Record Review - 4 October 28 2004

Cerberus Shoal’s 1994 self-titled debut walks a fine line between cool exploration and formulaic wankery. The remixed and remastered CD reissue of the group’s initial vinyl-only material offers a comprehensive look at the group’s then-budding yet often misguided sound.

In 1994, Cerberus Shoal was enthusiastically adopting post-rock’s most cliched nuances. The dry rhythms, undulating melodies and understated vocals of “Elena” could be lifted off of Slint or Rodan. Likewise, the dramatic mathematics are countered by an equally irritating lean on early ’90s screamo sensibilities.

But occasionally the group’s true personality shines through. “Rain” is a slow-burning, pensive ride through swelling valleys and crashing crescendos of intensely personal, emotional release. And the hidden track that follows helps foreshadow some of the better things that were on the band’s horizon. The ambient riffs, unfettered by the restraints of vocals and warped pop sensibilities, clear a path for the band’s later epic rounds of rhythmic explorations. These rare moments mark the beginning of an engaging experimental approach that was fleshed out later on down the road.

-- Chad Radford