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Cerberus Shoal - The Whys and Hows of Herman Dune and Cerberus Shoal CD (album) cover


Cerberus Shoal



3.21 | 5 ratings

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3 stars Another weird album from Cerberus Shoal. This is the first of four “split CD” issues off the band’s former label North East Indie. The idea with these albums was for the band to collaborate with ‘like-minded’ avant-folk acts that they might not otherwise be associated with. In this case the other band is Herman DŁne, a trio (at the time, now they’re a duo) hailing from France who play a sort of introspective, brooding new-folk style that emphasizes individual instruments and lyrics that border at times on a little self-indulgent but overall are fairly interesting and thought-provoking.

Like just every other album Cerberus Shoal have ever recorded, going into this one with preconceived notions will inevitably result in confusion, surprise and perhaps for some, disappointment. I’ll admit to not really taking much of a liking to this record the first few times I spun it, as it comes off on first impression as not much more than a borderline shoe-gazing anti-folk indie CD. And if this were Herman DŁne on their own that’s possibly all the music would ever aspire to be, particularly since this was recorded early in that band’s career before they seem to have found their own voice and sound. But what makes the thing click is the seamless way Cerberus Shoal blends their portion of the CD (the second half) with the first seven songs that are played by Herman DŁne.

Granted, Cerberus Shoal are better musicians, their songs have more intricate and detailed arrangements, and they have more members than Herman DŁne (seven including my favorite earthy folk maven Colleen Kinsella). But when “That Woman is a Murderess” fades out and the first of the three “UR” tracks winds up, there is no real sense of a musical shift. Instead Cerberus Shoal manage to inflect their own odd brand of jazz / folk / avant- garde musical potpourri in a way that seems to extend and complete the less evolved music of Herman DŁne. I’m not exactly sure how they do it, I’m sure by matching some of the same tempos and chord progressions, etc. (not being a student of music theory that sort of crap is largely lost on me). All I know is the mood remains constant through “Sweetie” and “UR #2”, and only by the time “Bouzouki” rolls around does it become apparent Shoal have shifted their sound to something resembling a blend of Slavic folk and mellow klezmer music. After a few listens the genius of the album starts to emerge, and only now (several years after I first purchased this record) am I rediscovering it with some appreciation, having in the meantime grown accustomed to the schizophrenic nature of the Cerberus Shoal’s musical journey.

I’m still not much of a fan of Herman DŁne, although admittedly this is the only one of their many records I’ve ever listened to. They sound a bit like Elvis Costello (later years) covering Ben Folds Five records with Beat Circus as a backing band. Costello and Beat Circus work okay for me, but the self-pitying lyrics in the Ben Folds mold aren’t very appealing at all. The plaintive acoustic percussion gives the music a certain charm though, and being a sucker for that sort of thing I find myself concentrating on that and ignoring David-Ivar’s sappy voice.

This record is definitely not the sort of thing any metal or progressive symphonic rock fan is likely to find even remotely appealing; but for avant and adventurous prog folk fans there may be enough here to capture your imagination if you can get past the first spin of the first seven tracks. You might even try playing the Cerberus Shoal side first and then back- tracking to the Herman DŁne, as that seems to make the whole package work just a little better IMHO. Three stars – surprising since I wouldn’t have given it more than two a couple years ago. Perhaps I need to go back and revisit more of the dusty and discarded CDs on the bottom of my music shelf. Hmmm……


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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