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wmmberger on 08/17/2011 at 10:40AM

My Birthday Veil; Alive and Kicking with Lady Piss, 8.5.2011

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

In a creative universe where everything but everything is postmodern, where citation of creative influences is unnecessary and irrelevant, where "might appeal to fans of ____" doesn't go the mile or two that it used to, what impassions me personally about a band? Why this one and not so many others? I'll try and delineate.... It's the casual earnestness, for one, the way Lady Piss just do, simply lay it down, jumping from one well-written, expertly crafted song to another, with notions of "rock" or "punk" or "metal" or "heavy music" casually abandoned in the face and favor of free-flowing creativity. This is what they do, this is who they are, and miles-above-average song composition and arranging is so very key to their presentation, and sets them obviously apart (to my ears) from the mass of bands on myspace, or Facebook, or wherever. Noel's intelligent, gloomily animated, on-key and fully immersed horror-host delivery of the lyrics and vocal element of the band also propel Lady Piss forward, in a way that simply eludes many bands of their ilk. It's just the right alchemical balance of everything—a perfect moment in time in the form of a rock band.

I hear echoes of The Birthday Party, The Jesus Lizard and many of my historical favorites in these seven songs, though none of that would matter a whit if the songs weren't so damn good and rendered with the irrefutable oomph of a mass UFO sighting. Any band that drives from Baltimore to New Jersey to play an unpaid session at 12:30 a.m., on a moderately popular show on a widely beloved radio station (that and one gig in Brooklyn two nights later) has the right stuff in carefree abundance, and the need (because to "want" is childish) to put their stuff forward in a forum like The Castle, where I made it very clear that I believed in them, supported what they were doing, and felt wholeheartedly that they had the ability to reach greater heights in their field. By now, it's my hope that most regular Castle listeners know that the invitation to an artist to perform live on the show is never extended flippantly, or without this core belief. Like many who have come before me, I choose to believe in music, and its performers, rather than God or such other misty intangibles.

So, enough leaden praise—you've got the point; here now are the songs. 

Expert and enthusiastic live engineering by Diane "Kamikaze" Farris. Colorful, high-impact manipulation of my band photo as always by Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting. You can pick up a copy of the Streaming e.p. (all six songs are featured in this set) by writing to Lady Piss on myspace, or through bandcamp, where you may choose to purchase a record with a free download code, or just grab the digital album—such greatness to be had for three measly American dollars. Endless gratitude to the band for making my birthday number 47 something more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been.

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wmmberger on 07/27/2011 at 12:00PM

Not Pretend; Raspberry Bulbs LIVE on My Castle of Quiet, 7.15.2011

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

Taking into account all my years on WFMU, including my original tenure doing the weekly Hip Bone program (1984-1999), this live performance, a world debut by the Raspberry Bulbs 4-man combo, is one event that I shall place among the highest, most gratifying events I have ever had the decided privilege of presenting on the radio. Infused as it is, with a taste of the original rock 'n' roll energy, spirit and earnest delivery that made parents in the 50s fear Gene Vincent, and corporations in the 70s suppress the efforts of The Sex Pistols, this RB set is music + power defined. Something to spring on my hopefully appreciative grandkids.

I purchased the Raspberry Bulbs' debut cassette, Finally Burst...With Fluid, in 2009, from the man himself, long-time Bone Awl drummer, founder/proprietor of Seed Stock records, also known as He Who Crushes Teeth. My intense Bone Awl fandom re-ignited, as he described the tape as a solo project of his own, and my need to be on tap with all things Bone Awl was further satisfied, when I got home, and played this little motherfucker of a tape. The similarities to the parent project were there, sure, but the songs struck an instant chord of originality as well, owing more to first-generation punk, Oi!, and garage rock, and goddamn if the songs weren't catchy as hell.

Thus began a casual email discourse between Mr. RB and myself, I knowing that the tape (and the others that followed) were a one-man effort. I nonetheless threw it out there that were he to ever organize a combo to render this material live, the My Castle of Quiet program would be a welcome place to roll the dice, the invitation was open.

Fast forward to the first third of this year, and much to my pleasant surprise, a Raspberry Bulbs appearance on the show, not only a live set but a sheer *debut* of the newly formed RB combo, was now in the planning stages. And here it is, fulfilling and surpassing any expectations I might have had, like human gunpowder, well-rehearsed and ready to take the world over. Saying "thanks" at this point seems trite, despite my earnest gratitude, as RB & Co. surely know by now that they killed it, bagged it, and took it home.

What to say? Live appearances will follow, and I can't encourage you strongly enough to attend one or all (Saturday 6/30 @ Red Light District, as part of Burning Fleshtival III, and Sunday, 8/21, as part of a great bill @ Secret Project Robot.) Much credit must go to WFMU's own Diane "Kamikaze" Farris, who engineered the set, and lent her expertise, while at the same time being open to input from the band, and myself, as the live sound was fine-tuned. Thanks also, as always, to Tracy Widdess, for rendering my abysmal-as-ever iPhone capture of the band, making it something worth looking at more than once.

All hail the 'Bulbs, finally burst.

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wmmberger on 07/14/2011 at 04:05PM

An Epic Soundtrack; J. Soliday live on My Castle of Quiet, 7.1.2011

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

Some two weeks on from the event, I still find analysis of J. Soliday's complex and challenging performance on my show a bit like chasing smoke. The sounds defy ready analysis and/or categorization. I feel compelled to return to my admittedly oft-used ready comparison of the INA-GRM composers, the correlation in this being perhaps most valid, more so than in the case of any other previous MCoQ guest performer. But instead of coming armed with a through-composed score, magnetic tape and a few razor blades, Soliday instead covered one of our tables with an array of gear with which he is clearly intimate, and "composed" instead in real time, with some of the most-focused, and at-ease, improviser's sensitivity that I have ever witnessed.

These two sets are like a free-flowing dance of sound, with the clompity-clomp of horse hooves sliding easily into electronic bleats, sewage-tunnel drones, air-vent clatter, chirping-bird dialogue, short-wave distortion—hell, be ready for anything and everything is about all I can say—a seemingly effortless collage of a somehow very organic brand of circuit-bent electronics, rendered by a true master.

Set one is the clamor of jarring, busy-but-smooth juxtapositions, while set two leads us down the path with Francois Bayle-like layered drones, a glorious dissonance of about seven minutes, until the sonic horde returns, having learned a few tricks on their sojourn. This music certainly has the ring of Soviet or Eastern-European science-fiction film as well, and Artemeyev is another comparison that comes readily to mind. One listener noted "epic soundtrack" in the playlist comments, and I wholeheartedly agree,

I certainly cannot thank Jason enough for completing the circle, from Castle listener and fan, to live performer / guest, as his craft is mighty, and was a more-than-welcome fit to our weekly proceedings at The Castle. Bob Bellerue, stalwart Castle engineer and clearly a Soliday fan, brought great sensitivity to his engineering of the session, making for a seemingly effortless performer / engineer collaboration, and Tracy Widdess colorfully stomped my paltry iPhone captures of the artist. 

To hear the full 3-hour program archive, including artist interview, see here for multiple streaming options. 256 kbps mp3s are downloadable immdediately below.

Jason Soliday Web home

Soliday on Discogs.

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wmmberger on 06/07/2011 at 04:57AM

Not the Conservatory, But the Basement and the Bedroom; Rust Worship LIVE on My Castle of Quiet, 5.27.2011

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

Academic credentials have I not, but to my experienced ears, Rust Worship's live set, from my program of 27th May, would be a ready thesis for any student of "serious" electronic music, both in its breadth and voluminous content. It also proves, beyond any doubt, that "noise" is no longer even a serviceable adjective for the newer, DIY brand of electronic, improvised music. I point to composers like Bayle and Parmegiani often (perhaps too often, I admit) in the case of performers like Paul Haney, because these are not only my favorite of the INA-GRM school, but also because their best works have gravitas as well as innate listenability, buoyancy even, in comparison to their contemporaries like Varèse.

I met Paul Haney at No Fun Fest 2009, as I was preparing for a return to WFMU's airwaves, as the concept behind My Castle of Quiet the radio program was gelling in my mind. Paul was instantly very open with me, very personable and bold with his opinions and personal points of view, on any number of subjects, not merely music. He was eager to talk, to express himself, and it's this amiability that shines through in Paul's music, and it's been enjoyable for me, as a fan of Rust Worship, to witness Paul growing the project, to the point where experimental stabs and jolts evolve into thoughtful, in-the-moment composition of great variety and emotion.

This 45-minute journey in sound is album-like in its movements and complexity, such that it cannot be easily digested in a single lump; hell, it's taken me a week and a half, and multiple listens, just to assess how I feel about it, and to analyze its successes. And as I began to launch into my post-performance spiel that evening, the one many bands and soloists have heard, about how it's wise not to immediately rate one's live radio performance, but to judge it over several listens and come away from it for a while, etc., Paul said, "I feel pretty damn good about it right now," and he's been just as quick in the past to hang what he thought was a poor Rust Worship performance—not an egotist or a back-patter, just honest.

So it's my suggestion to listen to "Suite of Exhaustion/Recipe of Problems" good and loud, on a good system, over and over a few times; take it in like any good work of art, sonic or otherwise, and don't race to the finish line. There's a lot going on in this piece. 

In a few short months after that first meeting, Paul was guest DJ'ing on The Castle, and I found him to be a person of excellent taste, and ready always to spill over with praise for the music he loved (his Obsolete Units label and its excellent track record being further evidence of this.) His live solo Rust Worship performance on the show now brings things full circle, to the point where Paul's work must be praised and analyzed, much like the live and recorded work of the icons that got him there. The piece's guitar-based coda serves to remind us that our performer cut his teeth listening to Dead C and Skullflower records, and the grand tradition of abuse of signal-processing gear that got the whole ball rolling in the first place.

Thanks to Castle listeners, for giving in-the-moment praise where praise was due, and to Bob Bellerue for sterling and sensitive session engineering, certainly due in part to witnessing Rust Worship develop as I have. This week's photo of Rust Worship in action was taken by your host and author, at a RW performance in Nyack, NY, and photostepped—"Rusted," if you will, by Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting fame. Thanks especially to Paul Haney for bringing it, even after local public transportation had had its way with him, hence the piece's title.

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wmmberger on 05/02/2011 at 09:01PM

At the Edge of the Volcano; Castevet LIVE on My Castle of Quiet, 4.22.2011

Johanna Lenski / Tracy Widdess

Castevet are a powerful band, pulling in elements from all types of unexpected corners of the musical spectrum. That said, they are very decidedly and inescapably a black metal band in sound and approach, all the same, it's rare that names like Ligeti come up in black metal interviews, or that touches of Yes, Magma or even Fugazi are brought to mind as part of one's impressions of a black metal band's live set.

It was clear from my brief contact with Andrew, Ian and Josh that they simply do not limit themselves, and why should they? They're talented players, so why suppress their chops? Speaking more generally, it was inevitable that aspects of the genre, like the wearing of corpsepaint and strong anti-Xtian rhetoric, eventually subside, leaving less-easily-deciphered, more eloquent and abstruse musical and ideological facets rise in their wake. Point being, you can bring the "art," without sacrificing one ounce of ferocity, as this session bears out.

After over a decade of black-metal fanaticism, I'm learning that what really matters, when a band is called to the mat, is songwriting—original, interesting, "catchy," powerful or all of the above—it's the songs that separate the good from the great, and these songs exemplify top-shelf black-metal songwriting and arranging.

Don't miss an opportunity to see Castevet live (May 7th at Mother Pugs in Staten Island, and May 8 at The Acheron in Brooklyn, both shows with Richmond natives Bastard Sapling and Inter Arma.) In the meantime, you have their full-length debut, Mounds of Ash (Profound Lore) to explore and enjoy. There are layers of great shit happening on that record.

Tremendous thanks are due to Diane Kamikaze Farris, for showing up under the weather and pulling off a great job engineering this live session, to Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting for collaging and photostomping Johanna's band portraits, and to Johanna Lenski for taking pictures, hanging out, and essentially making the event happen.

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wmmberger on 04/06/2011 at 05:26PM

A Cinematic, Sonic Romance; Long Distance Poison on My Castle of Quiet, 3.25.2011

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

Right around the time that the date was set for this live session with Long Distance Poison, I was at home, acquainting myself with Klaus Schulzes' L' Vie Electronique sets, volumes 1-3 (consisting mostly of 60s-70s unreleased material from the  genre-defining "Berlin-school" synthesist.)

It all seemed to fall together quite perfectly, as this band referenced Krautrock in the most pleasing of ways, which is to say just enough, but not too much. They still had plenty of "edge," and in this day where bands travel hundreds of miles to bang it out at an INC gig for seven minutes, LDP had the "audacity" to play 60-minute sets! I knew when I spoke to Nathan after the first set I saw them do live, and we talked of John Carpenter, and The Entity, that the band would eventually visit the Castle, and that they'd pull off something special.

Which brings us to Sisu. On Nathan's invitation, I "imagined" a film (from the year 1972; my choice) and Sisu was born. Everyone would expect horror, so I did a romance, which can still be quite devastating...especially in Scandinavia, in the early seventies. The band picked up on the essence that I had in mind quite deftly, and with a minimum of discussion; what was on my mind were Tangerine Dream's soundtrack to William Friedkin's Sorcerer, in addition to their deceptively simple Rubycon, as well as a much more minimal overview of all of John Carpenter's scores to his early films.

There's a keyword with Long Distance Poison, recurring, at least to me, and that word is cinematic. Several times in the two weeks that have passed since the live session, I've been in my office or car, thought to myself, "what is this I have playing? what great soundtrack CD is this? whup—it's the LDP session from my show—right on!" So, "Sisu" succeeds in my book many times over, as music to a film that never existed, might be, or could be.

The set is an often chilly, but also alive and growing, piece of top-shelf synthesizer ensemble music, and I'm always humbled by the flourishing sounds that bands purvey live and without a net when they visit the Castle, making these sessions memorable for all involved by the sheer will of making them come off at all. I have, once again, to extend huge thanks to engineer Bob Bellerue, who comes and stays late after a full day of work to engineer, mostly for bands that he's seen live before (which any band will tell you is a huge help.) Bob used to run the Il Corral experimental music and art space in Los Angeles, and nowadays lives in Brooklyn and runs the impressive Anarchymoon Recordings label, in addition to collaborating with everyone from Z'EV to,

Thanks as always to Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting, for gorgeously fucking up my mediocre photographs. She made that crazy, wooly, horned-demon mask I wear in pictures sometimes. Thanks especially to Nathan, Erica and Casey for offering me this unique opportunity to collaborate, and for knocking out an excellent performance.

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wmmberger on 03/05/2011 at 03:00PM

A Joyous Ride-along; Instinct Control on My Castle of Quiet, 2.18.2011

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

As soon as one really starts listening to Ryan T. Dunn's sonic creations as Instinct Control, one realizes that as much as they are improvised, the project name is no accident, as the end result is very much an experiential journey with the composer/performer as guide, "intent" unfolding as it happens. I envision Ryan a bit lost in a pyramid, but far from panicking, he's gradually mastering the texture of the glyphs along the wall, patiently and deliberately finding his way. It's good chaos, like that scene in Tarkovsky's The Mirror, all shaken-out hair and falling plaster rendered in slow motion.

Ryan is a real-time composer, who really knows his instrument, and where you could say this about many in the circuit-bending crowd, when listening to Instinct Control, one really feels the journey—every corner the music turns, every choice the player takes, is an exploration of feeling, a joyous journey, and lucky you get to ride along.

These two sets were rendered absolutely live, on the My Castle of Quiet program of February 18, Ryan seated on the floor, thus somewhat hidden from view to engineer Bob Bellerue and myself. Seemingly very lucid, quiet and confident, Ryan sat before his instrument and found his way, for as long as the journey made sense. And though by the common standard, this is raucous, intense music, to me these are soul-stirring trips—the more I explore these sets, the more I appreciate their energizing quality, their sure power and uplifting vibrance.

Thanks to Bob Bellerue for exposing me to Ryan's music and setting up the meet, as well as engineering the live session. Thanks as always to Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting for stomping colorful life into my iPhone capture of the artist at work; buy a radical balaclava from her today—reasonably priced original Canadian folk art it is. And thanks most of all to Ryan T. Dunn for these ever-more-uplifting performances. Hallelujah!

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wmmberger on 02/14/2011 at 07:03PM

Abundant Squelch; Kyle Clyde LIVE on WFMU's My Castle of Quiet, 2.4.2011

13 Live music has become such a large part of what I do at WFMU, and I'm continually honored by the wealth of talented artists that seek out the show and want to perform on it, even and especially since the program's shift to late nights last June. Lots of people still want to play, many of them live.

On the 4th of February, I was happy to welcome Kyle Clyde to the show, after enjoying her two CDrs and lathe-cut 7" split with Isa Christ, these and one very brief but compelling live performance.

On that performance, Kyle had a motorized toy part precariously balanced on what I remember to be a jagged piece of plastic board; it was all somehow moving and generating sound, and it sounded terrific. Suddenly, a drunken heckler wandered into Division of Human Works, and was attempting to confront Kyle, mid-performance, on some conflict that was occurring only within his own sloshy mentality. All at once, the sound stopped, and Kyle looked up, her board balanced into her hip, bangs in her eyes, all sheepdog awareness. She took the guy in visually, and back to business.

These two sets are similar to her releases, and yet they aren't, as each piece Kyle does is really unique to itself and true to its own sonic intelligence.

These sets are very "jazzy," to my ears at least; as I was experiencing them live, I involuntarily weaved like I was riding out an Ornette solo. As far as I know, Kyle is improvising, on gear altered to her own specs, though I also believe each piece to have a general idea that's employed, preconceived by Kyle, as far as what she'll use, and in what order. Maybe I'm wrong. Either way, it's timeless improvised electronic music, and I'm proud to present it for you here.

The second set, "AMBC," is especially generous upon repeated listens.

Thanks to Kyle, Dylan, Bob Bellerue for engineering sound, and to Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting for stomping my photograph.

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wmmberger on 02/10/2011 at 11:11AM

FUN My Castle of Quiet session remixes

Inasmuch as they bring the spirit of lighthearted enjoyment to their renderings in the avant-garde, the members of FUN are not jokers, nor are they schlemiels or shlamazels. Exhibit B in this particular case, these remixes of source material from their original My Castle of Quiet session of 15th December, 2010. I thought immediately that this was a great idea, and I wish I'd thought of it myself, but no, 'twas the FUN boys and a few of their colleagues in the noise universe that rendered these re-imaginings, which, depending on one's perspective and/or mood of the moment, can prove more entertaining even than the original sets themselves.

Think of FUN as an urban-American brothers Rupenus, where everything—especially one's own work—becomes cut-up fodder to be dealt with accordingly. And, in the spirit of the remix (as we all originally became acquainted with that term and process), several of these tracks have a beat, and goddamn if you can't dance to it.

For example, "Untitled (Unicorn Hard-on Remix)" is a glorious recall of NDW pop rhythms, while "We Gonna Fun You (Ironing remix)" is dancehall with a peg-leg. "Untitled (Tom Smith remix)," starting at about the 9-minute mark, is straight-up house music, metallurgist-style, the beat supplied by a harnessed and regimented fragment of tonal buzz. So, for those of you who "hate noise" (and are still reading this post), these FUN remixes may be just the thing to bridge your gap.

The other tracks cover perhaps more expected territory, but are no less engaging, and more than foot the bill of being revisitations of the original source session. Being able to ponder such a wealth of alternate camera angles upon one's own creations gives away that FUN are indeed having fun, but not merely fun—there's real artistry at work here.

Thanks again to Mat and Jonny, the core duo, FUN in essence, and to "sometimes FUN" Kevin, for again sharing their works with Castleheads, WFMU listeners, and BoTB and FMA readers at large. Manipulation of my FUN photo by Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting.

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wmmberger on 01/15/2011 at 04:59PM

Dark and Salacious Visions; Lussuria LIVE on My Castle of Quiet

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

Standing in the rain, hands deep in raincoat pockets. This ruin of crumbled stone and ivy was once a bath, the public kind, so rarely seen now in our age of modesty. We're in provincial Europe somewhere. The ghosts, of beautiful, naked women, still frolic amongst the apparent decrepitude. A sense of loss, unbearable loss, and almost inevitable melancholy, accompany the rumblings of lust in one's blood, conjured up by mind's-eye pictures of what once happened here. When the wind blows a certain way, you can even smell the soft essence of virgin skin, and other subtle perfumes, almost detected. Such is the salacious, heady ambience, the visions conjured by the music of Lussuria.

Perhaps it's Jim Mroz' dual experience as a black metal musician that enables him to bring the heaviness in such an unexpected way, where what might strike the inattentive listener as stasis comes across ultimately as some very visceral sonic statements, both on his tapes, and unquestionably in this live session, aired on WFMU January 7, the first My Castle of Quiet live guest of our new year 2011.

I first heard Lussuria on a split cassette with Obscure, released by amourtout productions in France (the label run by Shantidas, of Aluk Todolo and Diamatregon.) It was my more-favored side of the tape—a patient, rumbling soundtrack to a nightmare, with an immersed narrative...something about angels. Having named his project after an ultra-obscure Joe D'Amato sexploitation film, Lussuria's Jim Mroz shares this writer's passion for the unusual, much-maligned and misunderstood subset of haunted, twisted, visually stunning cinema of the 1970s and 80s of which D'Amato was a major player. Even were this not the case, I would still have been taken in immediately by Lussuria's resonant, opaque sonic creations, coming out of Jim's mixer like coded maps of the subconscious.

The Lussuria releases (cassettes by Hospital Productions, amourtout, Destructive Industries, and Razors and Medicine) are chilling stuff, even troubling—like listening to a feeling always just out of reach. These sets, rendered live and expertly engineered by Bob Bellerue, certainly align with that description. Thanks also to Tracy Widdess, for rendering my photo of Jim (see above), appropriate to the translucent and mournful qualities of the music. This was a bit of a coup for me personally, as I've been an admirer of Lussuria's recordings since first hearing. I hope you enjoy these pieces, and receive them in the spirit in which they were rendered.

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