. Boyd is passionately (if exhaustively) living out the nomad in all of us.

But it renders his music breathtaking. That is literal. Every time I put the needle down on his records, all the air goes straight to the abyss of Boyd’s rumbling bass. It feeds on it like fire, belching up a smoke stack as it washes over the room. The Space Between Us serves as a 14-minute teaser to Boyd’s upcoming album but is greater served as its own entity. Two 7-minute tracks of menacing, hard-knuckled musings that hum like the pavement underneath Boyd’s tires. There is no need for wanton mentions of life on the road or unending weariness; the excesses of classic rock stardom do not weigh heavy on Boyd’s conscious. His life as a vagabond is chosen because to survive in music today, you must be a road warrior or a hit maker. Boyd’s craft is not the latter and be glad it isn’t. These are hits of a different caliber, and the power within these 14-minutes speaks volumes of what true gifts Boyd possesses. They are more valuable than just about any commodity I own.

Links: C.J. Boyd - Joyful Noise

The Haiduks / Einar Jullum

1968 / Hjerteknuser- Og Andrew Blues

[CS; Kinnta]

True ambition in the tape world? Well, it’s not unheard of but I’ll be damned if I’ll take it for granted when it shows up on my doorstep. And despite my distaste for at least one of its previous releases, there’s something about this Kinnta label; they put in that extra BLOP that I need from a tape imprint. They get behind their releases and never skimp on the deets. For example, it’s the mid-80s and I’m about to throw in a Crüe cassette on (all the good older tapes were white back then, remember that?), or at least it feels like it because I can read all the song titles off each side. Believe it or not that’s somewhat rare. Anyway, I might be stalling a bit because I don’t know what to do about one-half of this split tape (technically called A Fair Pair), Haiduks’ 1968. It breaks all the rules and gets away with it, and… GOOD GOD, how many awful vinyl releases have I heard, costing thousands of dollars, and1968 is one-half of a double tape? Well, the rich kids always will be able to press up their shitty band’s vinyl, but they’ll never rock as confidently as a group like Haiduks. This is full-ensemble shit, too. Some will chalk this up to the 60s, and I will again call that a cop-out. Just because an album has a bit of psych-groove to it doesn’t indebt it to the flower-child decade, at least not anymore. I grew up in the 80s, as mentioned, so I’m sick to death-dick of hearing about the 60s. FUCK the 60s. It’s 2014 now and we’re all feeling healthy and free and loving and we don’t feel the need to put a label on it because then Coke/Cola would get ahold of that shit. This is ours. I just wish I knew what the hell it was. You’ll never be so glad to hear a wonky sax solo, nor bask in one man’s progressively beautiful vision. But WAIT: Lest we forget, this is a split tape. What about Einar Jullum’s half, Hjerteknuser- Og Andrew Blues? Man, it’s awesome too. It’s got a bluesy backbone – might be the only time I’ve ever used that phrase to compliment an artist – and guitar parts that snap into place so perfectly it’s almost suspicious. Fun in an innocent way too, to be enjoyed like those words you used as a kid before you realized the sexual connotations (i.e. ‘moist’), all whirling flutes and sky-lit roots rock that somehow doesn’t suck azz like most roots rock intrinsically does. Makes bands I truly enjoy like The Boggs seem nondescript; RELOAD, INDIE ROCKERS, because these two bands just ate your lunch and licked their oily fingers to the bone. As with truly remarkable food, it’s almost a shame to lose this tape to the process of critical digestion. Because there’s a slight chance I’ll file A Fair Pair away and forget about it, display due diligence and seek this one out and/or press it onto infinity-gram wax.

Links: Kinnta

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.”
“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


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

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.