USA, 2002, avant-folk

Alvarius B / Cerberus ShoalThe Vim & Vigour of Alvarius B and Cerberus Shoal: Alan Bishop of Sun City Girls fame opens this split in his typical weird way, with eerie, oversaturated, half-spoken vocals accompanied by droning fiddles that sound broken. The second track, a Bishop composition, is a disturbing little acoustic track about chopped up babies, and it’s so short it could be the song of some ne’er-do-well lurking in the alleyway you just happen to be passing. You can’t get away, though, for details of dismemberment and splattered gore follow. When Cerberus Shoal takes over the split, they put a marvelous Weill-esque dark cabaret spin on “Blood Baby”, making it creepier by codifying its structure, but when they move on to “Viking Christmas”, it feels like going through a corridor from one song to another, or passing through a humming cafeteria of activity, where someone’s conducting a singalong over a crappy PA system. You make your way past all that to the evening’s centerpiece entertainment, “The Real Ding”, an 18-minute sprawling folk song that builds from typewriter to full banjo-cantering chorus of charming, deadpan vocals. Though I’ve read through the lyrics, I have no idea what this song is about, and I don’t think I’m supposed to. Rarely has a song resonated with me on a music level as much as this one does.

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