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Cerberus Shoal - The Land We All Believe In

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Artist: Cerberus Shoal

Album: The Land We All Believe In

Label: North East Indie

Review date: Sep. 19, 2005

I’ve never thought of Cerberus Shoal's music as particularly subtle. It’s not that their sonic pallette hasn’t undergone serious changes in their 11-year run, and a cursory comparison of there early work with more recent discs makes the group’s increased ethnic leanings blatantly obvious. I mean simply that there has been an overt theatricality about CS’s output that has obscured some of the beautiful orchestration they often employ.

Not so on this newest effort, where the group’s recently cultivated ethnic considerations turn more rootsy and gain a fresh modicum of space and a new concision. After an alien opening of ghostly electronic moan, the title track bursts in and swings with subdued but palpable Partchian energy as marimba and some sort of analog synth patch ornament guitar work out of John Fahey’s notebook. The album closer, “Taking Out the Enemy” (the most conventionally dramatic track on the album), develops in similar fashion, the slightly out-of-tune wind duo at its beginning adding a more “universal” bent. The moderately goofy lyrics (“I’m pulling airplanes out of my brainwaves”) are mitigated by great bluesy playing and over-the-top orchestration in the Tom Waits tradition.

The disc is not all blues and roots, however, and “The Ghosts are Greedy” shows just how out there The Land can be. The track opens with what sounds spookily like a monster tea party, musical accompaniment provided by some long-desiccated renaissance composer on accordion, all at once being interrupted by a bicycle horn. This epic utterance also sports some good old spooky recitation supported with increasing volume by various knob-twiddlings. Equally surreal are the proto-linguistic acrobatics of “Worm,” another mini-opera bridged by a descent into the noisy abyss.

The band still rocks when necessary, as has always been the case, and the atonally infectious reggae stylings of “Worm” are shoved along by a monster drum groove fashioned of both acoustic and electroacoustic elements. However, it is the Avant Garde elements that are slowly built up to fever pitch, formerly the domain of the droning rhythm section in good ol' post rock fashion. When “Worm”’s frenzy dies down, the vocals return and a thrumming synth-roar precedes the groove’s demonic re-entrance, the effect is both terrifying and exhilarating. It’s just one fine moment out of a disc full of them, a real triumph for all involved and a wonderful addition to the CS catalog.

By Marc Medwin

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