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wmmberger on 07/22/2010 at 09:42PM

Stay the Fuck Out of the Woods! C. Lavender live on My Castle of Quiet, 7.16.2010

photo by Wm. Berger, manipulation by Tracy Widdess

In October of '09 I received a "Castle mail" from one C. Lavender, a sound-collagist/noisemaker and horror fan based in Northern NJ. The emails were gender-neutral (honestly, I assume most noise people are dudes, but that standard is gradually and gratefully changing) and almost business-like. It's significant to note that in the thread that followed, Lavender wrote, "It's a huge dream of any NJ resident who performs weird music to play on WFMU and I felt that your show was a perfect match-up with my interests/music."

Well I finally listened, as can you. C. Lavender delivered nothing less than a true and thoroughly envisioned horrorscape to My Castle of Quiet listeners, live last Friday morning at 12:30 a.m.-ish. The build in Lavender's performance is patient but steady, and all manner of haunted sounds, and far-flung melodies, whizz by, wave and disappear. The dead rumble in their holes, dishonored, and think about digging out to give everybody what for. Maybe later, as we're too comfortable underground. The thread of a crusty electronic loop acts like an unhurried gravedigger's shovel.

This is some seriously great shit, and I can't thank C. Lavender enough, not only for being a true Castle fan, as well as a talented performer, but also for bringing to the show a thoughtful and unique performance, suited ideally to the show's own peculiar sonic bent. She brought the scary, the contemplative, and the running for your life bit, too (in which direction, you're not quite sure.)

The young artist was rattled after such a rendering, as she typically is following a set, and that combined with my usual, charming fumble-bumble caused some to suggest that we did not give good banter. Me and Lavender? Surely you jest. We are the Regis and Kelly of noise, for fuck's sake!

"Whispers in the Woods"? Most certainly. This piece is up there with some of my most-favored eerie, anguished, live sound collage, like the works of Burial Hex and Physical Demon.

Huge thanks to big Bob Bellerue for engineering, and getting a right spoooky mix, even though he was really exhausted and I gave him not one morsel of crack. Thanks as always to Tracy Widdess for messing with my artist photos just right.

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wmmberger on 07/07/2010 at 09:00PM

From the Concrete to the Celestial; Two Years on Welfare, My Castle of Quiet session, 6.30.2010

Lately, one of my mini obsessions has been artists in the urban environment, and the potential richness of inspiration when one is forced to look inward in the presence of external chaos, and how that battle in turn awakens and animates the creative mind. In short, some of the most psychedelic and/or soul-stirring shit I've seen and heard lately has been made by folks who can't afford (and wouldn't necessarily choose) to go to the countryside in order to stir their muse.

I've been following Glenn Nelson's rumbling, hypnotic, Philadelphia-based psych-noise project Two Years on Welfare for the last six months; one of his sets was the first post on the My Castle of Quiet vimeo channel, and he contributed a fantastic track, "Sleep," to the MCoQ 2010 WFMU Marathon premium CD.

Glenn's sound, among its many other enticements, whips the tactile universe of tubes, magnetic tape and old gear together with that of the digital knobs—those that spike, bend and spread frosty glow. There's a seemingly casual, almost meditative ease to Two Years on Welfare, though once lost in a piece, you find it's ultimately some pretty haunted territory.

These tracks take the listener away on a bed of vaguely disturbing stars, and memories that can't quite be grabbed. The sea is indeed lively, and it's where the sky used to be. My suggestion is that these sets be downloaded and listened to on headphones, so that the layers of activity, subtle transitions and primordial awakenings can be fully appreciated.

Many thanks once again to Glenn Luttman for his masterful session engineering, and to Tracy Widdess for spinning my photos into gloomy/groovy gold. Thanks again to Glenn Nelson.

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wmmberger on 07/01/2010 at 02:30AM

Killed by KILT in my own Court; semi-live on My Castle of Quiet, 6.23.2010

Photo by Wm. Berger / manipulation by Tracy Widdess

KILT are, as I wrote to Bob Bellerue a few days after this session, "...a real mind-fuck. About as good as two-man noisy improv gets." Their lurching, and wonderfully animate performances, particularly the massive, 39-min. "Fire Horse," are so like a giant amoeba, feasting on the nutrition of the spirit, that I have yet to fully absorb their true monstrosity even in my own post-session listening, where comfortable obsession is usually the rule of law. The set is simply that gargantuan, not only in length, but in range and energies. 

The contrasting elements of high-volume trance/minimalism ala the Theatre of Eternal Music, the churning PE-style "riffs" that appear and then dissipate, and the hi-freq dancing of Bob and Raven Chacon's exuberant communications via sound-shattering are quite a thing to behold in person as well as hear, and it seems appropriate to embed this live video I shot of them four nights later, from the My Castle of Quiet vimeo channel

KILT from My Castle of Quiet on Vimeo.

I very much see KILT as the natural heirs to a certain brand of humanist, soulful power improv, which began with LaMonte Young and his aforementioned Theatre, stopped off in Europe with ensembles like MEV and AMM, appeared later in the UK with The New Blockaders, and now sits comfortably on many a small stage, in dark, poorly ventilated rooms across the U.S. and elsewhere.

Thanks to session engineer Ernie Indradat for achieving a wonderfully organic, lively room mix, that reacted in harmony with Raven and Bob's every shift in dynamics, and to Tracy Widdess for once again dressing up my iPhone capture, always finding the image Kosmische that matches the sounds just right.

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wmmberger on 06/15/2010 at 10:59PM

They said they came in a Scion; I saw no such vehicle, and am pretty sure it was in fact a bio-powered starcraft. OPPONENTS Live on WFMU's My Castle of Quiet, 6.9.2010

Brooklyn's OPPONENTS are currently riding their own, hard-to-define wave of greatness, with, one assumes, more greatness to come. These two sets stylistically encompass so many things I love --- grisly analog throbbing ala the horror soundtracks of 70s/80s cinema; beatific, long-form "head" music; echoes of the Con Schnitzler holy duality of Rot and Blau; and the casual intensity of brave young men with good ideas, coupled with the belief that there are no "rules" in how you get your music made.

OPPONENTS live performance on the Castle waxes scary as often as it trips out, takes off and floats, and simultaneously at that. Set 1 features some deliciously in-your-face analog bubbling, that once layered with Aaron's processed vocals and mic sounds, gives the feeling of a super-creepy inter-dimensional kids' party—ya can't leave 'til the kid opens ALL his freakin' presents, and some of the packages are already stained dark red. Set 2 feels like immediate bad news at the graveyard—you shouldn't be drinking here! There are haunting electronics worthy of the aforementioned Schnitzler, and early TG. Both sets come off deceptively through-composed, in a series of well-taut "movements" that rise to a logical conclusion. Maybe Joshua and Aaron are not of this Earth, entirely...maybe the kids with the crisscrossed human/alien DNA are now coming of age and making music. When Josh slips onto the drum kit in the middle of Set 2, you know for sure that anything can happen, and does.

I never got to attend the groovy goings on at Berlin's Zodiak club, as I was six years old in 1970, and lived in the states—so the live dazzle of OPPONENTS foots that bill for me. Joshua and Aaron work so well together as improvisors, and I stress again that they are just now hitting their stride. I Swarm With a Thousand Bees, their CDr on Obsolete Units, is a must-have, and the as-yet-unreleased Together We Will End the Future, what I've heard of it anyway, is the fully fleshed slam-bang version of what's only hinted at in these powerful sets.

Thanks as always to engineer/ sound-guy extraordinaire Glenn Luttman, who for the last year (along with Irene Trudel, who engineered for Ghost Moth) has aided me immeasurably in bringing some of the finest local electronic music to WFMU's airwaves; and to Tracy Widdess for taking my sloppy, in-the-moment iPhone captures and consistently making art out of them. Thanks again to OPPONENTS.

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wmmberger on 06/02/2010 at 12:00PM

G Lucas Crane takes Nonhorse by only .02543%, Judges Up in Arms; Live on My Castle of Quiet, 5.26.2010

Photo by Wm. Berger; manipulation by Tracy Widdess.

G Lucas Crane treats his source material much like the method applied in Peter Tscherkassky's film Outer Space—things are mashed, quartered, revisited and repeated from different angles, and in much the same way that Outer Space lets you rest occasionally, Lucas also allows moments of semi-placid, voyeur's-view contemplation—that is, before the vain, cacophonous rattling of the Nonhorse takes over yet again.

Fans of dark, whimsical, vast-plane cut-ups like the Bladder Flask album and The Sylvie and Babs High-Thigh Companion will most certainly be pleased, though one of many differences here is that Lucas uses cassettes as his primary source medium, using two decks, and actually hammering his fingers on the reels, holding them, letting them go, forcing them to stop and then move grudgingly in reverse. His hands also scuttle over a hip-hop stylee DJ fader, walloping sound back and forth through the channels.

What was intended in its original conception to be a modest grouping of two sets (or bouts, if you will) between G Lucas Crane and Nonhorse, his "adversarial image totem" (listen to the full archive of the Castle broadcast from 5.26.2010; he explains a bit in the post-set interview) became a sprawling, 54-minute smackdown, because Lucas quite honestly became embedded in performance and lost all sense of time. Another bit of beautiful weirdness I am more than pleased to have presented on the radio.

Much thanks to Glenn L for always accommodating Castle visitors, and helping them to shine the best light upon their works, and to Tracy for killing the duck.

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g lucas crane, nonhorse
wmmberger on 05/18/2010 at 05:09PM

T.O.M.B. Live on WFMU's My Castle of Quiet, 5.12.2010

Last Wednesday's T.O.M.B. set leaves even a verbose guy like myself somewhat at a loss for adjectives. What T.O.M.B. did was execute a through-composed, thoughtfully executed set, of album-like proportions and pacing. Sonically, just to entice you, I could make comparisons to TG's Mission of Dead Souls, were it laid atop some of the more well-orchestrated doom metal of the day—are you effectively grabbed? 

T.O.M.B. are all over the map in their releases, both sonically and geographically (with global participants, albeit with a 3-man group of core collaborators), though the common thread in their works is an absolute envelopment in the darkest forces available, both via location recordings, and by way of the players' own emotional catharsis and fearless channeling.

The man with the contact mic'd tombstone (that which one would be ill advised to touch) sits on his knees on the floor, a mad conductor, orchestrating the darkness, while the synthesist/bassist stands, ever attentive, listening and shaping the mass with his own subtle hand suggestions. The vocalist sits, then stands, absorbed in his mic, looking cornered and tortured. The drummer (T.O.M.B. was a four-piece for this session) quite expertly held the madness together, driving hard where appropriate, and casting ashes where funerary dust was called for. It is to my deep regret that I did not have a videographer, or live video feed on hand, to capture the sights as well as the sounds of T.O.M.B.—though it no doubt would never have been the same with any bright lights a-shinin'.

Eternal thanks to Glenn L for mastering the most challenging Castle setup yet, and producing a brilliantly mixed recording, worthy of the very performance itself, and also to Tracy, for pulling something compelling out of the black muck of my iPhone photograph. My enormous gratitude to T.O.M.B.

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wmmberger on 05/03/2010 at 05:55PM

Music in Ten Dimensions --- Hex Breaker Quintet, Live on My Castle of Quiet, 4.28.2010

The spectacles witnessed and heard through the double glass on WFMU's fourth floor during the My Castle of Quiet broadcasts continue to amaze me, and shape my consciousness with their intensity, their power, and their generosity. Everyone tends to do a good—nay great—set on the Castle. All I do is say, "come." 

The Hex Breaker Quintet were no exception—they were, in fact, the RULE, as Telecult Powers and Grasshopper are the two bands that helped carve the Castle landscape quite early on; it only makes sense that their combined energies should return to rattle these walls and break the hex. And rattle they did. And the hex was in fact broken.     

Ultimately, this is monumental music; grand-scale, slow-burn improvisations for your head. As I wrote on the playlist, "Sweetly sad, eerily monumental ... from Jon Hassell swamp nightmares into spaghetti-western Elysian fields...." 

Set one shows you the grapes --- the desert, the wobbly horizon, the rocky alleys between buldings of soft stone, and the few chittering insects that manage to survive just under the hot crumble; while set two, clocking in at just under a half hour, makes the wine --- the bugs come out in force, hectic, but pipers are piping, and you drive through the swarm to the square, and see something unbelievable there—something otherworldly. You're glad you came. You rest and have a drink, but the spectacle continues, and your skin tingles.


Thanks again to Josh, Jesse, Witchbeam and Mister Mattews for their luminescence. Thanks as always to Glenn, the mighty knob twiddler, and to Tracy, Castle photostepper, who said of this session, "...Repeat listening will be required." Indeed!

Hex Breaker Quintet will be playing NY Eye & Ear Fest III on May 22nd.

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wmmberger on 04/20/2010 at 03:33PM

Diablo performs "Hollow Body"

At the risk of making a massive, sweeping assumption, Bob Bellerue seems the least likely of everyone I know to do something diabolical (pointy beard and sometimes stoic expression notwithstanding.) More assumptions - hardworking, focused, in good physical health, and from all appearances almost egoless. I don't usually get quite so personal in music reviews, but in this case it seems appropriate, as Bob's quality of character has enhanced my appreciation of his sonic creations. (We've all known the inverse, going gaga over the music of artists who are legendary douchebags, so it is sort of a "bonus" when the opposite actually happens.) 

If you like Bob Bellerue, whether he's calling himself Diablo, Redglaer or Bob Bellerue/halfnormal, you'll apprehend the way he just sits there, listening, hearing, reacting in kind, shaping the sound, never once looking at the crowd. He's doing his thing, and you just happen to be there.

This set, Bob as Diablo performing "Hollow Body," is a piece that needs to be listened to either on headphones, or at high volume on a really good stereo, to be fully and deeply appreciated. In-browser ain't doin' it for this baby, not quite—not if you want to hear all the scuttling in the primordial ooze, and experience the rising power of the drone and the eventual chaos and crackle.

With these sessions and the eventual reposting thereof quickly becoming a regular three-person team, thanks must go again to Glenn L. for noise-friendly session engineering/live mix, and to Tracy Widdess for stepping on my photographs. Thanks again to Bob, and to Witchbeam for some impromptu co-hosting.

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wmmberger on 04/06/2010 at 03:00PM

How Beautiful the Silence --- Fluorescent Vibes live on My Castle of Quiet, 3.31.2010

What kind of a ripple are you trying to create? Because there are so many kinds. There's the 2x4 to the face, often effective—I like it a LOT—and then there's the Fluorescent Vibes way: the subtle, the subliminal, the hinted at; the "it's ok if you get it, and it's ok if you don't" brand of putting it out there.

I knew these guys were gold the first time I heard them, or to be more accurate, put on their Possibilities cassette absentmindedly. I asked myself, "Is this an old Eno tape, one that I've played so many times, that it sounds like a band playing across the river, and the river is on fire?! Whoa, no, it's that Fluorescent Vibes thing I just bought from Paul Haney." From this crystal awareness came my invitation to Phillip and Corey to come join us live at the Castle.

6a00d83451c29169e201347fb05685970c-320wi And lest you think I'm talking strictly 70s-style Cluster & Eno emanations here, think again. As these sets prove out, Fluorescent Vibes also rock the digital doppler with great finesse, similar to 90s favorites of mine like Microstoria and Hajsch.

These performances are delicate, thoughtful, and cluttered with sonic surprises and engaging, dissonant beauty. A great many thanks to the band for allowing me to title the sets, and that's where my two cents ends appropriately.


Fluorescent Vibes

The usual accolades to Glenn L. for Conny Plank-like sensitivity to the material in mixing the live session, and to Tracy Widdess for her magical alterations of my crap photos of the band.

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wmmberger on 03/20/2010 at 09:00AM

Telecult Powers and Lala Ryan Perform the Modern Rites of Pei, 3.10.2010

They came on like a Hoodootronic mind-melt, with analog bubbles, rips and tears. The Queen Witch Hecate guides and commands. One would be ill advised not to listen. They brought joy and prosperity to My Castle of Quiet and to WFMU.

The twin destinies of Telecult Powers and the My Castle of Quiet radio program seem quite naturally intertwined. I met Witchbeam at No Fun Fest in May 2009, and, after a brief but very interesting conversation, he presented me with my first Telecult Powers recording, the Double Action Reversible cassette. I had the tape rolling nice and loud a few days later, and had one of those "What the fuck is this I'm listening to? This is GREAT!" epiphanies. Roughly a month later, I returned to weekly broadcasting on WFMU after a 10+-year hiatus.

In July, Telecult Powers became the first band to play live on the Castle, and through Mister Matthews and Witchbeam, I've connected with many of the other great artists who've played on the show over the months, including GrasshopperSlasher Risk and Todd Pendu. I was also thrilled to learn that by way of their appearance on WFMU, Telecult Powers have a feature article coming up in the next issue of Signal to Noise.

Witchbeam's wonderfully hybridacious rituals of Hoodoo and good old-fashioned LSD cosmiscity at their gigs have unquestionably benefited me personally, and I have no doubt that many other listeners, spectators and fans have been helped as well. The so-called Law of Attraction is not bullshit! In WFMU's time of need, our 2010 fundraising marathon (where things were going well, but not as super-amazingly well as we needed them to be), Telecult Powers returned to the show to work a little more magic. This time, they brought along a real-live rock star, Lala Harrison Ryan of Excepter.

Candle set-up for Initiation Ritual.

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