Les Halles

Invisible Cities

[CS; Constellation Tatsu]

The life and times of Bob Ross has transformed into a calming center. Fans of the PBS known painter have found themselves in deep ruminations about the cosmic beauty of evolutionary design. Those brushed evergreens look bright contrasted against the white fluffy clouds and sunlit blue sky. Ross continues to teach new generations about the inherent self that resides in all. But what does Ross’ meditations jam to, because this is a not a man built on Dylan and Baez. Though very much a product of now, one can’t help but think of the zen instructor when listening to the triumphant hums of Invisible Cities. At once New Age and mystic as it is tangible and face-front, the latest Les Halles cassette is a similar study in the forms of our physical world and how with each mistreatment of the environment, we are scarring ourselves. Though it sounds ridiculous to devote time to repairing our souls in a world overwrought and rotting, there is no solution to our ills without self-examination. Les Halles may be a bit too serene in its reflection, but it serves as a means to find your nearest purveyor of punk, noise, and nihilism. Whatever gets you thinking about our smallness and largeness. It wouldn’t hurt to worship a few happy trees either.

Links: Constellation Tatsu

Back Magic

Chorus Line to Hell

[LP; Milvia Son]

I was scared to listen to Chorus Line to Hell again after a short break because there was the slight chance I wouldn’t enjoy it as much the second time. Nope; I’m still bowled over by this spooky little rock-duo album and its hand-crafted care. Back Magic break all the rules. They’re spare even for a duo. It might even sound like less than one dude in this band. Yet they play the scarcity of sound to their advantage, their sloppy but never ill-considered riffs soon requiring you to hang on every fret slide a la Slint. I can tell you all about it, of course, without in the slightest way knowing how the guitarist is achieving this. The drummer is terrible and that’s why he’s so good, tapping out beats like a smoke from a hard pack: casually but with great importance. I’ve got a few comparisons to project onto BM like so many insecurities but none of them are duos so don’t even think that way when you approach Chorus Line to Hell. The set-up is a non-issue. I go into a lot of reviews wanting to like what I’m hearing as much as I like this, and leave dissatisfied. Wish I had a hook-y ending for this, but I don’t… More of you should kick as much dick in as Back Magic!

Links: Back Magic

Sima Kim

Intertwined

[CS; Spring Break Tapes]

Intertwined is an island in the center of your mind, a place to where your ego can swim, narrowly escaping any dangers presented by the shark-infested surrounding waters of that day to day hell we so lovingly call “Life.” A brain vacation, pure and simple – your job, calendar, phone, enemies, all barking and gnashing discriminate teeth in your ego’s general direction, sidelined and silenced for the moment so that basking in the sonic rays of Sima Kim can commence uninterrupted. It’s part and parcel of a genre of music famous for being exactly what I just described, but the importance of having these little musical getaway gateways simply cannot be overstated, and Sima Kim nails it without resorting to carbon-copy construction. His gently ebbing sounds of glitch-glittered static arrive as reminiscent-only, manufacturing good vibes and lifting listeners to the fluffy clouds of imaginative thought with treble-heavy swishes of color that are as weightless as they are transparent. Four original works and four reworkings from outside perspectives round out the whole shebang with nary a millisecond wasted. Great for when you just can’t be wherever it is you find yourself wanting to pull your hair out… Which for me is, like, right now. And most times come to think of it. I guess that Sima Kim is just good. Always.

Links: Sima Kim - Spring Break Tapes

Can Can Heads

Butter Life

[LP; Karkia Mistika / Verdura / Bottom of the Pops]

Can Can Heads finally wriggle their wormy way back into my lair with an LP so skronky you can smell the sock sweat. Why does sax work so well with punk, from The Stooges and James Chance on up to Puffy Areaolas? Not sure I even wanna know; sometimes acquiring too much insight is tantamount to lessening one’s enjoyment. Going down that road will only lead to heartbreak, and Butter Life is a record I want to cement an iron-clad relationship with, no strings attached (save the fibers of my very heart; treat me right CCH!). Considering how many disparate ideas they splatter against the wall, the success rate Can Can Heads manage is astounding. I’m not sure if I hung the ol’ Swell Maps rung around their neck last time I reviewed them, but that’s the highest compliment I can give so they’ll have to deal with it. They’ve got that sense of reckless experimental abandon it’s so hard to find in punks who also can nail it straightaway if they wish. In other words, Can Can can play it hard and fast and even precise, if they want, but what fun would that be? Not near as much, correct. Gold star! So much more to go over with you though; can you stay after school? I’ll teach you about Fad Gadget, Colour Bük, very, very early Scritti Politti, The Residents, Wire, Notekillers, OCS/Thee Oh Sees, The Fall, ShxPx, Beefheart, and all the other bands your Rock History instructor never hipped you to in college for some astray reason.

Links: Can Can Heads

Richard Youngs

A Stolen Ringbuoy

[7-inch; Dirty Knobby]

Judging by the marquee names gracing the available records page of Seattle’s Dirty Knobby (Mind Over Mirrors, Pumice, The Fresh & Onlys), we are a world unaware of this great small pressings label. So perhaps our simpleton nature won’t cause us dismay when listening to the latest 7-inch from Richard Youngs, who does his best self-impression through the oscilloscope of a drunk Bob Pollard. I mean, look no further than the mangled title (A Stolen Ringbuoy) and a history of Youngs desecrating pop music in whatever two bit hole in the wall he can muster scattered notes and the obvious comparisons of the two heavy hitters seems apropos, if only for a fleeting moment. But this moment is one that is now captured on soul black wax, a reminder that even the most expressive revisionist is capable of brilliant bursts of uncomplicated pop music. Of course, what you and I call pop music might differ greatly, so perhaps this is your gateway drug to fuzz and skronk and my ticket out of the tangled forest of atonality.

Links: Richard Youngs - Dirty Knobby

Sugarm

Pure Racket

[CS; Hausu Mountain]

Maybe we stop calling it “noise.” Maybe instead we call it “junk.” When I think of noise, I think violence, painful sorts of listening situations. Junk on the other hand has substance – junk is real, junk is stuff. Junk can be ugly and gross, I guess, if you want to think of it that way (and in the case of Sugarm, that even sort of works some of the time). But the important thing here is that junk can be useful. Junk can be constructive. To say that Pure Racket is a bunch of junk is to also say that it is a sculpture made of things like banana peels, trash can lids, remote controls… Sometimes it’s things that are slimy and slippery, sometimes it’s plastic things with empty battery cases, scraps of metal, heaps of crumpled up cardboard boxes, wooden door handles… The stuff that doesn’t work any more, or maybe was never meant to in the first place, Mike Sugarman collects these figurative building blocks and makes them functional within whatever weird universe this is. Sugarm’s sounds come from (probably) none of the objects I’ve spent my time describing here – instead it’s things like synthesizers and samplers, pieced together with nuts and bolts, ratchets and hardware, sparked to life with the flip of a circuit breaker switch. And on the other end of the production line, what we get is a robot where all the components aren’t necessarily electronic, lumbering away on some mundane task, speeding its way down a train track, or whirring quietly in recharge stasis. And if you thought all that was weird, wait until you get to side B, which is to say that things actually “normalize” themselves to a degree…. Softer, a bit less eventful, even downright pretty with some nice guitar ballad work, too. So painful? Ear splitting? Hardly. At worst (best?) it’s kind of uncomfortable, but you and me both know you were plenty comfortable before you started reading this review.

Links: Sugarm - Hausu Mountain

Bran(…)Pos

Den of Ordure and Iridescence

[LP; Resipiscent]

I took respite from Cerbs for a few weeks and realized I was becoming gradually unhinged. It’s good to be back, in particular because in order to get the man-juices flowing I’ve decided to be selfish and hand-pluck a few of the darlings of the litter, among them this sick LPiece of exp. noise-oise from the confusingly named Bran(…)Pos (confusing because… How do I say that?). Den of Ordure and Iridescence offers a cinematic experience, not unlike a Tuxedomoon sound-screening at one of those old computer-music conservatories, but with more of a ‘tingle’ factor; you’ll get the chills a few times. “Lioness” in particular sets a vivid scene with its timpani rhythm and glazed key-nutz, changing character on the spot while offering many of the same surreal chirps and buzzes that dominate the first few cuts. This one’s a classic. In other news, near the end of “Plasticized Forest” I think I hear a band jammin’ out all gnarly-tits in the next room. Can’t confirm it though. Guess you’ll just have to check on that for me, since you should be picking this up anyway before it sells out like the last Bran(…)Pos product on Resipiscent.

Links: Resipiscent

Broken Machine Films

Album 01 Part 01 - The Time - Freshman

[CS; Sicsic]

I think that the official genre of this music is what’s known in the business as “noodle-scratcher.” At least that is what I, self-described professional noodle-scratcher cassette tape archivist and historian, would file Broken Machine Films under. A young man named Josh Rogers pieced this and a few other tapes together in recent months, music from what sounds like little more than video cassette tape samples from the 80s and 90s with little (or probably no) effectual affectations added. It’s just cut, pasted, and represented here in no particular order. Think Everything is Terrible, but audio only, and although funny, more by accident than on purpose. It’s a drum solo, then a Hawaiian luau tune, then the music from a network television station’s “Be right back” technical difficulties card. Side B starts with something that sounds like Mancini, and then rolls into maybe the opening credits of Baywatch(?), and so on. It is informative! It is educational! It is wearing neon sunglasses (cooooool)! It is four easy installments of $19.99, but only for a limited time! It is a couch potato! And it is even kind of sexy! You can see the horizontal tracking lines, you can feel the tint-adjust knob rolling around your index finger, trying to get that perfect, clear picture you know is hidden somewhere in the ol’ boob tube. You might not ever get there, but this should still provide ample entertainment nonetheless.

Links: Broken Machine Films - Sicsic

Michael O.

Face the Facts EP

[7-inch; Fruits & Flowers]

Giving an honest representation of self in music is a fun exploration of id. But often it becomes a battle of ego, and we’re stuck with Mariah Carey insisting her lovers play her music while they make love or whatever the hell you call it when two filthy rich people have sex in a 46th floor loft full of candles without romance. But Michael Olivares spent that time in his Oakland…well, we don’t want to know what else he was doing but making sides that have lead to this 7-inch. Though focusing in on the quick one-two of the A, let’s first focus on the cover of Scorpions’ “Speedy’s Coming” on the B, because nothing is as honest as admitting to a less than flattering love of a band that hasn’t been hip since a Berlin Wall ballad 20-odd years ago. Olivares’ honest pop rendition is a carryover from the same crackling pop-rock from a bygone era that envelopes the two originals (the EP’s namesake and the sub-minute “Fear of Balance.” Again, there’s a genuine to feel to Face the Facts because as en vogue as it should be in a world of Real Estate and Beach Fossils, there’ still an earnest simplicity that makes this basement made EP just different enough that the freaks and geeks can gravitate toward it and claim it as their secret crush in 10-20 years when they continue to cycle of releasing their own truths from their own basements.

Links: Fruits & Flowers

Pulse Emitter

Equinox

[CS; Constellation Tatsu]

Who would have thought years ago that some of the synth effects we were hearing in the background of Tears For Fears tunes and that cut from the The Goonies soundtrack would be a focal element of so many underground LPs and tapes? I’m not complaining, either. I keep telling myself I won’t write about synth artists that have released a shit-glut of tapes and LPs on like two-dozen different labels, but what can I do when my spirit continues to be compelled despite its deep reservations about their oft-repetitive nature? I even remember sort of nodding to myself in agreement when Britt from Not Not Fizzy talked about how trendy underground music cycles can be. Yet here I am, praising Pulse Emitter/Daryl Groetsch to the sky, popping his tape in at home (which, fyi, sounds great for a tape, on four speakers too), and zoning out to his music at work. Groetsch is predictable but consistent, causing the ear(s) to prick up every time he sits at his keys, breathing life into the room. There’s a reason his name keeps popping up in the tape-tradin’ leagues, his having moved up to the majors years ago. So sit back and let the tones bake your big, chalky bones. Edition of 250, copies still available via friends-of-Cerb-life Constellation Tatsu.

Links: Constellation Tatsu
  

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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.