Comfort Link

The Complex Moods of Comfort Link

[CS; sPLeeNCoFFiN]

First, the packaging: Tim Wisniewski (who also runs tape label sPLeeNCoFFiN, and yes, capitalization is absolutely important, I checked) nestled this one, a follow-up to his debut Comfort Link release, inside a re-purposed accordion file folder outfitted with some nice collage art. Sure, commendable for its green methods of construction, but the aesthetic is also indicative of the sounds you’ll hear on this very strange musical personality’s tapes, and “The Complex Moods of…” is no exception, as the release reflects Comfort Link’s ability to recycle a dusty-brown set of sound sources through an analog tape loop/effect conduit. Wisniewski weaves old easy listening records, open reel tapes, ambient background sounds re-recorded from old films, and sounds of the magnetic recording process itself into a subdued drift, stitching it all together with dental floss to reveal a patch-worked quilt of colorful and, yes, very moody drone. Things shift from mechanical to organic with a long fluid sweep leaving you in a completely different spot by the end of each side from where you began, although that journey itself, when looked back upon, is like a weirdly blurry and instantly-forgotten memory. This latest tape is a bit on the bleaker end of what I’ve heard Wisniewski come up with, these tapes winding and grinding themselves down into a dank and dimly lit place that almost has a sickly after-effect. You can see it: the visors and bow ties, blue collars toiling away at oily machines under the light of a hot lamp. It’s uncomfortable, but ultimately inevitable, and necessary; Comfort Link is the loops of life.

Links: sPLeeNCoFFiN

Ancestral Diet

Official Waste

[LP; Torrid Orb / Saxwand]

Ancestral Diet loom in the shadows of Bauhaus-laced goth oddity yet hint at a pop precept or two along the lines of a Devo or mid-’80s Wire. You could throw on one of those Weird coldwave compilations and find the skeleton for a lot of these ideas, but tracks like “Uptight General” represent Biafra or Mike Anderson fronting Dead & Gone with the distortion turned off and drums excised. Oh, and Maria Minerva is manning the synth-pads. I’m getting just a flutter of folk too, particularly in cuts like “Water Burns,” along with a whiff of Religious Knives I wasn’t expecting. The Haute Magie crew would be all over this one, bet on that. Then the Dead Reptile Shrine shrieks come in and I feel like giving up. Must… find common thread; nothing to hold onto… And how! The flip might deliver even more zing-zang for your hard-earned clam, Official Waste proving to test the endurance of even the most steadfast trance-seeker. Could have done without such an emphasis on the deadpan vocals; what can you do? It’s forgivable, and not just because of the nice see-through orange wax. Call it what you will, Ancestral Diet seize the moment with an iron fist.

Links: Torrid Orb / Saxwand

Amen Dunes


[LP; Perfect Lives]

The sparse nature of Through Donkey Jaw was quickly supplanted by the Jah psychedelia of “Ethio Song.” Now Damon McMahon does another trick with the catch-all Spoiler. Three hundred pieces of memorabilia of a bygone era; trinkets of experiments and half-thoughts before, during, and after Through Donkey Jaw that shake with uncertainty. But it’s why McMahon’s work is so enduring — that quivering delight at starring into the unknown and sharing it with those of us without a clue. Moments of musique concrète (“Camels in Amsterdam”), raw guitar repetition (“Watching Cartoons”), and oblique prog (“The Night I Joined the Navy”) are as confessional as they are confusing, just as any Amen Dunes fan would want. The only enigma these days are those dreamed up by those who can’t go with the flow. As antiquated an idea, it’s the crux of Spoiler. It’s challenging but not anymore so than Dark Souls or cinéma vérité. The only losing proposition — the only one ever prospered by McMahon–is to those who ignore his work and fear repeated deaths attempting enlightenment. If you fear abstraction, you cannot tread here. For everyone else, meet your equally confused tour guide as you are lead into the recesses of…

Links: Amen Dunes

Best Available Technology

Bangers & Ash

[12-inch; Styles Upon Styles]

Finally some of that dirty UK techno is hitting the misty shores of Cerberus! Only this ain’t London, this be New York, so strap on your heavy boots and get ready to lay some rusty pipe. Best Available Technology use sides A and B to create a captivating contrast that pits more experimental electronic sounds (A) against crowd-pleasing 4/4 bliss (B). If you’ve been reading Cerbs for any amount of time at all you know which side of the fence we’re going to fall on, but both serve a worthy purpose. Bangers & Ash covers a lot of ground for a 45 RPM 12-inch (which, incidentally, weighs a metric ton), particularly amid the gruesome sound-blurs of “Venom, Pheromone, and Phosphorus” and “Vulgar Geometry,” when I can’t help but bring up the synth blurs of Metasplice once again and marvel at how few acts cut to the core of techno quite like B.A.T. Hopefully this is just a tiny finger-dab taste of a dealer’s ransom to come.

Links: Best Available Technology - Styles Upon Styles


Holy Ghost

[CS; Bridgetown Records]

Madeline Johnston, tape sorceress of Denver’s Tinyamp Records, dropped a real stunner for Bridgetown this past summer, one that has segued itself nicely into Autumn with an unimaginably soft touch and reverb-soaked everything gently drifting down, down, down; to the ground, to your body. Or deeper, really, this is surface-digging stuff, ballads with a voice and a guitar, simple lyrics repeated in trance-like chants to get all the way under the skin. Paper-thin, bare-boned and beautiful, Mariposa at once seems like she is barely there while also having a miraculously robust and powerful presence. Her voice is a snowflake — fragile, complex, ready to melt. Guitar chords swaying gingerly between two chords are winds, rustling the leaves or rocking the empty tire swing. But none of it is quite as chilly as I’ve described either. Holy Ghost feels like a familiar place, a dwelling you’ve occupied for years, full of fleece blankets and fireplaces, maybe a photograph or two — tools are simple and sparse, there for survival and nothing in excess or unneeded. “Did you ever feel at home inside this house?” Johnston asks waist-deep into side-B, and it’s not exactly an easy question to answer, let alone comprehend.

Links: Mariposa - Bridgetown Records

German Army

German Army

[LP; Skrot Up]

The more tapes/LPs I hear from German Army the more convinced I am that they are slowly decamping to a climate not unlike that explored, previously and currently, by Edward Ka-Spel. The misty fields, essentially spoken dialogues, seemingly aimless instrumentals (which, conversely, are anything but), and bleak landscapes reek of Legendary Pink Dots’ founder. My only question is where is this all going? German Army have slain so many enemies on the post-post-post-punk battlefield you wonder if they’re going to go the way of Disco Inferno and disappear before the population at-large can hear them. That would be a dick-kicking shame, as the swirling, colder-than-ice environs they cocoon us in are more comfortable than my descriptions would suggest. How does one express anger/dissatisfaction without screaming one’s brains out? Listen to German Army and find out, and don’t worry; the material is out there if you know where to look (i.e. Skrot Up, yo!).

Links: Skrot Up

Benjamin Finger

Listen to My Nerves Hum

[LP; Time Released]

Listening to Benjamin Finger’s latest is to do so with kid gloves, afraid the slightest mishandling or heavy breath will shatter the one and only copy of Listen to My Nerves Hum. It’s the still reverb of footsteps echoing in a museum, where every piece seems so well curated and painstakingly built that to disturb their resting place is to belittle the art. But that isn’t the goal of Benjamin Finger as dainty as his compositions may seem. Art is about participation, smearing the blood and guts onto the canvas or molding and casting with soft hands that will become rock. You need to listen over and over again but the feeling of scarcity will pass, to be replaced by sanctuary. You will begin to curl inside the grooves, caress the beautiful cover art, and be inspired. The album is no longer a stale exhibit hall but a bristling, interactive composition that cries out for your own flourishes and embellishments taken from your life. You will cook to these docile strains. You will clean with the sway of the airy spaces. Though great care should be taken to protect your copy of Listen to My Nerves Hum for just 300 exist, it’s meant to be lived in and not protected by bulletproof glass inside a sterilized bubble.

Links: Time Released

Lame Drivers

Flexi Book EP

[flexi art book; Self-released]

Can’t get this thing to play at the beginning of most of the songs but once that needle sets in all troubles evaporate. The flexi-book idea seems to be a relatively new phenomenon (Castle Face and Famous Class both did one) and while I have reservations about the aforementioned playability the art direction of this piece is outstanding. Lame Drivers are an extremely game band, capable of spitting out common-guy indie-rock without going all Meneguar on us (too soon?). If you like the ragged rawk of The Replacements and Cloud Nothings you will find a lot of kindred traits on this record, though there’s nothing sloppy about “Frozen Egg”; quite the opposite. Their instinctive rockist approach is pure and beguiling in a ramshackle way without giving up on its smarts, even when the singer is quacking up a bit out there. “We R Notified,” an intriguing tangle of random guitar figures, is another keeper for your trapper. Five flexis, five artists designing the lustrous pages in between, and one TMT reader who should get going on this before it goes hella-OOP (are you trying to make a schmuck of me?).

Links: Lame Drivers

Village Pistols

Big Money

[7-inch; Last Laugh]

It’s funny as FUCK how things turn out. I can guarantee that if, in 1981, if I had been a teen, and Mitch Easter had shown me this Village Pistols 7-inch alongside R.E.M.’s first single (which apparently was recorded on the same tape!) I can imagine my reaction, knowing my young self: “Man, love the Village Pistols stuff. Those other guys ‘r’ bitches.” That ‘those other guys’ would go on to be superstars doesn’t change a thing about this awesome little record, either. Village Pistols, infected with a scorching case of punk rabidity, explode from the speakers like napalm and will damage your genetic make-up just as much if not more. “Strawberry Fields Forever” is the kind of cock-knocker I always expect to get from a Last Laugh platter but it doesn’t make it any less a pleasure when it happens again, as it just did. OOF, fucker! The b-side yanks a little less crank but you’ll forgive it. Vinyl so tubby it’s trying to lose weight, too. So damn heavy.

Links: Last Laugh


Rat Talker

[7-inch; Army of Bad Luck]

Holy shit, part of me wants to skip this one over and save myself the critical sweat but hey, reviewing curiosities such as Hawks’ “Rat Talker” builds character, right? (Right?) So fuck, let me see if I’ve got this straight: Leftover Crack/Choking Victim + Blood Brothers vocals, production pried from the skeletal hands of a stoner-doom production, riffs that actually are more hard-rock than punk, and a drummer that thinks he’s running the show, fillin’ and drillin’ and bee-boppin’ and scattin all over the place? Really? (Am I asking too many questions in this review? Oops, there’s another one.) And… fuck my mother I think I just… Yep, I just heard a bass, AND guitar, solo. I’m not even sure where to turn at this point. Since I can’t help but think my vexation is a positive sign on some level I’ll go ahead and slap a thumbs-up sticker on this dick-kicker’s dirty bumper, but I’ve got some advice for you, pal: tread lightly. There are a lot of things happening on this record that you haven’t had to contend with in a long, long while. I’m a changed man.

Links: Army of Bad Luck

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.