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Artist: Cerberus Shoal

Album: Cerberus Shoal

Label: North East Indie

Review date: Nov. 4, 2004

To mark their tenth anniversary, Cerberus Shoal has reissued their first album from 1995. While in no way prefiguring the sonic experiments and textural innovations of Mr. Boy Dog, Chaiming the Knoblesson or its prequel, Bastion of Itchy Prevves, the disc is certainly a bold statement for a debut. Many of what would become CS’s trademarks—sudden changes in mood, extended formal procedures and a flare for the theatrical—appear in compact form on this debut effort. “Daddy As Seen from Bar Harbor”, an eleven-minute mini-epic, combines muttered speech-song with frequent shifts and juxtapositions in instrumental dynamics; both of these quasi-theatrical elements continue to be integral to the group’s aesthetic to this day. In fact, “Daddy” might be perceived as a smaller suite within a larger connected whole, as the album begins and ends with different versions of “Rain”, one with vocals and one lacking them.

The album’s compositions and instrumental deployment reflect and anticipate developments in what would eventually be dubbed “Spacerock” or “Post-rock”: Amp’s drone-heavy ruminations are certainly invoked, and the slow arcs in volume and intensity so often associated with Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor make embryonic appearances here. However, Cerberus Shoal’s approach is neither specifically arch-like nor monotonously heavy. Their ability to switch textures and dynamics unceremoniously, musically mirroring the surrealism of their submerged narratives, is this disc’s most memorable feature, and one which would be further edxploited on their sophomore effort, Farewell to High Tides. In retrospect, it has proven to be one of the few constants in the history of a group whose approach and personnel have long been in flux.

By Marc Medwin

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