Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cerberus Shoal - (1995,2004)

To mark their tenth anniversary, Cerberus Shoal had reissued their first album from 1995. 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 exploited on their sophomore effort, And Farewell to High Tide. 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.

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