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wmmberger on 05/31/2014 at 03:37AM

Coffin Nail Kickout; Through Thorn and Brier LIVE on My Castle of Quiet, 5.7.2014

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

WFMU, among a great many other things, is about community, i.e., presenting and promoting local musicians / artists / humorists, in addition the great International performers we present. My Castle of Quiet has always been about the business of seeking out exceptional local musicians, and it doesn't get too much more local for us than Through Thorn and Brier, their craft honed in our shared County of Hudson, NJ. At one time, WFMU's staff was chock-full of NJ-bred radio personalities, many of whom lived and or passed through nearby Bayonne, including late-great broadcasters and good friends of mine, Terry Folger and Frank "Vanilla Bean" Balesteri, both of them taken from us way too soon. Bayonne borders directly on WFMU's home town of Jersey City, and offers great pizza, good bars and a decent standard of living for a largish NJ city. All that considered, if you told me that Bayonne had bred a strong, talented, one-of-a-kind punk / metal band, I still might have doubted the veracity of your claim, not sure why though. That is, right up until the first time I heard Through Thorn and Brier.

Originally stumbling upon their songs on bandcamp, in a position I now often find myself in, checking out a band that I missed live for no good reason except that I generally like to stay home. Sporting twin brothers on vocals and guitar, amidst a mighty, accomplished lineup, TTAB play a threatening, driven brand of metal-infused punk music, with arcing guitar melodies, swinging, thudding riffs, and ominous, almost tribal beats; add roaring vocals and a general mood of rolling with reckless abandon. If punk-metal hybrid bands can be "catchy," TTAB certainly ARE, their riffs immediately inspiring head swirling; one of those physically motivating bands that make me wish that I had long, straight, flowing hair to swing in time. 

Every Through Thorn and Brier song is something like a mini-suite, blasting through multiple inspiring riffs and you-must-pay-attention time signatures in a matter of minutes, taking you on a ride you can't fully absorb the first time, and isn't that the way? Shouldn't a band's numbers be such that new pleasures reveal each time you listen?

Call them screamo (don't!), call them hardcore, or metal—all those genre labels quickly dissolve in the hands of the best of bands—and TTAB's songs cover a wild breadth of punk and metal styles with purpose and ease, such that the hops are never gratuitous and always contribute quite naturally to the sum of their parts.

I was very pleased to present this excellent band, well-deserving of more widespread notoriety, as evidenced here. (Note: Where songs were played without a complete stop in between, they are presented here as such, i.e., tracks 1 and 3 consist of three songs apiece.)

Thanks and much appreciation must go to engineer Juan Aboites, for working his ass off, and making everything sound full and ferocious. Thanks too, to Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting, who for maybe the 100th time, pieced together a handsome band portrait from my miserable iPhone captures.

You can hear the Good Grief EP and Failure Prone MLP (both worth owning) and purchase hard copy of the same at Through Thorn and Brier's bandcamp page. There, you'll also see their use of non-typical, decidedly un-metal imagery, a move well appreciated by this DJ / writer. Also visit ttabhc.com for more up-to-date band info.

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wmmberger on 03/18/2014 at 12:45AM

A Grind Apart: Ubasute Live on My Castle of Quiet

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

The grind music I like, I really love, because as a genre, there is a rampant saminess; so I sit back and let bands like Psychic Limb, Ubasute, Agathocles, Cattle Decapitation and Pig Destroyer rise to the top by way of their own virtues.

Alex Caprio's distinctive and unpredictable shriek, Mike Marciano's artful, intricate Rickenbacker bass virtuosity, and Jeremy Suria's guitar work (equal parts technical, Steve Howe-midrangery, and thick, power-chord glue) all work thoroughly together to make the band a cut above the raging pack. Upon even deeper observation, Ubasute's lyrical content, and carefully chosen graphic imagery flaunt the more-easily-attained / co-opted genre conventions. 

Live set from February 2014 »


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wmmberger on 09/05/2013 at 05:18AM

Jamaica-Queens-The World; Psychic Limb Live on My Castle of Quiet Pseudo-Finale

What makes a great grind band? Doing as much as you can in an average of 43 seconds' song duration, flexing those ferocious chops from all angles, and, though this may be hard to explain to someone whose ears are attuned to pop music and the traditional song form, a certain "catchiness," an anthemic propulsion that will make the listener/receiver want to propel oneself into the pit without a care for personal safety. Psychic Limb have all these qualities, in spades.

I've liked these guys from the second I heard them, they stand out mightily from the pack of late 2000s grind on bandcamp and elsewhere, and they make records that stand firmly amongst the classics of the genre. And yes, they can and do reproduce it all in person.


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wmmberger on 08/23/2013 at 09:09PM

Music #1 and #2; Tom Carter and Pat Murano, live on My Castle of Quiet, 5.24.13

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

Still working my way through the last few months of live performances on the My Castle of Quiet program, we find ourselves now at this haunting session from late May by Pat Murano and Tom Carter. 

This is an exciting time for improvised music in general, and the releases on Murano's Kelippah label, including the Carter/Murano LP, are at the very forefront of this exciting post-everything era in the genre. Here, we're "after" Krautrock, after 90s space-rock (Carter being a veteran of the much-respected, much-loved Charalambides), after the Parker/Bailey EMANEM-label vibrations from the UK, after doom/drone/"organic" improv, and basically that's all a good thing, as anything goes—one can tweak and kerplunk, be melodic, be massive, be subtle and contemplative, and give bursts of electronic noise, all in the course of one session, or even one piece. 

Carter and Murano seem to guide one another into vast fields of arcing melody and rhythm, and at least for this session (one must consider all the Murano / Carter works to really get the gist, including the aforementioned LP, and NATCH 4, also offered on our Free Music Archive), we're in blooming meadows of post-Kraut brilliance. Especially in "Music #2," Murano's synth figures weave intricate spiderwebs over and under Carter's Michael Rother-like, slow-burn guitar improvisations, before collapsing into a welcome noise-gasm in the concluding minutes.

Yet again, that "magic room," also known as WFMU's studio B, and the forum of the My Castle... show, seem to have provided the comfortable environment for another history-making session to occur. And though kraut/space might be the listener's initial reaction, absolutely nothing is off the table, and I hear elements of dub, doom, and wild, free noise in these tracks. Lie back, with or without your inebriant of choice, and enjoy.

Huge thanks to Tom and Pat (Mr. Murano having the dubious distinction of being the most-often-featured live performer on The Castle, having played this session, as well as ones with Malkuth, K-Salvatore, solo as Decimus, and also on Brian Turner's program in the duo Key of Shame), and to engineer extraordinaire Juan Aboites, and to Tracy Widdess for yet another varicolored photo manipulation of my scrappy captures.

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wmmberger on 07/29/2013 at 11:45AM

Denton Blues; Bludded Head on My Castle of Quiet, 5.10.2013

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

As I said to the members of Bludded Head, for a good, long while, I'd been subsisting on the two, outstanding tracks from their debut 12"—and with great enthusiasm, am now proud to bring you live versions of these four, new compositions from this unique Texan doom outfit. Studio versions of the songs are also available from the band on limited CDr. 

With two new members added to the lineup (and the original, intact core of Nevada Hill and Darcy Neal), these songs find BH in the realm of even greater dynamics and subtlety when compared to the tracks on their debut; the addition of double bass and an accomplished new drummer having opened up the compositional palate of the band considerably. None of the crunch has been sacrificed though, and Nevada's outrageous screams still ride atop the steamrolling melee of Bludded Head's mighty downbeats.

Doom bands come and go, many sounding similar to one another, with the greatest emphasis being placed on how far apart those gut-punch downbeats can be spaced; not so for Bludded Head, who seem in it to write, arrange and execute great songs, several worlds apart from the sameyness that characterizes many of their peers in the genre. My Castle of Quiet and WFMU caught up with the band mid-tour, and it shows, such that the freshness and intensity of these selections are at a dazzling peak.


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