Cerberus Shoal – Mr. Boy Dog 2xCD

Cerberus Shoal
Mr. Boy Dog 2xCD

Cerberus Shoal is one of those bands that you’re either going to love or you’ll hate. There’s very little middle ground for a band like this, one that’s always pushing the boundaries, exploring new sounds and influences, changing with every release. Always ahead of their time, Cerberus Shoal can easily be compared to bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor! or Mogwai, although those bands seem to be catching up as Cerberus Shoal is moving on to something new.
Now, with the double album Mr. Boy Dog, Cerberus Shoal finishes an era. For several years, members of the band Tarpigh have been a part of Cerberus Shoal, and the two Maine bands have worked together to create music that’s intricate, urgent, wild, and unpredictable. Fused with tribal beats, jazzy rhythms, unusual time signatures, post-rock intricacies, and avant-garde noise, they have created some pure gems of beautiful, intelligent music. Now, Tarpigh’s members have left the fold, and this release culminates the last of the songs the two groups worked on together.
Somehow, Mr. Boy Dog doesn’t quite match the brilliance of the band’s classic albums like Homb, A Farewell to Hightide, and Crash My Moon Yacht. It’s a bit too chaotic, too unpredictable. When you get into the beautiful moments – filled with horns, unusual percussion, and urgency of a song like “Nataraja,” it’s followed by lengthy silence before “Camel Bell” finally picks up the feel “Nataraja” established and adds vocals to really fill out the song and establish a fantastic worldly feel. The silence to start off “Tongue Drongue” again breaks the flow, but the 13-minute song finally gets going with some amazing rhythm. At times, though, the band tends to get a little too avant-garde for their own good. “Stumblin’ Block” ends up sounding discordant, almost as if everything’s out of tune at once.
Some of the album’s best songs are on the second disc, which gets a bit more laid back in following with their traditional style of more flowing, atmospheric music. You can’t understand the lyrics too well on “Unmarked Boxes,” but this more mellow track is beautiful and amazing. The songs here flow nicely, with less discordant elements. “Nod” combines tribal feeling vocals and unique string instrumentation in a very uniquely flowing song. And the closer, the 11-minute “An Egypt that Does Not Exist,” is a moody affair, gentle and swift, with soft vocals, rich flute, and guitar that’s melodic one moment and fuzzed out the next.
Mr. Boy Dog has the feel of a band pulling together all of the recordings from a period of time rather than deliberately choosing from their best material for an album. The two albums hardly seems necessary, as cutting out some silence or a song or two would make for a strong if lengthy single disc. But Cerberus Shoal is nothing if not prolific, and perhaps this beautifully packaged release is a transition for the group, which will continue without the Tarpigh members. If nothing else, it shows the band exploring even more of their tribal and European sounds, always going in new directions, and you can’t fault them for that.