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wmmberger on 06/28/2013 at 02:26PM

My Boss Is an Angel Cast out of Heaven, not a Jewish Carpenter; One Master LIVE on My Castle of Quiet, 4.26.2013

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

This session is a monster, black-metal fire that strafes the earth and then salts it for good measure. Fuckin' unbelievable.

Speaking very generally, black metal can be divided into two, distinct subgroups; the raw and the dirty, with its roots in punk, and the more "musicianly," with expert playing, and grander, more-"orchestrated" concepts. Either way, to pass my filter, the songwriting is key, and has to be there to bring the sound across.

Naturally, there's been significant cross-pollination of these two basic styles over the years, and One Master are perhaps the finest example of a band that has chops to spare, with longer, epic songs, but with not an ounce of grit sacrificed—in fact, the sheer gut-punch of this session, as well as One Master's two full-lengths and split cassette with Glass Coffin, will simply bowl you over like a life-affirming ass-kicking. Even as I listen now, after many a deep sit-down with the material, the ferocity of One Master's Castle session is staggering and the first thing your ears will notice—melodic riffs, deftly arranged and well-written songs, delivered with mighty, mighty force.

These guys were also great to hang with, and we had lots to jaw about off-air, with our shared obsessions for classic horror / exploitation film and the like. These are men you can have a beer with, and talk about Cannibal Ferox on into the night. I recall saying, "Is there any scene in Requiem for a Vampire other than the basement-torture scene? 'Cause if there is, I don't remember it...." hehe....

Thanks a fuck-ton to the band for bringing their exquisite black-metal art to WFMU, and to engineer Juan Aboites for creating a clean, solid and forceful mix for the broadcast. Thanks also to Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting for re-crafting my shitty iPhone band captures.

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wmmberger on 06/28/2013 at 02:26PM

My Boss Is an Angel Cast out of Heaven, not a Jewish Carpenter; One Master LIVE on My Castle of Quiet, 4.26.2013

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

This session is a monster, black-metal fire that strafes the earth and then salts it for good measure. Fuckin' unbelievable.

Speaking very generally, black metal can be divided into two, distinct subgroups; the raw and the dirty, with its roots in punk, and the more "musicianly," with expert playing, and grander, more-"orchestrated" concepts. Either way, to pass my filter, the songwriting is key, and has to be there to bring the sound across.

Naturally, there's been significant cross-pollination of these two basic styles over the years, and One Master are perhaps the finest example of a band that has chops to spare, with longer, epic songs, but with not an ounce of grit sacrificed—in fact, the sheer gut-punch of this session, as well as One Master's two full-lengths and split cassette with Glass Coffin, will simply bowl you over like a life-affirming ass-kicking. Even as I listen now, after many a deep sit-down with the material, the ferocity of One Master's Castle session is staggering and the first thing your ears will notice—melodic riffs, deftly arranged and well-written songs, delivered with mighty, mighty force.

These guys were also great to hang with, and we had lots to jaw about off-air, with our shared obsessions for classic horror / exploitation film and the like. These are men you can have a beer with, and talk about Cannibal Ferox on into the night. I recall saying, "Is there any scene in Requiem for a Vampire other than the basement-torture scene? 'Cause if there is, I don't remember it...." hehe....

Thanks a fuck-ton to the band for bringing their exquisite black-metal art to WFMU, and to engineer Juan Aboites for creating a clean, solid and forceful mix for the broadcast. Thanks also to Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting for re-crafting my shitty iPhone band captures.

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wmmberger on 10/19/2012 at 09:00AM

An Iron Broom to Sweep The Earth: Grafvolluth Live

©Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

If you want hard blast-beats that under-ride high melodic guitar figures, vocals that seem to scream up an impossibly deep Norwegian well, and slower, lurching sections that evoke anthemic, latter-era Bathory, you need look no further than Grafvolluth. They do an incredible job honoring the traditional Scandinavian Black Metal sound of the early 90s.

As someone who caught up with the genre a few years late, I was initially blown away by the incredible variety of what passed as "black metal," and records like Ulver's Nattens Madrigal, as well as Carpathian Forest's Black Shining Leather, blew my mind and ears, as I walked home from the BART station around Lake Merritt in Oakland, hugging my Discman, and saying hails to the birds. ...It was an honor for me personally then, to host Grafvolluth, as their music takes me back to this initial enthusiasm I had for black metal—while still being very new, raw, original, and in its way, distinctly US-made.


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lizziedavis on 06/29/2012 at 02:30PM

Interview with Charlie Looker of Extra Life

photoIt's a dangerous time to be an experimental musician influenced by black metal. Bands that seem to get just a bit too conceptual with their metal have attracted heavy controversy over the last few years. Luckily, Extra Life has managed to evade the wrath of purists while taking black metal to an entirely new plane. Fronted by Charlie Looker, an elementary school teacher, former member of Zs and Dirty Projectors, and true “musician’s musician,” Extra Life fuses black metal, early music, and experimental theory to create music that is at once intensely powerful and a little fragile. Their latest release, Dream Seeds, is a haunting and jarring study of the nature of dreams and children.

Extra Life will be playing in Spy Music Festival in NYC at the end of the month. I asked Charlie Looker some questions via email.

You've said that the inspiration behind Dream Seeds comes from the ethereal realm of dreams and childhood, yet to me, the music also feels meticulous and intellectualized. What's your process of developing songs out of the hazy sphere of youth into the careful world of adulthood?
Any time you do something creative you’re taking things which are subconscious and making them conscious. You take something ethereal and unformed and you make it manifest in the world. That’s always what the creative process is, whether or not the source is dreams or childhood or whatever. If what you make is good, then it actually increases and intensifies the mystery of the original impulses. If along the way, the whole feeling becomes dry and obvious and overly intellectual, then you’ve failed. I’m not sure if I’d call our working process intellectual. It’s definitely meticulous. We all get obsessively caught up in little details of our parts, how the parts interlock, subtleties of rhythmic feel. But that’s not philosophical or academic, it’s just craft. Any intellectualizing about the music usually comes after the fact of making the music, in reflecting on it.

How young were you when you started playing and writing music?
I played the piano very seriously from ages five through eleven. Then I got into metal and I started playing the electric guitar. I played in some hardcore-influenced bands in high school and I’d write parts of songs, just riffs and chord progressions. Around sixteen I got a four track and started making these long insane home-recorded piece, really influenced by John Zorn and Ennio Morricone, like soundtracks without film. That’s basically how I got into experimental music in general.

What were some of the musical influences behind the album?
The past few years my favorite music I’ve been checking out is Antony and the Cocteau Twins. But I’m not sure how much that’s even audible to the listener as an influence on the record. I’ve been really into Current 93 but we don’t really sound like that, other than maybe on “No Dreams Tonight”. I’ve also been super into Romantic and Impressionist orchestral music, listening to it a ton and also studying the scores in depth. This has definitely opened up my sense of arrangement, orchestration and recording, but then again, on this record most of that production side of things comes from our guitarist/engineer Caley Monahon-Ward and not me.

You just got back from a European tour. How was it?
It was awesome. It was tiring, but not nearly as tiring as touring the states. We were fed well.

Are you doing any sort of special set or collaborations for Spy Music Festival?
The main thing I’m doing is just a straight-up Extra Life set on June 30. But also on that bill Caley and I will both be playing guitar in Rhys Chatham’s ensemble which is definitely a special thing. Chatham is an important musician and I’ve never met him before. Spy Fest in general will be sick. Northern Spy is a really unique label and I’m proud to call it home.

Extra Life will be performing this Saturday, June 30th at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, NY with Rhys Chatham Guitar Trio and Neptune.

Extra Life - "Righteous Seed" (05:39)
Extra Life - "Righteous Seed" (05:39)
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wmmberger on 05/16/2012 at 09:36PM

A Living Portrait, from the graveyard to your door; Occultation LIVE on My Castle of Quiet

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

What is metal, or rock for that matter? While others scramble for last-minute sub-subgenrefication, I am happy just to watch those umbrellas widen, and the envelope swell and burst. Occultation are such a band, one that tastefully mines not-immediately-recognizable influences, and much like that pre-job interview adage, "just be themselves, they'll be fine." Fine they did do, having grown leaps and bounds since the impressive Somber Dawn demo, to a sound that defines itself throughout their debut full-length, Three and Seven, on Profound Lore.

That first demo, and an early, related live video clip, led to their My Castle of Quiet invitation, and it was an easy call for yours truly that the band was indeed a perfect fit to the horror-gloom purveyed weekly on the radio program. These complex, richly haunting songs marry almost to an absurd ideal with the essence of MCoQ, such that it was an easy decision to host a live performance, positioned to promote their groundbreaking first release.

Here's their set, short, sweet and brimming with power >

A heap of cobwebby thanks to Bob Bellerue, creator of the Ende Tymes Festival (this weekend!), who engineered the session with his usual aplomb and almost empathic understanding of the band's sonic goals and emphases. Thanks also to Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting for smashing up my gritty iPhone captures into a thing of beauty.

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