Cerberus Shoal
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Cerberus Shoal (1995), 6/10
And Farewell To Hightide , 6.5/10
Elements Of Structure/ Permanence , 7/10
Homb , 7.5/10
Crash My Moon Yacht , 6/10
Mr Boy Dog , 7.5/10
The Vim And Vigor Of (2003), 6/10
Chaiming the Knoblessone (2003), 6/10
Bastion of Itchy Preeves (2004), 5/10
The Land We All Believe In (2006), 6/10
Fire On Fire: The Orchard (2008), 5.5/10

Cerberus Shoal were formed in 1994 at the Berklee College Of Music (Boston) by a group of Maine expatriates led by Chris Sutherland.

They recorded a limited-edition 12", Cerberus Shoal (Stella White, 1995 - SC Distribution, 2004), comprising six tracks, of which the first one, Rain is a brief overture. The others are elaborate suites that, far from being improvised, display a calculated balance of timbres, tempos and moods. Daddy As Seen from Bar Harbor is eleven minutes of spoken vocals over light jamming of guitars, bass and drums, that suddenly detonates. Change is a slow-building neurosis that reveals their punk-rock roots but casts them against a very introverted perception of reality. Pure hysteria derails the stream of consciousness of Breakaway Cable Terminal, perhaps the album's most powerful contrast of tenderness and fury. The spoken vocals clearly detract from the subtlety and power of the apparently subdued instrumental passages. But the real highlight is the closing Rain (only superficially related to the first song), the best formulation of their strand of manic depression. The psychodrama is led by the whispered/screamed vocals in a free-form suspense overload, halfway between the narrative styles of Jesus Lizard and Doors: the dark, oppressive, insistent overtones colliding with vibrant, soul-wrenching guitars. (On the CD reissue the track continues with a 30-minute hypnosis-inducing jam that, every two minutes and a half, alternates like a loop between the fluent and calm repetition-based tapestry of Necks and sudden peaks of pounding noise a` la grunge).

And Farewell To Hightide (Tree, 1997 - Temporary Residence, 2003) presents a kind of rock music with a loose and somewhat psychedelic structure that sounds like the Dirty Three playing Grateful Dead's Dark Star. The six-minute opener, Falling To Pieces Part One, roamed by alien drones while the vocalist intones a middle-eastern psalm, is a mere teaser. The other tracks are complex organisms that grow a bit at a time. Usually, they start out as a simple pattern, that develops over a long period of time. It takes nine minutes for the ten-minute Broken Springs to reveal that what sounded like a rhythmic exercise of minimalist-inspired polyphony was actually the preamble to a pulsing space-rock jam. The eleven-minute J.B.O. vs. Blin is nothing but a laid-back psychedelic ballad, but it takes a while for the the agonizing crooning, the Jon Hassell-ian trumpet, the descending guitar scales and the steady drumming to coalesce into a traditional structure. The 12-minute Make Winter A Driving Song spends half of the time repeating an angelic trumpet melody, but the last five minutes are almost an entirely different tune, this time fueled by distorted guitar and solid drumming. The rhythm is a fundamental variable in Cerberus Shoal's equation. It rarely begins the song, but it always sustains the crescendo that leads to the enunciation of the real theme, and it does so with massive intensity and propulsion (and sometimes the guitar itself serves as an additional percussion). The spoken-word kammerspiel Falling To Pieces Part Two is more noteworthy for the way it employs the piano (like an additional narrating voice) than for the recitation. The last two minutes are solo piano, like a late-hour performer in a deserted night-club. Many of the elements of future albums are born here. Broken Springs is the prototype of their locomotive crescendos, and J.B.O. vs. Blin is the prototype for a genre that they will not attempt often, the extended soul-jazz ballad. The 2003 CD reissue offers a second disc, Lighthouse In Athens, that contains two unreleased tracks, particularly the first one, a dark ballad a` la Morphine.

Their classical roots surface on Elements Of Structure/ Permanence (Audio Information Phenomenon, 1997), that contains two ambitious suites, both originally composed as film soundtracks. The 22-minute Elements Of Structure opens quietly, in an atmosphere of mystery. THe jamming picks up volume and speed a bit at a time, while the mysterious bass line and the ominous cymbals beat and percussion continue to haunt it. After ten minutes, the music implodes and then mutates into an Afro-funk shuffle. Even greater sense of mystery permeates the first part of the 34-minute Permanence. Staccato piano notes fall hard and heavy over a pulsing rhythmic texture reminiscent of Pink Floyd's early cosmic psychedelia. The piano abandons its motif while other lead instruments emerge. But the piano is still the main voice, now bent to a more meditative tone over a thick Afro-Cuban-jazz rhythmic cartilage. Twenty minutes into the piece, the music disappears into ghostly ambience, only to reappear with the same hypnotic "Pink Floyd-ian" rhythm of the beginning, and a nocturnal atmosphere borrowed from cool jazz. The final crescendo submerges the piano and brings out the flute. Permanence would remain one of their most inspired compositions.

Deeper and stronger jazz and world-music undercurrents destabilize the two tours de force of Homb (Temporary Residence, 1999): the instrumental Omphalos and the three-movement suite Myrrh. In the album's ouverture, Harvest, ominous mellotron-like lines accompany the ebbing and flowing of a confused collage of voices, dissonances and percussions. It is a Crimson King for the post-rock generation and it sets the pace for the more affordable Omphalos. This one opens with a syncopated, jazzed rhythm, caressed by guitar and electronic melodies. Then the winds intone a majestic theme, the guitars still fluttering and mirroring each other.
Myrrh's ghostly opening (discrete keyboard tones against tinkling of amulets and languid drones of winds) leads to a sort of dejected middle-eastern psalm. This segues into the second movement, which is less obscure and more varied, beginning with an insistent bass, an emphatic leitmotiv with counterpoint of an oneiric trumpet, and ending with a dialogue between flute and guitar which is eventually interrupted by a solemn, loud return of all instruments. The third movement (a 15-minute "reprise") opens with a renaissance-style dancing melody in the lute, accompanied by the vocal litany and, little by little, by all the other instruments. The tone is now markedly exotic, with a plethora of percussions joining the dances. The last few minutes are devoted to a richly colored and jazzy jamming session, and a somewhat joyful spirit is restored to a most cryptic and pensive composition.
These album's fantasias run the gamut from avantgarde music to world-music without the slightest discontinuity.

By pushing the technique to the limit, the tracks on Crash My Moon Yacht (Pandemonium, 2000) sound like collages. Rich ethnic instrumentation, dense orchestration, slowly developing drones build a fantastic symphony whose best moments (the lengthy Breathing Machines and Elle Besh) recall a cross between Third Ear Band and Robert Wyatt. The band displays a lighter side in Yes Sir No Sir and Asphodel. All in all, this album marks a retreat from the avantgarde territories of the previous one.

The single Garden Fly/ Drip Eye (Temporary Residence, 2001) focuses instead on voice experiments.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Claudio Vespignani)

I Cerberus Shoal furono formati al college musicale Berklee di Boston da un gruppo di immigrati del Maine guidato da Chris Sutherland. And farewell to high tide (Tree 1997) propone un rock privo di vincoli e con una struttura vagamente psichedelica che suona come i Dirty Three che rifanno Dark Star dei Grateful Dead. I brani piu’ atmosferici e sperimentali sono i lunghi strumentali Make winter a driving song e Falling to pieces part two, posta in chiusura.

Le loro radici classiche vengono a galla su Elements of structure / Permanence (Audio Information Phenomenon 1997), che contiene due suite ambiziose.

Influenze piu’ marcate di jazz e world music destabilizzano i due tour de force di Homb (Temporary Residence 1999); lo strumentale Omphalos e Myrrh.

Con una tecnica spinta al limite, i brani di Crash my moon yacht (Pandemonium 2000) sono dei collage sonori. Ricca strumentazione etnica, fitta orchestrazione e ronzii che si sviluppano lentamente formano una fantastica sinfonia i cui momenti migliori (le lunghe Breathing machines e Elle besh) rievocano un incrocio fra Third Ear Band e Robert Wyatt.

Il singolo Garden fly / Drip eye (Temporary Residence 2001) invece si concentra su esperimenti vocali.

Mr Boy Dog (Temporary Residence, 2002), a double-CD featuring members of the group Tarpigh, is Cerberus Shoal's masterpiece. After a short Albert Ayler-esque (i.e., chaotic) introduction, the band intones Nataraja, a funk-jazz theme that dissolves in the minimalism-like repetition of a simple, slowly-mutating pattern. Camel Bell is circus music (the Nino Rota variety, rather than the Frank Zappa one) played at a middle-eastern tempo, that mutates into pow-wow drumming and trumpet moaning behind spaced-out vocals. Vuka is their (demented) version of world-music.
The paradoxical dynamics of Stumblin' Block alternates between childish free-jazz doodlings in the style of Frank Zappa's Weasels Ripped My Flesh and primitive hard-riffing in the style of early Sonic Youth.
The sonic charade of Tongue Drongue is a masterpiece of subtlety. The main sound is a dark, bass rumble that forms the backdrop for an absurd play of shamanic voices and a zoo of farm-like dissonances. Suddenly, frantic bongos launch a brass fanfare, replete with funky organ and western-movie twang.
Compared with the exuberant merry-go-round of ideas of the first disc, the second disc is puff of fresh air. Unmarked Boxes (a vocal track) mixes Pink Floyd's Careful With That Axe Eugene, Nico's threnodies and monk-like chanting.
Telikos II is even a regular, melodic, mildly exotic, blues-jazz jam, although the instrumental interplay seems to be regulated by some mathematical formula. This could be Phish in a really good mood.
The ubiquotous ethnic undercurrent hijacks Nod, a journey through remote lands and their oddly antiquated folk music. Imagine the Camper Van Beethoven performing drunk at a Moldovian wedding.
The last track is appropriately titled An Egypt That Does Not Exist. It features trancey vocal polyphony, breezy flute and a series of droning instruments that take it to the skies. Sun Ra would have been proud of this ending.
Both irriverently amusing and wildly creative, this album marks the achievement of a classical style by this uniquely gifted ensemble.

In 2003 Cerberus Shoal also launched a series of split CDs, which included The Whys and Hows with Herman Dune and The Ducks and the Drakes with Guapo.

The Vim And Vigor Of (North East Indie, 2003) is a collaboration with Alvarius B (the Sun City Girls' Alvin Bishop), that contains Ding (as originally recorded in 2001), a delicate 18-minute ballad for typewriter, acoustic guitar, gamelan-like percussion and folksinger, one of their masterpieces.

The sextet led by Chris Sutherland on Chaiming the Knoblessone (North East Indie, 2003) has loosened up quite a bit. Several tracks seem to originate from the contrast between a fairly irrational, whimsical and droll musichall and abstract, ethereal, psychedelic soundsculpting. The 13-minute Apatrides collates a section of demented, Brecht-ian enunciation in the vein of Gong and the Residents with an atonal free-jazz jam which ends in a sort of Gregorian lysergic "om" which in turn dissolves into disjointed, cacophonous noise. Mrs Shakespeare Torso begins like one of Lol Coxhill's horn fanfares set to Frank Zappa's circus music but then decays into a sonata for videogame trills and alien radio signals, only to be overcome by dilated acid-rock vocals and accordion patterns. The band's charming sense of the bizarre triumphs in the 11-minute closer, Scaly Beast vs Toy Piano, which sets a drunk Tom Waits-ian theme against the backdrop of a toy piano played like a music-box and sad accordion lines.
Structure and melody resurrect in Sole Of Foot Of Man, a 13-minute piece whose length is misleading: rather than an avantgarde piece, this (after a brief introduction of flamenco guitar) turns into an accordion-tinged Slavic-accented folk lament, with a soaring chorus and an adagio-like instrumental coda. The Gong influence returns in another 13-minute piece, Ouch, which again regurgitates steps and rigmaroles of a psychedelic space cabaret, but the tone is closer to a bunch of lunatic hippies marching up the mountains on a trip field. These lengthy songs, that shun the free format and stick to the conventions of harmony, but stretch them in all directions, continue Cerberus Shoal's program of refining an elastic format of post-pop song (the program of Ding, to name a significant precedent).
Conversations detract from the overall flow of the music (particularly in the 14-minute Story #12 from the Invisible Mountain Archives) and reduce the impact of a work that would have been, otherwise, breathtaking.

The mini-album The Life and Times (North East Indie, 2004) is a collaboration between Magic Carpathians and Cerberus Shoal, each group remixing music by the other.

Despite the instrumental dexterity, the self-indulgent Bastion of Itchy Preeves (North East Indie, 2004) fails to introduce new elements in a sound that is rapidly becoming a stereotype.

Like several of their (too) many albums, The Land We All Believe In (2006) has all the elements of a great progressive-rock album but does not quite consolidate them. Pieces such as the eleven-minute Wyrm and especially the nine-minute Taking Out The Enemy sound like attempts to compose an encyclopedia of progressive music (rock, folk, jazz, classical). But too often the group ends up spoiling its own prodigys, as in the 15-minute The Ghosts Are Greedy which is ruined by a tedious spoken-word section.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Paolo Latini)

Mr Boy Dog (Temporary Residence, 2002), un doppio CD con membri del gruppo Tarpigh, è il capolavoro dei Cerberus Shoal. Dopo una breve intoduzione Albert Ayler-esca (i.e., caotica), il gruppo intona Nataraja, un tema funk-jazz che si dissolve nella ripetizione minimalista di un disegno sonoro semplice con lente mutazioni. Camel Bell è musica da circo (della varietà di Nino Rota, più che di Frank Zappa) suonata con un tempo mediorientale, che muta in un drumming da pellerossa e gemiti trombettistici dietro voci spaziali. Vuka è la loro versione  (demente) della world-music.
Le dinamiche paradossali di Stumblin' Block si alternano tra infantili bozzetti free-jazz nello stile del Frank Zappa di Weasels Ripped My Flesh e primitive riffate alla Sonic Youth.
La charade sonora di Tongue Drongue è un capolavoro di sottigliezza. Il suono principale è oscuro, un basso che brontola un'assurda base per delle voci sciamaniche e dissonanze zoofile da fattoria. Improvvisamente, bongo frenetici lanciano una fanfara di fiati, riempita da un organo funky e da vibrati da film western.
Il secondo disco, a confronto con la giostra di idee del primo, è un getto di aria fresca. Unmarked Boxes (una traccia vocale) mixa i Pink Floyd di  Careful With That Axe Eugene con i lamenti di  Nico e canti scimmieschi.
Telikos II sembra una jam blues-jazz regolare, melodica e mediamente esotica, ma l'intermezzo strumentale pare essere regolato da qualche formula matematica. Sembrano i Phish in uno stato emotivo di grazia.
L'onnipresente influenza segreta etnica trapela su Nod, un viaggio attraverso terre remote e la loro strana e antiquata musica folk. S'immagini i Camper Van Beethoven che suonano ubriachi ad un matrimonio moldaviano.
L'ultima traccia è opportunamente titolata An Egypt That Does Not Exist. Presenta ipnotiche polifonie vocali, un flauto vivace e una serie di droni strumentali che lo portano in cielo. Sun Ra sarebbe stato orgoglioso di un simile finale.
Sia irriverentemente divertente sia selvaggiamente creativo, quest'album segna il consolidamento di uno stile classico da parte di questo ensemble straordinariamente dotato.

Nel  2003 i Cerberus Shoal hanno lanciato una serie di split Cd, che includono The Whys and Hows con Herman Dune e The Ducks and the Drakes con Guapo. The Life And Times con i Magic Carpathians. The Vim And Vigor Of (North East Indie, 2003) è una collaborazione con Alvarius B (Alvin Bishop dei Sun City Girls), che contiene   Ding (originariamente registrato nel 2001), una delicata ballata di 18 minuti per macchina da scrivere, chitarra acustica, percussioni simil-gamelane e canto folk: uno dei loro capolavori

Il sestetto guidato da Chris Sutherland su Chaiming the Knoblessone (North East Indie, 2003) ha perso qualcosa. Molte tracce sembrano nascere dal contrasto tra un'irrazionale, comice e divertente musichall e una scultura del suono astratta, eterea e psichedelica. I 13 minuti di Apatrides raffronta una sezione di enunciati dementi Brecht-iani nella vena dei Gong e Residents con una jam free-jazz atonale che culmina in una sorta di lisergico "om" gregoriano, che, a sua volta, si dissolve in uno sconnesso rumore cacofonico. Mrs Shakespeare Torso all'inizio sembra una fanfare di Lol Coxhill prestata per la musica da circo di Frank Zappa, ma poi si trasforma in una sonata per trilli di videogame e segnali radio alieni, per poi venir sopraffatta da voci acid-rock dilatate e patterns di accordion. Il magico senso per la bizzarria della band trionfa negli 11 minuti finali, Scaly Beast vs Toy Piano, che contrappone un avvinazzato tema Tom Waits-iano ad uno sfondo composto da un pianofrte giocattolo suonato come fosse un carillion e cupe linee di accordion.
Strutture e melodia risorgono in Sole Of Foot Of Man, un pezzo di 13 minuti la cui lunghezza è ingannevole: più che una piece d'avanguardia, questo (dopo una breve introduzione di chitarra flamenco) si trasforma in un lamentoso accoridon folk, con accenti slavi, con un ritornello slanciato e un "adagio" per coda strumentale. L'influenza dei Gong si rifà sentire in un altro pezzo di 13 minuti, Ouch, che nuovamente regurgita passi e tiritere di cabaret spaziale, ma il tono è più vicino ad un gruppo di hippies lunatici che marciano verso una montagna su un campo di trip. Queste lunghe composizioni, che brillano di formato libero e colpiscono le convezioni armoniche, ma le stirano in tutte le direzioni, continuano il programma dei Cerberus Shoal di definizioone di un formato elastico per la canzone post-pop (il programma di Ding, per citare un precedente significativo).
Le conversazioni impoveriscono il generale fluire della musica (in special modo nei 14 minuti di Story #12 from the Invisible Mountain Archives) e riducono l'impatto di un disco che sarebbe altrimenti stato mozzafiato.

Chriss Sutherland and Tom Kovacevic from Cerberus Shoal started the all-acoustic combo Fire On Fire in Maine with Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella of Big Blood as well as Micah Blue Smaldone. After testing the waters with the five-song EP Fire On Fire, they released The Orchard (Young Gods, 2008), a collection of traditional-sounding for a very acoustic ensemble (stand-up bass, mandolin, banjo, harmonium, accordion, acoustic guitar, dobro): pub singalongs (Sirocco), rural lullabies (Assanine Race), ragtime-era ditties (The Orchard), martial rants (Hartford Blues), etc. Modernity here means 1960s or 1970s. Toknight (perhaps the standout) evokes early Neil Young and the polyrhythmic choral chant Flight Song sounds even futuristic by their standards. The imitation of pre-WWII folk and country music is charming but a bit pointless. The eight-minute Haystack is particularly disappointing.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

Se sei interessato a tradurre questo testo, contattami

What is unique about this music database