Upcoming: Castlemusic rules
Pop quiz: what do ragged improvisers Everybody Get Sick (featuring local experimental jazz stars Doug Tielli and Josh Thorpe ) and shouty psych-rock girl group Fox the Boombox have in common? If you answered "secret weapon Jennifer Castle ," you are correct, sir! There's no prize, just the smug satisfaction of knowing about one of the city's coolest underrated talents.
While Castle has proven herself a veritable Swiss Army musician by picking up drumsticks with Tielli's band and bashing out sludgy dissonant guitar solos with the Foxy ladies, it's as a solo singer/songwriter that she really shines.
"Both bands have really loosened me up, and that's seeped into my solo stuff," admits Castle, who started playing guitar at 19 and had never sat at a kit till Tielli invited her to play drums. "I have a new confidence. I've benefited from the way Fox the Boombox messes around with sounds and textures, and I appreciate improvising because Everybody Get Sick worked best when it was based in improv."
That affinity for looseness and taking chance gives Castle's haunting, fragile tunes a lovely unmoored quality. Though some have dubbed her mournful music "ambient country" (a tag that may have more to do with the "death country" of erstwhile collaborator Mark Sasso 's Elliott Brood crew than with Castle's own aesthetic), the sweetly introverted songwriter prefers to sing the blues.
"Country music seems much more straightforward, structurally and sonically. It feels like the blues are looser, like there's not such a heavy relationship to timing, like the band can play around with delivery more. When I play with other people I let the songs fall apart."
Castle's version of the blues is more the threadbare faded-denim kind than a boozy, drunken barroom lurch. Though she's still finishing up her first set of recordings with Blocks member Steve Kado (his extroverted energy perfectly complements Castle's shy meticulousness, she claims), you can check out her marooned music twice this weekend.
First, Castle performs alongside the Silt and local faves Jon-Rae and the River at the acoustically endowed Music Gallery (197 John) on Friday (October 28). Then, on Sunday, go see Fox bandmate Lindsay Gilliard 's gorgeous hand-animated video for Castle's tune Heaven as part of RESfest at 7 pm at the Royal Theatre . See Rep Cinema listings for more details.