Catholic Guilt

Filmworks 2010-2013

[CS; Hemlock]

I don’t know how Hemlock Tapes manage to be an unsearchable entity, I only respect their anonymity. Unfortunately for them, however, I’ve had the pleasure of making Catholic Guilt’s acquaintance in the past. CASE CRACKED! Now let’s get down to business: Is this another one of those improv/noise tapes that should very well be allowed to fall through the cracks considering the intense proliferation of said products in this day and age? And the answer is NO MUH-FUGG, WE JUST GETTIN’ STARTED. By which I mean, I hear a lot of experimental musics ‘round here, but CG find a way to justify their existence every time they get together, seemingly. There’s something about their combination of found-sound, live instruments, drone tropes, and experimental aesthetic that makes sense, and the impossibility of pinning down just what renders it special is half the fun. I imagine this is what it’s like to spend the night under a busy bridge in bumtown: Cars roaring by overhead, street musicians tootling, fires crackling, and minds the-fuck-up blowing.

Taiga Remains

Works for Cassette

[LP; Helen Scarsdale Agency]

The peaceful sleep of retirement. It beacons a youthful culture, sown up by dreams of striking it rich and living off the royalties. Once it was oil, then it was jewels and ore, now it’s internet start-ups. As far as music is concerned, retirement is akin to losing massive touring revenue. I mean, Mick Jagger’s gotta pay upkeep for all those model girlfriends. So it’s a shame to see Alex Cobb laying to rest Taiga Remains. Whether this moment also implies planting his hypnotic drones six feet under is a concern because that lucrative stadium tour when he’s well into his Sixties seems so far away and who knows if we’ll have the money to pay for the front row. Is this truly the music that will span a new generation of Yuppies? Unlikely, for it is far too contemplative and real. When one chases money, they find that they are insecure in what they accumulate. It’s lifestyle fulfillment that becomes nightmarish to maintain. The nightmare of Cobb is that strengthened by inspiration, he must put down Taiga Remains to pursue his new muse. So we bid adieu with a golden parachute of his best cassette-based work now on a rotund vinyl disc. It’s no $40 million pile o’ cash or even an inscribed watch but Taiga Remains is clearly too old for this shit. Thankfully we are not, as this last bit of mellow gold helps the rest of us slog through the daily grind of thankless peers, endless jobs, and tireless commitment to not being like those money hungry tycoons who can’t wait to throw away millions for a moment in the lap of luxury. As Cobb entails within this last (revisited) breath, there is no price for a memory and a happy ending. And a good recording on tape sounds just as warm and low key on vinyl.

Links: Helen Scarsdale Agency

Scammers

Cover You

[CS; Field Hymns]

When the dust settles and the smoke clears, 2014 may be remembered for many things, but in my mind, it will always be the year of Phil Diamond. Dude is pumping out amazing tapes at an amazing rate, and I have no idea which one deserves the most love so don’t be surprised if this isn’t the only thing you hear about Scammers from your dear friend Strauss in the coming weeks. Cover You was once a digital-only affair until the good people of Field Hymns found it worthy of physical release, so here in my hand I hold the true confessions of Phil “Cubic Zirconia” Diamond – his testimonial, an admission of being nothing more than a loser working for minimum wage + tips in a coffee shop, constantly nursing a hangover headache, all to the rhythm of a beat fit for the spangle of Vegas. Truly inspiring self-deprecation at work as that velvety baritone navigates its host body’s inner-psyche, trying to figure out why it poisons itself with stuff like nicotine and alcohol and thoughts about girls who will never have sex with it. And that eternal doubt is endearing and wonderful and just plain human, which is why you’ll pay attention, but the best part is how none it gets in the way of just how goddamn slammin’ the synth riffs are. Ten ton melodies made weightless when pitted against the bounce of an unstoppable four-on-the-floor like “30 & Smokin,” and if your feet and/or booty can resist it, then those things are attached to a dead body (by the way, you might want to get that checked out). But it’s the two-step piano-driven title track that’s the real show-stopper, where word and tone come together in a double-helix of powerful pop-art portraiture. Cover You’s only crime is that it’s just not long enough, which brings us to the three other tapes he’s got out this year. (to be continued…….?)

Links: Scammers - Field Hymns

Filipe Felizardo

Sede e Morte

[LP; three:four]

Felizardo’s material is the electric guitar, and it is not a fragile substance with which to create. It is malleable but the work exerted to bend its metallic wantonness to surrender is forceful. It reverberates with angry bellows and roars with dragon’s breath behind its demonic noise. Yet it is also gentle, tamed on Felizardo’s inspirations. Though they a kinder breed, theirs was a savagery not unlike Sede e Morte. Akin to Alan Sparhawk’s Solo Guitar (still waiting for a follow-up), Sede e Morte is a solitary breaking in of a bucking guitar. Those kicks to the chest, marked by a stubborn horseshoe into the flesh, is part of the loathing-before-loving. I’m sure it’s all Heathcliff and moors. But where Emily Bronte missed the heart of men, she unveiled the willingness of Men. And that’s Felizardo’s gift, to understand the path of grief into power. In the end we’re all on some sort of spiritual journey through arts and sciences. Once ensconced in glass cases, Felizardo’s sculptured beast has broken free and runs free through an album as powerful and majestic as the scenery it paints. The blank pedestal fresh, not yet covered in grass.

Links: three:four

Doubting Thomas Cruise Control

Appleton ON

[CS; Duckbill]

The influence of Pavement is not dead, if a little weathered. Perhaps the college rock of the 90s as a whole, as it seems ridiculous to pin the good and bad on Malkmus and Spiral (or even Gary Young – how are ye, Mr. Young?). The moth-ridden rags that remain look as sloppy chic as ever as worn by the boys of DTCC. There’s a current of displacement and violence as giver and taker, but you’re going to miss much of that on the first few listens and without the aid of a lyric sheet. What you’ll immediately gravitate toward is the warm familiarity of these songs despite never hearing them until that first press of play. That’s how they’ll hook you into the greater messages, roughly shapen. But it’s welcomed to be told rather than to put puzzle pieces together through thought experiences. Sometimes I just need a hapless sermon that’s catchy. Thank you Appleton ON for delivering.

Links: Doubting Thomas Cruise Control - Duckbill

Bob Bellerue

Butcher’s Broom

[LP; Prison Tatt]

Bob Bellerue’s been around for a bit now. In fact, one of his other releases, a double-tape on Cerbs titan Los Discos Enfantasmes, landed in my mailbox a bit ago. But that’s not why we’re here; Butcher’s Broom is a 100-run, numbered full-length LP that stands proud next to the lofi, often black-metal clientele of the Prison Tatt label. Bellerue, however, is an experimentalist, plain and simple. And yes, he dabbles in noise. And drone. And drill-bits. If you’re going to step into the butcher’s room be ready for some hard-ass throbs and long, sustained bouts of black moodiness that roll by like death clouds. The Broom is every bit as heavy/ominous as yr standard black-metal exercise without a riff nor scream in sight. Bellerue sticks to the script stubbornly, subscribing to scrubbed-out swaths of low-end burnt at the corners by sly manipulations only he could explain the origins of. I would stop short of stuffing Butcher’s Broom into the harsh category, but there’s nothing mild about the majority of its contents. It’s just the way Bellerue sculpts his sound. He’s out to blow your mind not bash your teeth in after scraping them on the pavement (I might be wayyy off there.) Then again maybe I’m desensitized to the sounds of machinery and death rattles and high-pitched squeals, as there is ample evidence of each. Beneath the grinding, about halfway through Side A, however, is a layer that holds even more intrigue if you can train your ears to hone in on it. It’s like using a decoder-ring to read a secret message, minus the instant results. You’ll have to listen a few times to straighten your head out. Then you can start dealing with the distant toms you think you hear amid the throbs…

Links: Prison Tatt

Alosi Den

Live from the School of Disembodied Poetics

[CS; Desert Home Recordings]

Dammit if the first minute of this tape isn’t a dead ringer for Boredoms’ Vision Creation Newsun, but don’t let that pigeonhole your perception of the band, or my review of said band (except if it makes you want to hear it, in which case by all means!). If nothing else that first minute of swirling amplifier noise is just a springboard used to execute big ol’ jackknife dive into a 10-mile-deep pool of psychedelic sound that Allston’s Alosi Den takes. And the splash on impact is a wondrous thing, a refreshing splay of cool color and wetness, warbly guitar reverb slipping its way down the back of your neck, that crooning vocal running its fingers through your hair and the drums kicking your legs up and down, treading the swift waters of summer time rock’n’roll. Wow, I took that metaphor a really long way in that sentence, and reading back I think I can say that it all works – all to the credit of this new-to-me band, which does just about everything right here, such that the details aren’t anything to be nit-picked. Rather, the pieces of this band’s music are so fully formed and functional the way they’re arranged, you’ll hardly notice anything stick out as you’re listening, inspiring little five word reviews in your mind like, “These guys just get it.” After all, rock and roll is a sound and a style and a technique and a feeling, and when all those cogs line up and the gears are turning like they should be, lo and behold, the damn thing just works. Now that they’ve got it so perfect, the only question left is… how much more perfect will it get from here? And yet, you can still sense that the band is finding its footing as a couple of the songs drift through some aimless spaces. Nonetheless, only a few songs here – but just a taste, a morsel – and Alosi Den boasts qualities like a little bit epic, a little bit ballad, a little bit blues, a little bit punk, a little bit kraut, and just a whole lot of what I want to simply call “Great.” Get it? Got it. Good.

Links: Alosi Den - Desert Home Recordings

Nagual & Carl Mitchell

Improvisations I & II

[CS; Cabin Floor Esoterica]

Jazz is a fickle beast, much like the domesticated cat that pretends to put up with you. Sure, there’s a bit of love and loyalty exchanged in meaningful purrs and satisfactory pettings but there are fangs and claws on that fur ball. It’s cute but hurtful, turning on a moment’s notice. The care taken to keeping this finicky animal at ease is tiring: feedings, brushings, litter box maintenance. Yet the bond generated over years of treating each other with mutual mistrust leads to something much more fond and endearing. Cats aren’t bred to grow friendlier through bloodlines, so they carry an edge with them through generations. I’m sure jazz is allergic to such a generic metaphor, but it too bares its fangs and claws with each iteration. It has endured decades of slow growth and stunted attention from an audience that would rather take up the ease in caring for a dog. Dogs are pop music, accessories to sunny afternoons in parks and cars with the windows rolled down. How the duo Nagual and Carl Mitchell will feel about all of this preening is up to their discretion but hopefully they are cat people, because their two sides of improvisational free-jazz are the stormy stretches and midnight bellows of a cat taking over the house after the masters have fallen asleep on guard duty. Kernels of litter are sprinkled throughout the home, fur falls off in clumps on the piece of furniture they aren’t to dare to sleep on in the day, and a general sense of ennui is erased by bursts of ecstatic energy to pounce on an unsuspecting shadow under the guidance of moonlight. Improvisations I & II take equal liberties, skewing the normal relationship between human and animal kingdom to embrace the primal qualities of jazz in its continued stunted mutation. It has been neutered and rendered secondary by a society too enamored with impatience to care for its matriculation, so it buys a dog that shits in the yard and is loyal to only its needs. Those adept enough to put time in with a cat will get their just rewards; so goes Improvisations I & II.

Links: Cabin Floor Esoterica

Sweetie Sweats

Cambium

[LP; Hot Releases]

Sweetie Sweats, a band name that truly cannot be tamed, turns out to be a frank, spot-on representation of what this Ariana Dominguez-fronted (she was in Honey Heads with the Father Finger guy, and that FF tape on NNF was <3) project splays out in front of the listener like a sound spreadsheet. Cambium is a sugary mix of soothsaying synths and ghostly shoegaze-style vocals that reminds me of Spencer Krug’s many projects (while they were tip-top) by dint of the way it, from track to track, locates fresh, interesting ways to present simple synth progressions. To smash them against cheap robo-beats and still manage such atmosphere is a feat in itself; throw in the sweltering, yet not-there, vox and you have quite a stew of ghost-pop. What really makes it all kick is a strange sense of ’80s flashback, an uncanny reverence for sounds of the era. Dominguez stumbles a few times, and is out of tune at least once, but this is indie and her kicks outshine her gaffs at least 4 to 1. Lots of other similar activity out there, including toothache, which is great (also Aisler’s Set in the vocals, and Beach House generally), and many additional artists I wish I could forget about forever (Mozart’s Sister, Grimes, Nite Jewel). Such is life, so pick this one up.

Links: Sweetie Sweats

Old Scratch’s Burnpile

Carlos Sotona

[CS; Hemlock]

I haven’t had to unravel a mystery like Old Scratch’s Burnpile in quite a spell. Seems these fellas don’t have much of an internet presence, to say the least. Carlos Sotona could easily be the name of this band rather than the name of the album. I just don’t have enough information at my disposal to make these kinds of calls. Just about the only thing I AM qualified to report at this point is that whatever this tape is/was/will be/could be/should be, I like it. It’s not the sort of material you listen to every day; it’s much to jarring for that. We’re basically talking about a spoken-word extravaganza with Shaggs-style accompaniment, if you can even call it that, chiming on in the background. Southern accents, whimsical topics, and a confused guitar player slipping in and out of consciousness in the background. Sounds like a limited template, but it’s anything but. You might even say Ol’ Scratch, if that is his name, pushes the limits more than most endeavor to these days. For fans of that tape that came to me shoved into a doll’s nether-quarters, Albert’s Basement, Chance Meeting On a Dissecting Table, and poop.

  

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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.