Cerberus Shoal – Garden Fly, Drip Eye EP

Cerberus Shoal
Garden Fly, Drip Eye EP

I am a big Cerberus Shoal fan. See, no one really sounds like these guys. Yes, they’ve been compared to Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Mogwai, and those comparisons are usually mostly valid, but really their style of mostly instrumental, moody, orchestrated, and tribal music is all their own. That being said, don’t expect this single to be your typical Cerberus Shoal release, because it surely is not.
The last several Shoal albums were performed by a version of the band that included members of another Portland, Maine-area band, Tarpigh. Now Tarpigh has left the folds, and Cerberus Shoal has used that opportunity to allow their sound to evolve. Or perhaps they’re just trying something new. Regardless, the framework is still here. The band’s intricate and moody song structure, based mostly around their amazing instrumentation, is still the focus. But now there’s an emphasis on vocals, which we haven’t heard in a while, and the songs have a more folk-style feel to them. I don’t know if it’s American folk or some other ethnic style of folk, but it does give the band a completely new feel.
“Garden Fly” starts out with a kind of swirling wind and several people sing/chanting the vocals. The music comes in very quirky, with a kind of off-beat rhythm and almost folk-style guitar. It’s the vocals, still several people at once, that makes this track most unusual. It’s rather in-your-face, and they sing throughout the song, something most unusual for Cerberus Shoal. By the end, the song has a very intense feel, exploding with percussion and odd squeaking instruments, finishing with a shout of “Quiet!” “Drip Eye” starts off promising enough, with a kind of overpowering atmosphere, but then the odd use of horns and percussion comes in, and again I’m a bit confused or put off. When the vocals come in, they’re now spoken in chorus as opposed to sung, as if a group of people were gathered around one microphone. The song does find a nice flow here and there, but mostly it’s a cacophony of sound and noise that more resembles the new incarnation of Tarpigh.
I will admit I don’t like this style of Cerberus Shoal as much as their recent full-length albums, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up hope. This is just a two-song single, perhaps released as a means of trying something new, or perhaps it’s a transition into more of a mixture of styles. That’s what I’m hoping for. I love to see a band evolve, and I’m ready to support this amazing group of musicians in whatever their next endeavor is.