TMT Cerberus 17
Boogie Man

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. TMT Cerberus seeks to document the aesthetic of these home recorders and backyard labels. Email us here.

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Broken Water
Normal Never Happened [7-inch]

[Fan Death; 2010]
http://fandeathrecords.com
By Jspicer

Much like the 80s revival that swallowed the Aughts (and continues to spill into the new decade), a 90s renaissance is brewing below the mainstream, ready to pounce on tired sounds much like it did when Seattle upchucked its flannel-clad missives onto Hollywood record labels. It was what brought many ears to Broken Water’s Whet earlier this year. While the Olympia trio isn’t cashing in on Soundgarden and Pavement reunions, one can’t help but see Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. birdies circling their noggin when Normal Never Happened knocks ‘em out cold. It’s relatively easy to point to the EVOL/Daydream Nation mash-up A-side (and wax namesake), “Normal Never Happened,” in proceeding with such an argument but one will also find a darker edge — one might say, showgaze. “Faux King Vogue” produces the more vitriolic 90s nostalgia punch in the alterna-teeth. But it feels cheap to lavish Broken Water with dusty praise and bygone comparisons. Maybe the hypothesis is all wrong; maybe Broken Water are waiting to quell the 90s resurgence with a bit of ingenuity and vigor all their own. As quickly as alternative music rightfully descended from its A&R throne, it was snuffed out before it had a chance to mutate. Consider Normal Never Happened that metamorphosis with a decade’s worth of observation to make it worth the wait.

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Jeremy Kelly
It Sounds Different in the Dark [CS]

[Stunned; 2010]
http://stunnedrecords.blogspot.com
By Jspicer

Jeremy Kelly’s introduction to the world via Digitalis found an individual strapped to the guitar in genuine, if expected, variants. It’s this re-introduction of Kelly from Stunned that proves to be the Jeremy Kelly he subtly teased. It Sounds Different in the Dark is an ebon artifice, the nighttime sky slowly crashing against the dusky horizon to swallow it and the rocky crust of Earth in its Hades paint. As the cassette progresses, it becomes darker, with Kelly taking on the role of Charles Marlow as he snakes anxiously down the Congo River in search for skewered truth Kurtz may offer. The tape dissolves with each passing phrase, as the rich textures present at the onset of the journey turn to dust-covered remnants of rudimentary sound. Kelly may continue to dwell on isolation, but It Sounds Different in the Dark is a loathsome brand of self-containment. It puts the lotion on.

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Journey to Ixtlan
Mirage [CD-R]

[Desert Lotus; 2010]
By Jspicer

Much about the universe remains a mystery, none more so than how four obscure releases from the secretive Desert Lotus label found their way to my doorstep. Four carefully packaged black-on-black CD-Rs nestled gently into neatly folded flower petal paper cases. But the onyx obelisk tucked in unassuming packaging is the true reflection of Mirage. From the minds of Journey to Ixtlan, for which the Desert Lotus label was created, Mirage is the unknown staring back at you with cold, dead eyes. Bass-heavy rhythms reverberate across the width of the 22-minute epic that consumes this disc. Coupled with methodically paced tribal beats and wind whistles, the composition harkens to the Native Americans who once inhabited the highest peaks, the lowest valleys, and the hottest deserts. Rather than transform these traditional sounds into a bastardized form of pop, Journey to Ixtlan pay them great respect. The distance howls and eerie bellows present a grand processional, where great Chieftains are laid to rest among the sorrows of their ancestors. Mirage is magically haunting, and though somber eyes may be resting their shadowy gaze upon you, do not draw back in fear. Embrace the unknown, for it holds the secrets of which you’ve long been searching.

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Keith Fullerton Whitman
Generator [CS]

[Root Strata; 2010]
http://rootstrata.com
By Jspicer

It would please me to no end to stop speaking of Keith Fullerton Whitman. This isn’t due to any negative feelings I have for him — on the contrary, I fear I may be speaking too often of Whitman and his magnificent creations. Although racked with guilt of spending valuable Cerberus space regaling Whitman with praised well-earned, I steal space from myriad releases from notable musicians who also deserve their slice of praise and notoriety. Yet we’ve come back to KFW. If you’re willing to cast blame, perhaps a few listens to Generator will put an end to any aspersions. Once again displaying his chameleon-like skills of adaptation, Whitman delivers a clean representation of technology’s increased influence on music and the restrictions that exist in live settings becoming breakable barriers when given the time and resources allowed in recording. Through a complicated set of transmitters, computers, and analog analogies, Whitman produces 52 minutes of computerized trickery that is not only a thesis on modern mechanical ability, but also a catchy production. Loops and patterns dot Generator’s length, but each possess a level of danceability and depth that rattles the skull. Oh, Whitman, how you continue to steal both my heart and mind!

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Plankton Wat
Shadows [CS]

[Sloow Tapes; 2010]
http://sloowtapes.blogspot.com
By Jspicer

The idea of Dewey Mahood of channeling Basho and Fahey seems a bit idiosyncratic, perhaps a waste of tape roll. Don’t tell it to Shadows, a fragile (but not brittle) exploration of full guitar sound reserved for a select niche of musician deified for their prowess. Mahood’s talents have never been challenged, but Shadows plays like the answer to such claims. Each track glimmers with the chimes of technique. Mahood carefully maneuvers his fingers across frets and strings as he straddles the line of folk and psychedelia without committing to either path. The results are as one would expect, but displays of guitar virtuosity should never be shrugged off as showmanship. Shadows is a meditative heart beating new life into the genre, not by reinventing the sound but be reinvesting in its warm tones. The guitar has been the subject of deconstruction, reconstruction, and prostitution for decades, but when presented as the tale spinner it was born to be, it connects to those instincts deep within each of us that ignores the dark and embraces the light. Guitar bridges emotional, physical, and psychic states; Mahood proudly pours it a new foundation.

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Holy Strays
Hyperion [CS]

[Not Not Fun; 2010]
http://notnotfun.com
By Jspicer

Caught in the crosshairs of a ‘scene’ splitting at the seams, Not Not Fun continues to bear down and do its work. Choosing bliss over ignorance, the Cali label that has sprouted forth many disciples of sound too broad to define but ripe for bloggers armed with a notebook of clichés and the journalistic chops of high school newspaper writers. Yet something as simplified as Hyperion will be bogged down in heavy adjectives from a wealth of purveyors looking to lay claim to its splendor, as if it were a product of their own loins. We shall avoid such transgressions, choosing to fall into its hypnotic swells of Casio hiccups and boxed beats. Holy Strays is the nom de plume of Parisian Sebastien Forrester, and that plume of cigarette-smoke cool envelops Hyperion. In every sense, Forrester oozes that French can-do without exuding a trying effort. The blend of club rhythms, bedroom technicality, and bohemian suave is something that can’t be faked or no Johnny-Come-Lately can steal. Forrester is storming the Bastille, and those who hide behind bourgeois musical politicking will be the first to find their heads meeting the cold steal of his slick guillotine.

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Conan O’Brien
And They Call Me Mad? [7-inch]

[Third Man Records; 2010]
http://thirdmanrecords.com
By Jspicer

The reimagined telling of Frankenstein seems an odd choice for one’s first recording, but comedy martyr Conan O’Brien not only makes it successful, he makes it personal. The story of dead flesh being reanimated is a story O’Brien has metaphorically lived out in the media during a rocky 2010, and yet, with bolts firmly attached to his freckled, pasty body, he lumbers toward an uncertain but hopefully brighter future. The idea of a international star releasing a 7-inch (and soon to be full-length LP of rockabilly standards) on another international star’s label seems far from underground, but be careful how you view O’Brien’s foray into recording. Spoken word is a powerful vehicle, and the sinister tone that O’Brien carries through his imaginative tale speaks volumes of his resiliency and how he’s clinging to his darkside more than ever. And They Call Me Mad? is more an object d’art than a bona fide production of experimentation (particularly due to the verbal sparring and ‘dead on’ Ludacris impression on the B-side), but as you listen to him spin his yarn and play off Jack White’s riff of his Coco nickname, one look at Conan’s uncertain eyes and uneasy smile staring back at you shines a lonely spotlight on the genius and unflinching risks he continues to facilitate.

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J. Hanson
Blood Orange [CS]

[Gift Tapes; 2010]
http://gifttapes.com
By Jspicer

Seattle’s Gift Tapes has been quietly dropping label-appropriate cassettes, and it was only a matter of time before such tactics would be recognized. If there are a few of you hoarding every new label that appears from thin air, then prepare to add Gift Tapes to your list of must-buys should it not already inhabit it. Top among them should be J. Hanson’s Blood Orange, a mélange of rhythmic synth and electronic doodles as equally playful as they are meditative. “Ghana by Jakarta” plays not as a worldly wise travel guide, but as Keystone Cops running amok on a wooden vibraphone. “Talos” is a moody drone, the Kubrick sound before the gruesome truth is exposed to the warped masses. Album closer and tape namesake “Blood Orange” proves the final disturbing heartbeat, the goodwill built at the onset now masked by suspenseful keys and Tell Tale clicks. Hanson’s creations envelop the senses, creating a gift Russian Dolled into the plastic and casing of the Gift Tapes vessel — a secret one will never know until they tear off the wrapping and place it in the tape deck. Oh what a cruel and unusual pleasure they will find. J. Hanson, you satanic Santa.

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Grouper
“Hold” b/w “Sick

[Room 40; 2010]
http://room40.org
By Jspicer

Liz Harris possesses a gift of tapping into the remote, those machinations of thought, emotion, and conscious always out of reach. Grouper’s heavy echoes and forlorn vocals play out a battle of longing and loneliness on an unseen spiritual plane. Harris provides the play-by-play through “Hold” and “Sick.” Both tracks coerce strong connections, gliding along the line between sad nostalgia and happy remembrances. The lilting beauty of “Hold” chills to the marrow, suspending one in a thick amber of wanton regret. “Sick” is heavy with loss, Harris’ funeral timbre seeping into every meticulous strum. It sways with a laissez tug of war between silence and sound, Harris slow to fill the voids. “Sick” is indeed its namesake, rundown with laments of a broken heart. How fans of Grouper have yet to commit mass suicide is beyond comprehension, but one must reckon it’s due to the compassion in every note. “Hold” b/w “Sick” is no different. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go have a good cry.

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Sam Gas Can
Dog Dance [CS]

[Digitalis; 2010]
http://digitalisindustries.com
By Jspicer

Dog Dance dresses itself up in its native furs: pubic hair, alien scribbles, and ancestral headdress. It’s bloated with ritualistic sounds and words, slowly expanding under the weight of its schizophrenic mastermind, Sam Gas Can. Striking his match to form, the cassette world bursts into heated flame as soothing synthetic key strokes implode against a background of dusty noise and tribal nomenclature. The result is a tape that has no immediate identity until it carves itself one through repeated listens. The rules are always changing with Dog Dance, but the madness from which it is born refuses to stay pat. Dog Dance’s B-side proves the album’s center, but perhaps its least innovative half. The meditative pace counterbalances the hyperspace of the A-side, but amidst the big-bang chaos, Sam Gas Can stumble upon idiot savant brilliance. If ever there needed to be proof of the niche’s influence on creativity, Dog Dance would be sufficient evidence of due diligence and the worthwhile pursuit of music free from lawyers, marketers, and pop historians.

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Kinit Her
Divine Names [CS]

[Brave Mysteries; 2010]
http://www.bravemysteries.com
By Jspicer

It is rare that the worlds of the occult and the outliers of nature collide to create an entity as rivaled in beauty as it is in disgust, but so goes Kinit Her. Divine Names is the birth of marrow from tar, the anguished cries of a disintegrating planet as it pushes out babies bent on destroying her. The gargled vocals and dark rhythms of lengthy A-side “Gratitudes” unfold at a snail’s pace, evolving into a forlorn funeral march toward the end of time. The pall that haunts the album continues to hold court on the album’s three-part B-side, though Kinit Her are wise enough to back away from the precipice, choosing to stare it down rather than jump from it. The melodies are bit lighter — akin to minstrel compositions — but the prophetic chanting and minor chords announcing the arrival of Death never subside. Divine Names presents both sides of a flattened coin, but whether we choose to heed the ominous warnings is left up to us.