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Rex is a worthy inheritor of the Velvet Underground's chamber-rock legacy. With its sparse instrumentation, intimate lyrical themes, unhurried tempos, and quietly hypnotic playing, the Velvet Underground's third album defined a style emulated by bands as disparate as the Cowboy Junkies, Yo La Tengo, and Codeine (which shares drummer Doug Scharin with Rex). Rex creates a mesmerizing atmosphere by relying heavily on the sustained tones of slide guitar and cello and leaving lots of space in the arrangements--the instruments curl lazily around each other like smoke rings. This near-ambient approach extends to the singing; there's a resigned country-and-western tinge to guitarist Curtis Harvey's voice, but he's mixed so low his murmurings become another texture. A steady diet of restraint can get boring; Rex avoids somnolence by building a couple of songs up to dramatic crescendos that emphasize the melancholy of their surroundings. In this Chicago debut, Rex opens for the Grifters; Nectarine will also appear. Friday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600. Free in-store appearance Saturday, 3 PM, Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway; 404-5080.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/John Mullin.

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