Tashi Dorji

Blue Twelve

[12-inch; Blue Tapes / X-Ray Records]

Conventional understandings of the limitations of the classic guitar setup have long since been rendered meaningless by a bevy of players ill-satisfied with the sound of a standard strum. But in the case of Tashi Dorji, who is certainly among the experimental elite, the aim seems to be to refigure those tired techniques into a new dialect of musical composition. Unlike someone like Hubble’s Ben Greenberg, who wants to divorce the artifact’s inherent acoustics from itself, transcending the Platonic form of the instrument, Dorji uses the textures we all already know are there to his advantage. That is, so much of what we hear on Blue Twelve just plain sounds like a guitar – plucked strings lifted from the sound table of a six-stringed block of wood and an amplifier. However, that guitar, and Dorji as the voice behind the object, is speaking an entirely different language to us. Some of it has to do with the musical theory behind what’s going on, bouncing around scales like Schoenberg schooling Derek Bailey on the oddball tonalities that flit their way across these manic improvisations. But with the added element of volume control, warbling tremolos, and the eye-popping gymnastics Dorji flexes around the fret board, the playing produces some of the most alien music from some of the most familiar sounds that I’ve ever come across. Much of it is torrential, aggressive, sharp — but not all; Dorji’s electric tone, unencumbered by outside effects, is uniformly rounded with smooth, clean contours that allow for the aggressive pin-pricking guitar plucks to cut through with the intimidating confidence of an opera soprano. Headphones is an absolute must here to pick up all of the nuances, especially when the volume knob is cranked left, leaving only the wire strings themselves to carry the music forward (which amazingly, they do). Absolutely one of the best vinyl releases of the year, and an incredible debut for Blue Tapes’ transition/addition of this newly-minted X-Ray Records sect.

Links: Tashi Dorji - Blue Tapes / X-Ray Records


Lost, discarded or simply forgotten

[CS; Blackest Ever Black]

The process of taking a song from a “demo” to a “finished” track is puzzling to me. I’m not a musician, so maybe there is some aspect of it that I am missing out on, but when I hear a b-side or demo collection I inevitably find myself scratching my head over why tracks were shelved. This is, of course, the case here, where what is advertised as a series of demos or forgotten tracks feels as fleshed out and solid as a full-fledged album.

I enjoy this collection more than either Dalhous album and the reason is simple: sonic diversity. Maybe it was an attempt to stay stylistically and thematically focused but I have a hard time separating the tracks on those albums; they all kind of lump together into a mass of gently floating electronics. With this cassette collection of demos there is an adventurousness and a willingness to experiment that seems (intentionally or not) bred out of other Dalhous releases. It makes you wonder why these pieces were rejected from release on either album or EP in the first place; what about the songs here made the creators say “naw, let’s shelve that one.” Because maybe they were wrong.

Links: Blackest Ever Black

The Zoltars

The Zoltars

[LP; Happenin Records]

The amount of garage rock flooding a hungry market is a Caligula sized feast. Much of it is fast food quick; a lot of cheap, easy food with little taste that never satiates. Austin based The Zoltars have always been fine dining by comparison. But please don’t wear your tuxedo or expect to keep elbows off the table while enjoy the band’s latest. Garage rock’s ragged catchiness is paired nicely with clean, crisp production. A note isn’t missed and the tempo’s neat. There’s not a hint of image or concern for true authenticity. Like the best…well, anything…imitation is flattering but it should never be out-right theft. The Zoltars are their own Michelin star-rated greatness; inventive by completely skewing a trendy version of garage rock that will come and go with every new generational tweak. You’ll put this record on and believe it to be a lost 60’s gem. If you don’t focus too heavy on the cover, it’ll keep the illusion alive. It’s like eating at the best Vegas Rat Pack places as Sammy and Dean yuck it up on stage in-between love croons. Except this is “garage rock” so let’s wreck the place and start a bonfire. But mind your manners when you do it. Pinkies up!

Links: The Zoltars - Happenin Records



[CS; Cryptic Carousel]

I’m often asked if I miss Seattle (A: every day). And though I could point to the weather, the culture, the atmosphere and the thrill I got from seeing every second bit trend come and go, the honest answer is no duo like #tits is going to spring forth from the Midwest. Which is a shame because #tits is something straight outta Rookie, except far more vitriolic and destructive. BFFs, each side seemingly proclaiming a cup size. The album’s cover a cheeky reference to the other objectified area of a woman. But the music, oh the music. It’s a brutal guitar assault from G. Kate Wiebe & Rachel N. LeBlanc; a raw, visceral display of noise acumen in a scene where a “lack” of women is but a reality existed with blinders. There’s no doubt that this is noise of the highest annoyance and its sting is intensified by it being proudly amplified by two women. In Seattle, it’s a shrug and a bit of pride. But here in middle America, #tits couldn’t be a bigger middle finger if it was a giant foam hand that had a walking fish and rainbow bumper sticker stuck to it. Of course times are changing and the youth are breaking those standards, but the old guard is refusing to let go of its position in the High Castle. #tits are the sort of rallying cry – beyond the gender and genre they occupy – that makes a silent generation take notice, and not just objectively.

Links: #tits - Cryptic Carousel

Go No Go For Launch


[CS; Field Hymns]

Field Hymns dips into the re-issue game a little bit here in digging up an album by a fellow named Randall Taylor from back in 2006, which is (for lack of a better term) 8-bit butt-rock. Amazingly, I don’t exactly remember that being the hip style nine years ago… maybe I just missed the bandwagon. Or maybe I didn’t: Go No Go For Launch was a salvaged favorite of Dylan McConnell’s, received and rejected as a demo submitted to another label he was working for at the time, and essentially inspiring his uniformly ultra-badass cassette imprint in the process. So Jerk-Ass records missed out, and here we are a decade later with what I’m calling an “8-bit butt-rock tape.” And while I don’t totally blame you for raising an eye-brow at that and considering whether or not you’ll wanna get any closer to this thing, let me just stop you right there and quickly let you know that I love this shit. Listen to what’s there: Drum-machines, blippy synth-pop hooks, all underscored with chunky guitar riffs and thumps of bumpy bass. It’s just cheesy enough, just raw enough, just (un)real enough; just exactly enough. Tempos are at a tolerable “up,” – nothing so breakneck you might break your neck, which is something I find refreshing, since sending stuff like this into drill’n’drone territory could feel like a cop-out. It takes some restraint and real control to keep it keeled back like Taylor does on Re-Entry, and the melodies, bright and bouncy bounties they are, ring clean and true through it all. Sometimes you can feel that rushing, surging urge, a line getting slightly ahead of the backbeat, falling forward in hot anticipation of the next verse. I hear this as evidence of just how happy and excited this music is to be alive, to have been composed, and to be jogging laps around your ears. There’s a living pulse to the music that’s aerobic, exercise that doesn’t actually feel like exercise; yeah, it’s sweaty, but it’s also bleached with the feeling that you’re not gonna be hurting the next day. And as I struggle a bit myself with the pre-mid-life realizations that – Christ – I’m twenty pounds heavier at 30 than I was at 20, Go No Go For Launch is gonna be my daily inspiration to try to be exactly what it is: Fit, in-shape, and ready to fucking dominate each day ahead.

Links: Field Hymns


Only Shadows Now

[LP; Bruit Direct]

A Liverpoolian brood and a laissez male croon. Wonderfuls latest is a stark and cold set with the voice of Mark Knopfler colliding with the emoting of Nico. A moody affair plucked out on guitar and synth, these are the simple word poems of Bobby Bot matching the unknown north beyond the band’s Brisbane and Gold Coast home. What lies in the outback is but a longing mystery that has driven many men to seek what they’ll never fine. Clearly Bot has taken this sojourn, its effects hanging like the album’s shadowy namesake across the void that is now his sung life. Yet in its bleak appearances, Wonderfuls has with it a ray of hope. These are but emotions put to lyrics and music; the worst of man splayed out in art. Bot is playing the patron at the pub and we the bartenders. We can relate to his tales of woe and misfortune, for we too have heard the call and answered it. It may not be a physical journey, but we’ve cuddled up to sad bastard records and lengthy prose to tease out our misery. Which is why Only Shadows Now will continue to find a home on our turntables even when the civility of wives, children and jobs chase those calls of the wild away for new fears.

Links: Bruit Direct

Polígono Hindú Astral


[CS; Conjunto Vacío]

Polígono Hindú Astral, an outfit affiliated with Gumshoe-approved Burka For Everybody label, have a way of making its albums your favorite on the shelf without going to great lengths to impress you. 67P doesn’t quite have the snap-crackle of 00110010, an LP PHA put out this year, but its highs are a bit higher, lows a bit lower. At times you’ll swear you’ve stumbled upon ecstasy for the ears, just be prepared for a bumpy ride through the programmatic universe of the post-prog synthwave era upon us. Polígono Hindú Astral seem manic, frenzied, and excited to be alive, but most importantly, they’ve done their homework. 67P never clumsily rips off Steve Hillage or Harmonia as it searches for identity, instead trusting in the heat of the moment to tell them what their hearts mean. But this ain’t ASIA (the band) dawg; I shouldn’t have to tell you that. PHA is for the children, a tingle-inducing stew of clean cuts that sparkle like diamonds even in darkness. Drink it in.

Links: Polígono Hindú Astral

Thee Tsunamis

Saturday Night Sweetheart

[LP; Magnetic South]

Thee Tsunamis have long haunted parts of the Midwest with a retro B-movie vibe of swamp monsters and haunted hotrods. It seems the trio has gone further back in time with their kitsch without forfeiting the forward movement of their music. Saturday Night Sweetheart may have the sheen of three women in 50’s garb but the gnarly music demystifies the idea that women just want to be treated like dolls. Openers “Female Trouble” and “Trash Talk” do much to transform the old girl-band standard by completely destroying them with a punch to the jaw. Yet Thee Tsunamis never run from those doo-wop love songs that make the band so unique in a scene crowded with garage-tinged bands. It’s a strange dichotomy that a man is in no way positioned to speak about, only to admire. But before that, I’m just going to kick back with a beer and a white sleevless, sitting on the hood of my car and blast this out the windows. Maybe slick the hair back and find a black leather jacket. Cruise the streets and hope to land in a time when Saturday Night Sweetheart wouldn’t be weighed down by semantics but praised for being a ballsy rock and roll record showcasing a band that continues to grow confident with each passing release. I better shut up – I’m just a “Dummy” and shouldn’t be talking.

Links: Thee Tsunamis - Magnetic South

Yannis Kyriakides + Andy Moor

A Life is a Million Heartbeats

[LP; Discrepant]

I’m not sure how Discrepant Records locates the best ethnotronic acts (journeys to faraway lands? chat rooms? psychic connections?), but the label that brought you Gonzo/Lowdjo and Kink Gong now comes forward with Kyriakides and Moor’s Life is a Million Heartbeats, an exploratory mission to the center of Greek rebetika music’s skull. Seeing as I’ve never heard this particular genre (and I’m guessing you haven’t either), all I can ostensibly do is tell you what to expect. And brother, you should expect a lot. The duo, using guitar, live samples, and electronics, manage to project this mysterious music onto a new cave wall, revealing intricacies that may or may not have anything to do with the root source of the rebetika tunes they’re jiving all over. Suffice to say, while Moor and Kyriakides harbor reverence for the artform, they’re not shy about widening its eccentricities and tweaking around with what seem to be its most ironclad conventions. My favorite section is the last song on Side B (so typical, amIright?), a screeching guitar-drone that sounds like an electric, old-school BJM riff paused and stretched over five minutes, with accents sprinkled on to taste. Also breathtaking are the samples of female vocals, quivering and ghostly enough to haunt your family for generations if you dare to spin Life is a Million Heartbeats in your home. I just heard something ‘creek’ in the other room so I gotta go…

Links: Discrepant

Rob Mazurek

Alternate Moon Cycles

[LP; International Anthem]

Being late to the party is better than never arriving, though I do feel like I’ve come at the end when the revelers have gassed out. But that’s when the real fun begins, supplied by this patient post-crash bliss. Rob Mazurek has assembled a trio that subtly plays with expectations of experimental jazz. Rather than flamboyant pop and spazz, Mazurek (cornet), Matt Lux (bass) and Mikel Patrick Avery (organ) create a space of zen reflection. The New Year has come, “Auld Lang Syne” has wafted into the night and what’s left but a half-year of shattered expectations and new dreams. It’s the same cycle and Mazurek captures it eloquently with this headphone masterpiece of wistful belief. Alternate Moon Cycles is what it takes to survive the after party, Mazurek’s cornet playing a mournful blast of reverie at just the right moments; the tribute to the dying years and faded memories without forgetting all that’s past. The streamers may be drooping, the party-goers sunken. Yet we will see the sun rise and at dawn, a new beginning. Until then, we shall stare at the blinking stars and the waxing moon to await the fate of tomorrow.

Links: Rob Mazurek - International Anthem

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.