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wmmberger on 01/01/2012 at 11:16PM

FUN Go! America! Celebrates New Jersey, on My Castle of Quiet, 12.18.2011

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

FUN—as I've come to know the Philadelphia-based combo, its sounds and membership, I realize how truly appropriate the name is for what they do. FUN are able to apply clever, inventive, fresh ideas to their improvised music-making, minus all the beard-stroking and pretentious, high-minded, music-conservatory-based conceptualization and back-patting that often accompanies similar activities.

For their FUN Go! America! tour, a 50-year project that involves one performance a year, each in a different state, on the very date that that state was inducted into the Union, FUN came to New Jersey on December 18th, to WFMU's Studio B, to render two unique, smartly conceived and individually distinct long-form improvisations. The concept of the tour alone is staggering, and relies upon FUN's members having access to interstate transportation, and living long enough, to execute the mass concept in its entirety.

Backed by an American flag, adorned with their name in silver duct tape, and a host of gear ranging from plastic soda bottles to radically modified electric guitars, Mat and Jonny donned Kennedy and Nixon masks ("lifelong enemies") to render their first set, which begins with the delicious sound of carbonated-beverage-pouring, and takes flight from there. Set two, entitled "A Stroll In Jersey City," involved a studio-stationed, close-mic'd cel phone, into which they called in, while walking around the neighborhood of WFMU's building, making music from whatever they encountered on their walk.

Engineer Bob Bellerue and myself certainly had a great deal of FUN, recording the sets and watching the action put forth live and in person. These sets were broadcast the following Friday a.m. on My Castle of Quiet, though it was critical to the concept that they were recorded on Dec. 18th, the very date of NJ's 224th anniversary of statehood.

Thanks again to Mat, Jonny, and their friend Kevin, all of whom were present for the rendering of similarly intriguing sets on the Castle on the last day of December 2010, that material also resulting in a dynamic set of remixes, aired on the show the following February. Thanks as always to Bob, for his invaluable, sterling engineering skills, and to Tracy Widdess, for once again rendering my performance photos into art.

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wmmberger on 01/01/2011 at 03:09AM

Tonkomposition von Philadelphia; FUN on My Castle of Quiet

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

Usually, the process of an artist winding up as a live guest on My Castle of Quiet involves months of correspondence, my personal attendance at live shows, and/or my poring over that artist's available releases and recordings. Not so in the case of FUN. I had been connected to the fine folks at Breathmint records via our mutual friend Bob Bellerue, and had heard two FUN CDrs, one of which I loved (the untitled, or "gas mask" CDr) and had aired on several occasions. There was a scrappiness to their sound, not unlike my favorite New Blockaders recordings, where one can actually hear "the room," and it becomes very evident that these seemingly chaotic sounds are being rendered by humans in action.

FUN also came highly recommended by former guest and sometime MCoQ co-host C. Lavender, and after a perusal of the Breathmint Web site, specifically their FUN page, with embedded videos, I got the distinct notion that these guys were up to something, something more than the often haphazard and off-the-cuff appearance that they projected—and I wanted to be a part of it—so we set about scheduling a date.

FUN are heavy on concept, without being at all collegiate or pretentious about it. They have these ideas, good ones, that in the sonic execution thereof, amount to some great performances. Their mic'd up, full-head rubber masks provide a constant human element, via their breathing, grunts and other assorted mouth noises. Whatever else might be going on varies widely from piece to piece. 

For set one on My Castle of Quiet, they used WFMU's vintage Farfisa organ, our "usually in tune" upright piano, as well as accompaniment by their friend Kevin on concertina. What results is a floating dance of improvised communication, a spacious piece of great subtlety, one that will sneak up on you. 

Set two is a very different animal, performed by Mat and Jonny, the core duo of FUN, each one armed with two transistor radios run through a mixer. I can't thank these guys enough, for doing what I always hope guests on the show will do, treating their appearance like a unique opportunity, not quite a "gig" and not quite a recording session—and also considering the medium of radio, and making that context somehow key to the proceedings.

Tremendous thanks to Glenn Luttman for engineering the session with his customary professionalism, and to Tracy Widdess, for sprinkling magic dust onto my photo of the band, captured during set 1.

Keep an eye on this space for artist-rendered remixes of the session, coming soon.

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katya-oddio on 06/05/2010 at 12:45PM

Love, Beats, and Pina Coladas

One of the masterminds behind the Italian group A Smile for Timbuctu, master Digi G'Alessio is proving to be as prolific as a solo artist. He can pack a dance floor like nobody's business. LOVE, BEATS, AND PIÑA COLADAS is a downtempo album still packed with his fat beats.

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katya-oddio on 05/20/2010 at 12:00PM

Quirky Genius of Logan Whitehurst

detail from the album cover

Logan Whitehurst began uploading his original songs to mp3.com back in 1997 and gained a strong online following for his music. His quirky songs were regularly played on Dr. Demento and often compared to the likes of They Might Be Giants. Whitehurst was a multi-instrumentalist and an accomplished graphic artist. Tragically, Logan passed away from a brain tumor at the age of 29.

Lee Rosevere of Happy Puppy Records worked with the Whitehurst family to provide the world a posthumous anthology of Logan's work. The 10 song collection, AN INTRODUCTION TO LOGAN WHITEHURST AND THE JR. SCIENCE CLUB, is now available on the Free Music Archive.

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