Zach Phillips

Recorded in Heaven

[CS; Lillerne]

I didn’t realize how UN-jaded I could be until I realized I had a Zach Phillips tape in the hopper I’d been neglecting. BINGO, HEE HEE!!! YEE-FUCKIN’ HAW MY NINJAZ!!! And it’s the best one yet, the songs more fully developed, instincts honed, melodies refined, Michael Cera-style coke problems sorted out (or not), fantasies and reality safely nestled in the same pocket of Phillips’ headspace. Recorded in Heaven to me serves as the richest endeavor of all of this busy bee’s bands because he just does what he wants to do: Post-Ariel Pink synth-pop compositions with heart placed firmly in cheek. And he’s not scared of anything. He veers into extremely surreal territory that evokes Scarface synths, yes, but also a lot of recycled melodies from the 1970s soft-rock scrapyard, not UN-including fucking Chicago and maybe even Christopher Cross. He also thinks he’s John Lennon for a song. And that’s fine. I could see how a regular person might dismiss this but the same doubter would never claim the ride isn’t interesting. Don’t miss Recorded in Heaven or any of the Phillips franchise (Blanche Blanche Blanche, Big French, et al) locations around the country if you value colorful wave crests and/or magical keyz.

Links: Lillerne

Thaniel Ion Lee

Ambiguity Makes the Confusing Seem Normal

[CS; Watery Starve]

Thaniel Ion Lee may be the most restrained composer to grace Watery Starve’s short but impactful run thus far. Ambiguity… is a carefully paced cassette; three pieces per side that blend yet each with unique identities. Lee’s earning real injuries by fracking composition for the gritty, oily fossils only to scoop up the runoff and turn it into usable substances. But think of this as none-the-less precious, as Lynn only cobbled 75 of these together. Too bad, but therein lies the ambiguity of the title. The seedy toil, the labor of love and darkness only to be shared by a select few. That’s what makes this so intimate and coveted. It’s not so much for the collectible nature of the artwork, the packaging, and the music (though all worth the scavenge) but the emotional connection of broken music mended into workable parts. There’s a metaphor worth chasing in here, so scoop up your own handful of sludge and find it.

Links: Thaniel Ion Lee

Henry & Hazel Slaughter

Endless Power Cycle

[LP; Fedora Corpse]

John Olson, giver of so much life to all of us in the noise bunker, once again strengthens his resume outside of Wolf Eyes with a new Henry & Hazel Slaughter LP via ever-reliable Fedora Corpse. H&H threw around some ratchets in the cassette junkyard and now they move on to a vinyl dealership, where, to these ears, they ultimately belong. Endless Power Cycle, considering its title, is an extremely spare venture, with a nervous, hesitant dub beat providing the backbone for a parade of softer drill-bit scrapes that molest, then invade, your ears. Side B gets hairier though, bass rippin’ almost like that Dead Fader EP on Robot Elephant or Metasplice hand-pounded flat, soaked in digital overflow, and laid atop a vicious beat. Much less restraint effects-wise, but it’s still a patient flow that earns every outburst. Not dissimilar to fellow noisenik Aaron Dilloway’s solo stuff, nor many of the artists you’ll find on labels like American Tapes, the imprint that has thus far put out the majority of H&H’s stuff. Soft noise with a dub/electronic undercurrent finds a balance that many veterans of the noise wars gravitate toward, but Power Cycle is a slightly superior battle. If you think 250 copies, on loud-ass ‘I got slime’d’ green vinyl, is a lot, you’re wrong.

Links: Fedora Corpse

The Cairo Gang

Mixtape No. 1 Scandinavia, May 2013

[CS; Teen River]

Emmett Kelly is a noted Bonnie “Prince” Billy collaborator and a musician that I sure as shit should be familiar with, but am sad to say that I am not quite that. Instead, I’m a dumb idiot sitting at a bar on my tenth run-through of Mixtape No. 1 on a Walkman, a collection that isn’t even listed on this Wikipedia page that I am definitely not looking at right now for research… TMI? Oof, maybe. I’ll tell you what though, you don’t need a lot of information about Emmett Kelly to enjoy a band like The Cairo Gang, or indeed this simple eight-song tape that comprises a companion release to The Cairo Gang’s recent full-length, Tiny Rebels. It comes on a tape wrapped in simple cardboard packaging with simple track-info simply printed in simple black ink, block type-face. And I simply love these songs. All said and done, there are one of two types of tunes here: Jangly pop numbers that recall the Byrds as much as they do your (read: my) favorite Guided By Voices moments, or heart-wrenching ballads plucked out with pensive poise. Both items that could be run-of-the-mill, but instead avoid such slander by having stuff like sincerity, honest analog production, those attributes that so often save something great from being just plain old “good.” Pounded out with a shy sort of confidence, any kind of musicianship-flair is saved for those key moments, like in an extended coda of “An Angel, A Wizard” where you’ll hear that lead guitar letting go just enough to make your eyes clench a little tighter and bring that track home. Songs have an inherently catchy geometry that’ll hook the tip of your nose and keep your forehead bobbing: Up and down. Up and down. “Don’t tell me that you’re sorry.” “Don’t lead me down a tunnel.” Sorry, I’m just typing lyrics now, and I’ll keep doing that unless I stop altogether and just tell you to pop this tape in the deck of your convertible, put’er into 5th, head West and be done with it. We all finished here?

Links: The Cairo Gang - Teen River


Solve Et Coagvla

[CS; Land of Decay]

Oikos don’t so much obliterate the traditions of dark-drone as unsettle them. A workmanlike effort, Solve Et Coagvla drifts into a strangely peaceful strum sequence halfway through Side A and you think they’re ready to fold like a pair of 2s. “Coagvla” is a mean one though, leading a grim march into the black cauldron of ambient-guitar death. It’s pretty though, too. The strung-out guitar flutters and other tones ring of urgent beauty, like the monstrously picturesque fires of war. The war rhythms drum up feelings of fury, while the overall effect of the drones creates a wash, albeit one with dominant themes poking through the fray that surge to the front as the track descends. “Altered” is more of a straight-drone approach until a few rowdy, pulsating sound bits gang up on the rest and threaten to swallow the cut whole. Then it’s all sanded down again, etc. You know the drill if you’ve been paying attention to the tape game for even a few months, yet Solve Et Coagvla is a manageable excursion that never feels unconsidered.

Links: Land of Decay


Satan Replicant

[CS; Deathbomb Arc]

It’s not tough to see it coming: The cassettes sound so damn good you just know a vinyl merchant is going to inquire about this stuff sooner or later. Fairhorns’ Satan Replicant establishes itself as a force early on, and without realizing who’s behind it you might think you’re hitting on somethin’ unknown and/or private. That is not the case; apparently Geoff Barrow of Portishead (yes, THAT Portishead) recruited Matt Loveridge for Beak>, and Foot Village recently fitted him for a spell. That’s all well and merry, but Satan Replicant is where it’s at. Loveridge’s post-chillwave brew of swirling drone-rock shatters the facade we’ve all gotten used to in cassette culture, waiting for the eternal drift that will never come. He says FUCK THAT and lays down idiosyncratic instrumentals and vocals from a distance that suggests discomfort with all that is crystal-clear, though that is not a crutch; not ever. I’d liken Satan most to those next-level tapes Double Dot Dash seems to be able to pump out. So good they just can’t be cassette-only for long (or can they? Don’t wait to find out.).

Links: Deathbomb Arc


Invisible Blouse

[7-inch; Wharf Cat]

Dads attempt to prop up punk by kicking its legs out from under it. Relieved of any instinct toward civilized thought, Invisible Blouse thrives on what many bands would deem scraps. A lick here, some stick-clickin’, another lick or two… Where’s this all going? Then about 50 seconds in a build-up beckons the arrival of the drummer; a pounding section ensues wherein the singer shrieks like a stranded sailor (believe me, they shriek somethin’ fierce) and moans all snotty-like. “Homo Concentration” is much, much grittier, almost akin to that old Random Victim song “Killing a Pretty Girl” or maybe Dead & Gone. Flailing, beyond-regret vocals enable a relatively simple procession of toms, loose high-hats, and soft-electric guitar strums to stretch out and do some damage. When they’re done, it’s like a slow-motion tornado hit the room. Quite a contrast from track-to-track on this one, like Dads are doing a split with themselves. Thick pressing to match the mood, and we’re off to see the wizard.

Links: Dads - Wharf Cat



[3-inch CDR; Kimberly Dawn]

Easily Volmer’s most cohesive composition to date; Threat clings to winter woolen clothing like microscopic icicles, so you get the vibe. It’s a slow roller, carefully tumbling down the hillside so you feel the trip. It’s uplifting and spiritually centered, so you feel the light. Joseph Volmer has tapped into our essence; the meditative soul in each of us crying for inner peace. He delivers it on Threat, which seems like such a misnomer considering how tranquil these 22 minutes. After reading this, press play and close your eyes. Try your best to shut everything out. It’s a tough go for a rookie to reach transcendence in the span of a network sitcom but Volmer comes close. And if closing your eyes isn’t your thing, then fix your eyes on the album cover drawn by Phil French. Damn it! Now there’s no hope–we all want Clearing on Stunned. Some dreams will never come true, but at least we have the soundtrack to it.

Links: Kimberly Dawn

Tiger Village


[3xCS; Self-released]

Deep desires, fears, hopes, dreams, hallucinations, frustrations, fantasies, loves – whatever intense emotion or randomized thought process you could think of for a single human being – filtered through a set of bleeping/pulsating/plasmatic synthesizers, skittering beat machines, samplers and effects processors, all piled onto the reels of three cassette tapes. The resulting package, so generously donated to my mailbox by Clevelander and former Les Cousins Dangereaux Tim Thornton, has proven itself one of the best collections of purely electronic music to hit my tape deck ever. <—- That’s a period right there. There’s a laundry list of touchstones I could mention here as to the styles seen, motifs heard and flavors tasted, among them Autechre, Aphex Twin, Oval, Mouse on Mars, Jim O’Rourke, Matmos… basically my list of go-tos, the best of the very best, so this sentence should be read as extremely high praise. Of course such a sentence risks making it seem as though Tiger Village isn’t able to be its own thing, which clearly it is; the product of all the great work in that canon caploding into a pixelated spray of color, synthesizing a broad range and history of abstract electronic music into a convenient package that is as overwhelming to the neurons as it is a thing of sensory-stimulating simplicity to swallow in a couple of (rather large) aural gulps. Between twittering improvisations that feel like beautiful holodeck simulations gone wonderfully, sometimes frighteningly haywire, and elsewhere more premeditated looping with some skull-thumping beats, you’ll find linear melodies wandering their way through hyperspace, lightsabers swishing past your temples to give your eyebrows a tight trim, laser blaster battles, robotic dance raves and soothing bedtime ambience akin to circuit-bent sunsets over Mainframe City. Especially impressive is how all of these disparate things flow together, transitions you’ll barely notice making the entirety of the trilogy an endless segue of melodies melting into smears of synth that lay the groundwork for whatever whirling beat might follow, only to double back on itself backwards through progression I just related.

Ok, I’m just about done here, but I didn’t really get a chance to describe the nice black and white visual aesthetic of the tapes, or even say what I really wanted, which is something more like this: What the fuck, dudes. Amazing.

Links: Tiger Village - Self-released

Jackie O Motherfucker


[CS; Handmade Birds]

I’m not sure if it’s due to my many location changes or a freeze in output but it’s been a long time since Jackie O Motherfucker material crossed my desk. It’s good to have them back in the fold, Hello lubing their re-entry into my brain. As you might expect, two sidelong jams take the day: Side A, “Humblebee,” is a joyous caress of ghostly melodies from what must be a pan flute being played through an angel’s anus. More synth than I remember, with a core of percussive grit that slyly sustains the entire compositions with its random interjections. Also: clarinet, improv-style, and so much more I won’t spoil it for you. “Bumblebee” bursts with the ripeness, also without introducing too many elements into the mix. Sax, synth, guitar, more of those temperamental drum flare-ups that punch like that beefneck’d, dress shirt-wearing, red-faced guy at the bar who thinks I picked up his beer. Hey, it’s 50-cent beer night man; my treat. Just shut the FUCK up and let me listen to Jackie O belt out another improv jizzee. Smegma, Avarus, Tomutanttu, stripped of a layer or two and fidelity-wise taken even lower; that’s what we’re talking about here. Only 100 copies, still available last I checked, consult your local consulate.

Links: Jackie O Motherfucker

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.