Music » In Rotation

Now Is Podcast host Ben Remsen on the jazz giants who walk among us

Plus: Axons drummer Amanda Kraus on a program for percussionists and the people who love them, Reader music editor Philip Montoro on Horseback’s latest weird trip, and more



A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

The cover of the Horseback album Dead Ringers
  • The cover of the Horseback album Dead Ringers

Philip Montoro, Reader music editor

Horseback, Dead Ringers I fell for Horseback when I heard the hypnotizing high-desert bad trip of 2009's Invisible Mountain. The new Dead Ringers uses the same arid drones and obsessively repetitive rhythms, which create the sense of traversing unimaginable distances, but it replaces post-black metal fuzz with throbbing synthetic bass, twinkling keys, and blowing ribbons of glassy psychedelic ambience. Mastermind Jenks Miller drapes twangy, bristling guitar over everything, and the gurgling growl of his vocals on Invisible Mountain has mellowed into lazy, drawled singing, near whispers, and spoken incantations. You're still crossing a barren, fantastical landscape, but not by trudging in the deranging sun—you're gliding in the cool glass capsule of a monorail.

Playing drums with little cymbals laid flat on the heads It's not just for weirdo improvisers! If for some reason you want an unpredictable variety of garbagy tones, give it a try.

Yellow Eyes at Subterranean on Sat 8/6 In my preview of this show, I compared the lunging, turbulent fury of Yellow Eyes' Sick With Bloom to a spectacular spring flood, and they're even more powerful onstage. The vagaries of live amplification turn most black-­metal percussion into a hissing wash punctuated with rapid-­fire kick drum, but Yellow Eyes' drummer pushes himself so viciously, painfully hard that you can hear every crack of the snare even in his most frenzied blastbeats. Among active USBM bands, only False does so much to remind you how overwhelming this music is supposed to sound in person.

Philip is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Percussionist Jon Mueller performs at Issue Project Room in New York. - BRADLEY BUEHRING
  • Bradley Buehring
  • Percussionist Jon Mueller performs at Issue Project Room in New York.

Amanda Kraus, drummer for Axons and Sabertooth Dream

The Trap Set podcast Joe Wong, a frustrated drummer who's been podcasting since January 2015, chooses interviewees from diverse backgrounds—legendary session players and iconoclasts alike—to share their wide range of musical experiences. Their discussions are neither overtly technical nor intrusively personal (anymore), and my fave episodes include those with Hamid Drake, Tony Allen, Bernard Purdie, Sara Lund, George Hurley, Clyde Stubblefield, Steve Gadd, Sheila E., Mario Rubalcaba, and Milford Graves.

Pascal Comelade, Pierre Bastien, Jac Berrocal, and Jaki Liebezeit, "Shikaku Maru Ten" You're like, "But isn't that a Can song?" Oh yeah! If you had the chance to jam with Jaki Liebezeit, could you resist? Comelade's 1997 album Oblique Sessions leans on acoustic rather than electronic sounds, and the songs are all over the place. It's all fantastically groovy and weird—strongly recommended for Can fans. I picked this up at Amoeba in California and have consistently enjoyed its Jaki-ness.

Jon Mueller, "What I Thought You Said" This track from the 2016 album Tongues has it all: chanting, noise, menacing whispered vocals, meditative drum patterns, an inscrutable title, and a run time of nearly 20 minutes. Jon Mueller's solo work under the Rhythmplex umbrella is complex and cryptic, allowing you to get impossibly lost inside your own head—where sometimes it's safe and sometimes it's not. Fortunately, Mueller lives in Milwaukee and visits Chicago frequently—most recently on his tour with Sumac. RIYL being in a trance.

Amanda is curious what's in the rotation of . . .


Ben Remsen, host of Now Is Podcast

Josh Berman Trio, A Dance and a Hop Fun as it'd be to pick something wildly obscure, counter­intuitively mainstream, or out of left field (noting, perhaps, that CTA turnstiles play the first two notes of Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing"), I want to blow my whole load on the the Chicago jazz/free/out/etc scene. Why hype a YouTube video when I can hip you, dear reader, to recent albums by the giants who walk among us? Josh Berman's newest record epitomizes one strategy in this arena. Squint and you might see a chill trio playing short, swinging inventions that could charm a cocktail hour. But take a full view and you'll discover brilliant experimenters burrowing deep into Berman's subtly knotty tunes.

Rempis/Abrams/Ra + Baker, Perihelion Here we have a nearly opposite strategy: a collective trio demonstrating compositional ESP by creating one sprawling, freely improvised piece that reinvents itself as it goes, scratching itches for beauty, brutality, and head-nod grooves. Then they bring in Jim Baker, one of the most interesting pianists alive (who plays locally eight nights a week), and their movement somehow gets more fluid even as it approaches harmonic schizophrenia.

Hearts & Minds, Hearts & Minds This record is closer in its approach to Berman's—focused improvising, digestible compositions—but it owes as much to funk and rock as it does to jazz, free or otherwise. Splatter and squawk meet slithering keyboard riffs and songwriting strong enough to delight the novice jazz/free/out/etc fan. Get hip!

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