Better Psychics

What is Rule

[CS; OSR Tapes]

If Blanche Blanche Blanche are the Devo of this generation, Better Psychics are the Lemon Kittens of today, engaging in an engrossing sound spectacle that seems to have no conscience, much less rhyme or reason. What is Rule, like anything Zach Phillips touches, could have come from no other source. It’s got the most mischievous attitude imaginable, pulling changes and moves designed to infuriate and intrigue in equal measure. I, of course, find it to be more of the latter. There’s no precedent for this that I can hear; it’s all joyous brushstrokes and playful patter, mostly guitars and some keys dipped in Drano. It’s dangerous to start getting into Animal Collective comparisons, yet that’s just what I’m compelled to do, as Better Psychics possess that same sense of utter freedom. “We can do it before / we can do it again” … well, yeah, but that’s the exact opposite of what I’ve come to expect from this camp. Never a repeat, cult-classic-never-best-seller, bitches.

Links: OSR Tapes

Ron Berry

Where Dark Forces Meet

[CS; Sanity Muffin]

Ron Berry spent a good chunk of the 80s designing and building analogue synths, drum machines and speakers in the UK, and as luck would have it he was also spending a good chunk of that chunk composing music on said equipment and recording it. So here we have the first of his first two albums, which were both recently reissued by Oakland’s Sanity Muffin imprint, and it’s a real retro-lectric odyssey. With the sheer volume of great komische/kraut minimal synth music happening in Germany (see: Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, et. al.) and Italy too, really (Moroder), it’s a bit of a surprise to hear this coming out of Manchester, relatively around the same time period, and also sounding so well executed. Berry’s music slides gracefully through a number of moods and styles, from smooth ambient soundscapes to prickly psuedo-noise tracks and then a couple of up-tempo rollicks that give a pretty strong Atari and NES video game soundtracks nostalgia vibe. Throughout, there’s a multitude of textures that, though related to one another as pitches on a scale, give each track a nice depth with layers allowing for music that might be stereotyped as planar a three-dimensional architecture. It’s a silicon landscape you’re free to roam, walk around in, take a nap or just stare up into twinkling abyss of ones and zeros.

Links: Ron Berry - Sanity Muffin

Tashi Dorji

Tashi Dorji

[CS; Headway]

Guitar skill is tough to judge. Some covet Eddie Van Halen, others Sandy Bull, most droll work from The Edge or those guys in all the bands that sound happily alike. Tashi Dorji wants it all and none of it. His self-titled cassette is a menagerie of different guitar explorations: broken fragments of bored plucks; sporadic noodling across the fret board; patient smacks of steel. All of it very good and worth many listens, to pick and choose with section of which song is worth memorizing. And you’ll want the ability to recall these melodies through the day in an effort to replace the dull sounds of our boxed-in world. Noises to make elevator dings more delightful, door bells more tolerable, and life a bit brighter. A nice tide to wash away the cynicism and crud.

Links: Headway

Sugar Boys

General Store / Back to Business

[CS; Black Cheeks]

One of the best things about Tonstartssbandht is their flexibility, and their longform stoner-rock jams, which mostly take form in a live setting, are explored more fully in this Andy White side project. Sugar Boys treat fidelity like the red-headed stepchild it is, boosting the bass to toy boombox levels and engaging in simplified versions of gnarly tangles you might have found on a Comets On Fire LP or Guardian Alien tape. I’m not sure this drummer even knows how to choke off his high-hat; either way he doesn’t try. That’s “First Taape,” the 17-minutes-short opening track. “Hardline” is a slower grunt truck, but the song remains the same: dirt-cheap, dirty deeds done. “Sweet Daddy,” another upwards-of-15-minutes slice of epic curiosity, tries on a different rhythmic slant, and it works. It all depends, however, on your ability to endure audio that almost rocks too hard.

Links: Black Cheeks

Astral Planes Drifter

Sight of Sight

[CS; Rainbow Pyramid]

This slippery, squishy, gloppy piece of audio goo oozed from the yoke of Astral Planes Drifter in 2007 and now blinks to life once again as a tape on the fledgling Rainbow Pyramid imprint. Too bad Sight of Sight is APD’s only documented release, as the dude provided a prototype for a broad swathe of post-noise experimentation we enjoy now. Found sound, voice samples, quasi-tuned guitars, bells, effects, unidentifiable rubble, topped off by morbid production values. I’m thinking of collage artists like Uton and Babe, Terror and production moguls like Joe Meek; also sample obsessives like Haves & Thirds and Buon Giordo Luamada, tossed in a brain salad with a sci-fi mode sprinkled over top. Sight of Sight will be an absolutely devastating find for musicians plumbing similar territory six years after Astral Planes Drifter already went there. It’s the circle of life.

Links: Rainbow Pyramid

Orchard Thief

First Dimension Park

[CS; Golden Cloud Tapes]

Orchard Thief is a new name in my book, but it’s one that’s left an impression with this release from Samantha Glass mastermind Beau Devereaux’s newish imprint, Golden Cloud Tapes. Samuel Molstad fills the spools with gently rolling passages of smooth tunes for endless blood-red sunsets defined by planes of minimal drumming beneath weightless guitar melodies and warbling, tremolo drones. The overall effect is not unlike a lot of your favorite Yo La Tengo zoners, Mostad with an obvious bent for not only psychedelia but jazz improv. Add to it some deep production value (the back beat with just a hint of reverb to make it cut like a knife) and a knack for dynamic arc as Orchard Thief’s tendency for intensity is just as present as is his ability to lull with a lullaby, and that’s First Dimension Park in a nutshell.

Links: Orchard Thief - Golden Cloud Tapes


Pleasure Boy

[CS; Skrot Up]

I’m not sure many of us are ready for Jani/Jussi’s Pleasure Boy. This is the 1980s, early Xiu Xiu, labelmates German Army, Ariel Pink, and Atom & His Package (didn’t see THAT one comin’, did you?) thrown into a cage, given rations for one, and told to FIGHT TO THE DEATH, indie SCUM!!! It’s so raw you might want to bake the tape a little before you ingest it. Distorted, post-Disco Inferno vocals accompany tinker-toy arrangements on a trip to the edge of the world. Jani/Jussi soar when they need to, yet always remain grounded, tethered to their rhythms like magnetized wheels clinging to railroad tracks. That is, until they truck in a drone drift halfway through Side B. Short-story-long, you need to choose this adventure if it hasn’t already chosen you.

Links: Skrot Up

Kenichi Matsubara & S. Terishima

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest

[CS; Auris Apothecary]

I once had a difficult time separating video games from real life. I recall an instance as a child, waking up in a fever dream and imagining myself unable to jump over the toadstool barriers of Super Mario Bros. 2; the hallway as claustrophobic as the screen on which the game was contained. It was the simplicity of the time: achieving a singular objective through a straight course of action. Then I was gifted Simon’s Quest and my real world and gaming world came crashing together, the shift of night and day in the game as real as the conscious of my mind. It sounds all drugged and psychedelic but before you get turned on by paper, you get turned on by fantasy and reality intermingling. The back-and-forth of Simon’s Quest felt like everyday life, replacing medial tasks and schoolwork with the pieces of Dracula in order to reassemble and kill (once and for all! yeah right) the mythical ghoul. Now vampires are sexy (why would we dare kill them?) and the music of Simon’s Quest has become embedded in my steps in even adulthood. The jolly daytime romp of rollicking through the city, the adrenaline surge of a nighttime cursed with foul creatures both mythical and all-too-real. And now it plays from a busted car stereo or the abandoned tape player hung from a hook in my shed. Days of chore and repetition given new life by the soundtrack of dusk and death. If that juxtaposition is too deep for those unfamiliar with video games, let this music (and hell, even the 8-bit cartridge from wince it was born) be thy shepherd into blending the best of fantasy into real life. Worry about the consequences later, when you’re searching for a red crystal.

Links: Kenichi Matsubara & S. Terishima - Auris Apothecary

Outer Gods

Beneath the Marred and Blackened Hand

[CS; Big Blonde]

It’s a world-beater attitude under the current of Beneath the Marred and Blackened Hand. I’m reminded of Stone Temple Pilot’s “Creep,” not only because of the wounded hand visual seeping across the planes of time, but because of a particular concert incident more than a decade ago. A young man was feeling up a woman at a STP show, Weiland stopped, shamed the guy (who was also beaten up by the woman) and dedicated “Creep” to anyone un-cool enough to grope women and not take the same amount of heroin as he. What has this to do with Outer Gods and their tape, which just so happens to speak to a mangled limb? Why not a Johnny Tremain or even a Johnny Knoxville reference? Point is, the seething anger of that poor young woman and her reaction, to take back the power and beat up the loser, is the sound of BTMABH. This tape seethes, teeters, and pounces. Its organic screeches and telepathic fireballs to heinous acts is a sound worth basking and channeling. No one should have to go through life scared or angry, so let Outer Gods give you the release and courage to do what needs to be done. Whether that’s putting a dolt in his place or fixing our planet, it’s your choice. Just do it to this tape. Don’t let its appearance fool you. It’s uplifting and victorious over the lords of evil.

Links: Outer Gods - Big Blonde

Simon Joyner

A Rag of Colts: Disgraced Songs 1987-2012

[CS; Unread]

Rag of Colts: Disgraced Songs 1987-2012 is downcast but never self-pitying. Still: Good fuckin’ god, Simon Joyner is a sad bastard. He makes Micah P. Hinson sound like Casey Casem, and this particular collection of tunes plays that side of him up, particularly the long, Texas-style expanse on Side B that’s nothing but plains and drought as far as the eye can see. With every year that passes in my semi-long life I appreciate more the pleasures of hearing a veteran songwriter perform unfettered. It ain’t perfect, but it wouldn’t be no good if it was. “Goodbye to My Loving You,” a tribute to Lou Reed ostensibly, kicks off Rag of Colts so strikingly you wonder how Joyner’s going to follow it, and while the cuts that proceed don’t quite hit the same high, they’re roughly in the same ballpark. Guy-and-guitar win again, against the odds.

Links: Simon Joyner - Unread

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.