Cerberus Shoal – Chaiming the Knoblessone

Cerberus Shoal
Chaiming the Knoblessone

Somewhere up in the foggy woods of Maine are the crossroads of where the rural avant-garde meets the unapologetically pretentious. Or at least so it would seem from listening to Cerberus Shoal’s full-length, Chaiming the Knoblessone. The band (one almost wants to call them a “collective”) makes a habit of delivering long, slow, bizarre, spacey tracks full of squeaks and swells, operatic voices, atonal mutterings, and other various orchestrated noise makers, computer sounds, etc. Then come the robot voices, bad “beat poetry” like voiceovers, sound effects, references to some kind of theater performance, and so on, all of which seem to hint at the existence of some grandiose concept or artistic vision that serves as the backbone and glue for the otherwise directionless project. Yet alas, the decoder key is never revealed and so undermines the record’s attempt at true significance. Instead it feels aimless, long, and tedious to the point of being tiresome, reminding one of some masturbatory (excuse me, I mean collaborative) sound-collage project one did as an eccentric and misguided sophomore for an interdisciplinary art/sociology major at Oberlin or Sarah Lawrence.
Not that Chaiming is devoid of beautiful moments by any means. In fact the third track, “Sole of the Foot of Man,” is a series of gorgeous, atmospheric movements that flow into each other as smoothly as one season flows into the next. And as directionless and ridiculous as much of the rest of the record is, the deliberation and experimentation that went it to the making of Chaiming is certainly something worthy of admiration. The production on the record is almost ambitious as the songwriting (if we can call it that), and a good bit more successful in that it helps create and develop moods for each track. Unfortunately, more often than not, the spoken-word pieces (never a good idea in almost any context) devalue the studio efforts to such a degree that the inattentive listener might never notice them.
If weird for weird’s sake is your thing, Cerberus Shoal might be your new favorite sound/art collective. If not, well, I would keep looking.