New Compilation from Moon Cheese Babies is a Glimpse into the Radiant Murk of the Local Music Underground


From its deliberate misspelled name to overall aesthetic vision, since 2009 the local label Infintesmal Records is tantamount to an ongoing unreleased soundtrack to the 1967 documentary Titicut Follies. That still-affecting B&W-film chronicled the hellscape that was the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. In this case, in lieu of the mental hospital Infintesmal Records label cohorts Jimmi Bayer and Nicklaus Schoeppel have used the psycho-anthropological node of Riverside as their own personal loony bin, releasing a strongly curated catalog of subterranean Jacksonville music that varies in directives, style and overall on quality on vinyl, CD, and cassette.

Previous notable acts on the Infintesmal roster including Amphibians, I Hope You’re a Doctor and the 2416, bands that have much and simultaneously nothing in common with more recent groups like Fever Hands and Miniature Suns. Some Infintesmal releases lean into lo-fi berserk punk while others serve up gloppy psychedelia. In total, the label and musicians operate on a frequency of the esoteric and idiosyncratic—whether that’s based on coyness or adventurousness is really dependent on how the listener chooses to dial it all in. 

Taken from the recent 20-song compilation Best Wishes & Misses from longtime label-act Moon Cheese Babies, the track “The Cougar & The Frat House Brat Pack” is a worthy indicator of the label’s gauzy aesthetic and the overall creative whomp that the vaguely-collective group of musicians it cultivates.

While the label offered “psych-folk” as a possible genre for Moon Cheese Babies, and the tune briefly opens with a snippet of tambura drone, “The Cougar & The Frat House Brat Pack” is driven by a defeated urgency from band leader Michael Zieckas-Helms that is more akin to mid-1960’s talkin’ blues, the rambler-friendly style that defined and drove the American folk scene before it was fractalized and mutated by LSD and louder amps. All acoustic guitars and minimal percussive thumps, with distracted harmonica fading in and out, Zieckas-Helms offers up stream-of-consciousness lyrics (“Life’s not a movie / the star always dies”) with a theme that seemingly uses the big reveal of Santa Claus as an object lesson for all of life’s subsequent revelations, awakenings and impersonal truths.

All in all, Moon Cheese Babies is another indicator that the variety of Northeast Florida music far exceeds a hashtag and the value of diving deeper into the local pool of underground artists, specifically players who find freedom contained within an indifference to streaming analytics, playlist placements, and, arguably even album reviews.

Moon Cheese Babies’ Best Wishes & Misses is available via Infintesmal Records’ Bandcamp page here.

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