Music » Soundboard

The List: August 19-25, 2010

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Clare & the Reasons, Slayer, Unsane, Rayon Beach, the A Frames, and more

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Thursday19

Jeb Bishop Trio
Claire Huangci
Rayon Beach

Friday20

Sadies
Slayer

Saturday21

A Frames

Monday23

Clare & the Reasons

Tuesday24

Unsane, Keelhaul
Vandermark 5
Wooden Birds

Wednesday25

Enthroned
Leila Josefowicz and John Novacek
Little Al Thomas

thursday19

JEB BISHOP TRIO For more than a decade Jeb Bishop has been one of the top instrumentalists in the city, and lately I've become convinced he's one of best trombonists in all of jazz. He's an incredibly thoughtful and focused musician, which helps explain why almost ten years went by between his previous album as a bandleader—with bassist Kent Kessler, drummer Tim Mulvenna, and sometimes guitarist Jeff Parker—and the stunning new 2009 (Better Animal), where he's joined by bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly. In his liner notes he ascribes the gap to "re-examination of my own playing and the demands I placed on myself; evolution in the musical chemistry of the previous version of the trio; and a realization that it's okay to take your time before making a statement." And 2009 is one hell of a statement. His current trio is both sleeker and more agile than its beefier predecessor, and attacks Bishop's sanguine and well-proportioned compositions with a crisp athletic drive, pulling each one apart without losing the thread. Roebke and Rosaly enable Bishop to express his full range—from ebullient, fat-toned tailgate funk to multiphonic mute-aided dissections of the trombone's sound—and he consistently improvises with a rigorous compositional sensibility, so that even his most abstract excursions tell a story. Bishop isn't nearly as well-known outside the city as he should be, no doubt because he's been so stingy with his own music, but 2009 is the kind of recording that can fix a problem like that in a heartbeat. 8:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $10. —Peter Margasak

CLAIRE HUANGCI Born in upstate New York in 1990, Claire Huangci got a grand piano for her sixth birthday, began lessons at seven, and won her first competition at eight with the Ocean City Pops Orchestra. She took the grand prize at the 1999 World Piano Competition and in 2002 won the Philadelphia Orchestra Albert M. Greenfield Student Competition. She's received first prize in the 2006 Kosciuszko Chopin International, the 2009 International Chopin Piano Competition, and—biggest yet—the 2010 U.S. National Chopin Piano Competition, which confers an award of $20,000, an international tour, and automatic acceptance into the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, where she's already made it through preliminaries. Huangci, who graduated from the Curtis Institute and currently studies with Arie Vardi at Germany's Hochschule für Musik, hasn't yet recorded, and it's difficult to make a call on her artistic maturity based on her many YouTube videos—hearing her live should prove informative. Tonight she presents a recital that includes plenty of Chopin: Ballades no. 1 in G Minor and no. 2 in F Major and Sonata no. 2 in B-flat Minor, nicknamed "Funeral March" for its third-movement adagio. Huangci opens the program with Beethoven's Rondo Capriccio in G Major and concludes with Balakirev's notoriously difficult "Islamey."   5:30 PM, Bennett-Gordon Hall, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook, Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10. A —Barbara Yaross

RAYON BEACH Last month, just when it seemed like every jerk with an iPhoneBerry who entered the sanctum sanctorum of the Pitchfork fest felt compelled to tweet poetic on every facet of that tedious and sweaty spectacle, a member of the HoZac Records crew updated his Facebook status with the simple observation "Side Boob City." Everything I loved about HoZac's raunchy ancestral zine, Horizontal Action, and many of the bands in it came flooding back. I get that same feeling when I listen to Austin's Rayon Beach. The songs on their EP The Memory Teeth sound rooted in (and could have fit in nicely) with the bands Horizontal Action championed in the early aughts. Songs like "Wave Pool Ether" suggest a slightly Reatarded, narcoleptic Clone Defects in space, while the relative bounce of "Comet Songs" shows they can do much more than grind out bedroom-recorded versions of 60s dance-party garage thud. The winner for me, though, is the instrumental "Jacuzzi Limo Explosion," which closes out the EP with an answer to the oft-asked question, "What would it sound like if Modern Lovers-era Jerry Harrison played keyboards with Pleasure Principle-era Gary Numan?" (Answer: it sounds fucking triumphant.) Heavy Times, Bourgeois Zeus, and Kramer vs. Kramer open.  9 PM, Crown Tap Room, 2821 N. Milwaukee, 773-252-9741, donation requested. —Brian Costello  

friday20

SADIES Canadian veterans the Sadies have earned a reputation as a versatile backing combo, churning out twangy, atmospheric Americana behind the likes of Neko Case, John Doe, and Andre Williams. On their own they've never had the songs to match their moody, meticulous sound, but with their latest album, Darker Circles (Yep Roc), they've made great strides. The tunes are something more than skeletons on which to hang rockabilly, surf, and honky-tonk guitars, and though brothers Travis and Dallas Good are merely workmanlike singers, on Circles their warm, downcast vocals keep pace with their stormy six-string workouts—both in their preferred Morricone-meets-Dick Dale form and the more gentle, old-timey mode of tracks like "Choosing to Fly." Jon Langford & Sally Timms and Their Sadies play second; Prichard opens. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $14, $12 in advance. —Peter Margasak

SLAYER On this thrash-metal institution's 11th studio album, last year's World Painted Blood (American/Sony), it sounds like they took everything in their tool kit and threw it at the wall—not in one big splatter but with cold, calculated brutality, like a circus knife-thrower bent on murder. Dave Lombardo's drums are way up in the mix, which gives the music a sense of terrible inevitability; it's hard to convey cinematic suspense and unrelenting violence at the same time, but this record does so savagely. World Painted Blood uses its share of thrash cliches, but since Slayer invented so many of them, in this case the familiarity just adds to the thrill. Extra points for going far afield to find a less famous serial killer to write a song about: the subject of "Psychopathy Red" is former Soviet schoolteacher Andrei Chikatilo, aka the "Red Ripper." Megadeth and Testament open. 7 PM, UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine, 312-413-5740 or 866-448-7849, $38-$58. —Monica Kendrick

A Frames

saturday21

A FRAMES In the 2020s and beyond, assuming civilization and the biosphere both hold up, it's a sure bet hipster kids will be getting nostalgic about the turn of the millennium, raiding it for musical inspiration and kitschy thrift-store fashion ideas. With any luck the more intelligent among them will recognize that Seattle's A Frames best captured—in a beautifully covert way—the paranoid schizophrenia of those years closest to 9/11. While the emo bands of the time whined their relatively privileged lives away, the A Frames built meaty metaphors, using surveillance cameras, hostage crises, electric eyes, and spy satellites to talk about the human condition. Their wired, wiry music combines the herky-jerky robot beats of Joy Division with the alien guitar skree of Stickmen With Rayguns, then deconstruct those influences so radically that the results transcend comparison—you get the sense these songs might've begun as rather accessible, conventionally structured pop, but like Steve Martin early in his stand-up career, the A Frames have methodically stripped away all traces of unoriginality from their material. Their latest release, a 42-song triple-LP retrospective of singles, demos, and rarities called 333 (S.S. Records), proves just how consistently they've succeeded. It also proves that drummer Lars Finberg (who left in 2006 to devote his full creative energies to the Intelligence) did a great deal to push the A Frames away from standard rock rhythms—what Captain Beefheart dismissively called the "mama heartbeat"—and toward something much more brutally hypnotic. Newer bands like Tyvek, who play similarly deconstructed post-post-postpunk to similar effect, owe big debts to these guys. Tonight's show is not only a rare opportunity to see the A Frames—they've been pretty quiet since 2005's Black Forest—but also the debut of the resuscitated Headache City. Formerly local, they played their not-actually-final show in late 2008; since then co-front men Mike Fitzpatrick and Dave Head have both moved to New York, Fitzpatrick to Ithaca and Head to NYC. Their second LP, We Can't Have Anything Nice, came out on P. Trash in spring 2009, while the band was inactive, and this year they started writing songs together again with an eye toward a third record. They're looking for a permanent drummer, but for this gig they'll play old material with their old drummer, Lisa Roe of CoCoComa. The A Frames headline; Headache City and Bloodyminded open.  10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Brian Costello

monday23

CLARE & THE REASONS Spry, elegant New York pop band Clare & the Reasons seems an odd fit for the city's new Dusk Variations series, a showcase for artists exploring the intersection of pop and classical music. Singer Clare Manchon's husband and collaborator, violinist Olivier, recently released Orchestre de Chambre Miniature, Volume 1 (ObliqSound), a rich but accessible exercise in chamber jazz with some terrific solos by reedist John Ellis; it would be a more obvious match. But the Reasons' 2009 album, Arrow (Frog Stand), is such a breezy delight that I don't really care to quibble about the chance to see them live. The timeless arrangements are built on string swoops and pulsing pizzicato, plangent contrapuntal horns, and the occasional guitar arpeggio, while the catchy vocal melodies reveal Clare's clear admiration for the Beatles. Her restrained, considered delivery (she is, after all, Geoff Muldaur's daughter) references both chanson and contemporary indie rock—even on a cover of Genesis's "That's All." The Manchons and bassist-guitarist Bob Hart will be joined by three local musicians: Justin Almosch on French horn and Reed Capshaw and Ellis Seiberling on trombones.  6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Randolph and Michigan, 312-742-1168. —Peter Margasak

Unsane
  • Unsane

tuesday24

UNSANE, KEELHAUL When the video for UNSANE's "Scrape" appeared in MTV's rotation in the mid-90s, it introduced the New York City noise-rock trailblazers—already seven years, three albums, and three lineups into their career—to the great unwashed masses, my 14-year-old brace face included. A bare-bones tribute to the skate-or-die mentality (it was made for just $200), the video consists of live footage of the band intercut with nasty skateboarding face plants and wipeouts—a parade of bodies mangled on metal railings and concrete slabs. It's mean, dirty, and bruising as fuck, a description that applies to Unsane's aesthetic as well. On their current tour, which ends this weekend in Minneapolis at the 25th-birthday party for Amphetamine Reptile Records, guitarist and vocalist Chris Spencer, bassist Dave Curran, and drummer Vincent Signorelli will play the entirety of the first album they recorded together, 1995's classic Scattered, Smothered & Covered. The band arose from a fertile NYC scene that included Helmet, Cop Shoot Cop, Swans, and Sick of It All, and for more than two decades they've been compiling an untouchable catalog of no-frills posthardcore, crammed with distorted vocal tirades and menacingly swinging chunks of guitar sludge. Unsane isn't the favorite band of every floor puncher and headbanger out there, but ten bucks says all their favorite bands were influenced by Unsane. —Kevin Warwick

Artsy underground metal quartet KEELHAUL seem to have simply shrugged and walked right past the merry-go-round of the rock 'n' roll fame game—this Cleveland outfit's monster 2003 full-length was called Subject to Change Without Notice, and last year's blistering follow-up, Keelhaul's Triumphant Return to Obscurity (Hydra Head), was accompanied by the seven-inch EP You Waited Five Years for This? But making self-deprecating jokes about your failure to win an audience—I think most people understand that who gets one can be pretty arbitrary—doesn't really excuse or explain such a long gap between releases. (The band barely played any shows during those years either.) The timing of Keelhaul's hiatus is especially unfortunate, since artsy underground metal has exploded in popularity—that rising tide should've lifted their grimy, barnacle-coated, creosote-stinking ship along with all the others. Better late than never, though, and Triumphant Return is a punishingly heavy, lovingly crafted delight—it's blustery and bold on "High Seas Viking Eulogy," growly and sinister on "The Subtle Sound of an Empty Milkshake" (or at least as sinister as it's possible to be on a song with a title like that). —Monica Kendrick

Unsane headlines; Today Is the Day and Keelhaul open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12.

VANDERMARK 5 It's tempting to focus on the staggering productivity that multireedist Ken Vandermark and his flagship ensemble have sustained for 14 years. Next month their 16th album is due—The Horse Jumps and the Ship Is Gone (Not Two), by a special edition of the combo augmented by Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo and Norwegian pianist Haavard Wiik—and they're already working on material for number 17. But sometimes it takes just a single tune to confirm a band's greatness, and I was blown away by one of the new ones when I saw the Vandermark 5 at the beginning of the four-week Elastic residency they're concluding tonight. "Location" is a four-part piece that builds tension through contrasts of density and mood. In the first movement, Vandermark's clarinet and Dave Rempis's alto saxophone sustain long tones thickened by surges of Tim Daisy's cymbals, all of which suddenly gives way to a light, quick spray of stinging pizzicato attacks by cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and bassist Kent Kessler. Elsewhere the melancholy cast of solos by Rempis and Lonberg-Holm is countered by Daisy's sprightly, dancing brushwork. Each section ends, as abruptly as a jump cut, at a moment of maximum tension—but Vandermark's musicians are so keenly attuned to his cinematic pacing that they pull it off without a hitch. 9 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, $10 donation suggested. —Bill Meyer

Andrew Kenny and Leslie Sisson of Wooden Birds
  • Aubrey Edward
  • Andrew Kenny and Leslie Sisson of Wooden Birds

WOODEN BIRDS American Analog Set's Andrew Kenny is still kicking it slowcore with his new band, which features former AAS collaborators Sean Haskins (drums) and Leslie Sisson (guitar, vocals) alongside Matt Pond PA's titular front man on guitar. But the exceptional depth and intimacy of Wooden Birds bests his previous band. Their 2009 debut, Magnolia (Barsuk), is tender and mournful—On the Beach-era Neil Young on an opiate drip, with hushed boy-girl harmonies more whispered than sung. Dan Mangan and Hospital Ships open. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. —Jessica Hopper

wednesday25

ENTHRONED Belgium isn't the most black metal of countries, possibly because it's hard to develop strong feelings about Satan with so much great beer around. The members of Enthroned, a black-metal group based in Brussels, apparently feel driven to compensate: their sound is a stinging maelstrom fit to scour the corpsepaint right off your face, and they seem to have come up with their stage names using a Black Speech of Mordor Demoniker Generator. Enthroned have been active since 1993, with a frequently changing lineup anchored by guitarist and vocalist Nornagest, who joined in '95—the other early members have all moved on, and founding drummer Cernunnos killed himself in '97. The newest addition is Gorgoroth veteran Garghuf on drums, who made his debut with the band on their latest album, Pentagrammaton, released this spring on Regain Records. It breaks up its tightly focused attack with a few languid interludes and intros—as if anyone falls for those anymore—and its crisp, tight drum sound sets off the growling, buzzing circular-saw guitars very nicely. I look forward to seeing what else Enthroned can accomplish with this lineup, assuming they can hang on to it for more than ten minutes. Destroyer 666, Pathology, and local death-metal diehards Cardiac Arrest—touring in support of their debut for Ibex Moon, Haven for the Insane—open. 6 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $20, $18 in advance. —Monica Kendrick

LEILA JOSEFOWICZ AND JOHN NOVACEK Violinist Leila Josefowicz is a fearless advocate of new music. Much of her program with longtime collaborator pianist John Novacek isn't new, but it probably will be to many listeners. Their recital begins with Brahms's driving Scherzo in C Minor ("Sonatensatz"), a remnant from his joint effort with Robert Schumann and Albert Dietrich. Next comes the real meat, albeit brutally lean: Shostakovich's Sonata, op. 134. Josefowicz and Novacek recorded an astonishing performance of this late work in '06, not as relentlessly stinging as those of its dedicatee, David Oistrakh, but more varied and atmospheric. The second half opens with Stravinsky's inventive and vibrant Duo Concertant—a favorite of Balanchine's that he eventually choreographed—followed by the imploding minimalism of Erkki-Sven Tuur's "Conversio." Last is Schubert's unruly but gripping Rondo in B Minor ("Rondo Brillant"). 6 PM, Bennett-Gordon Hall, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook, Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10. A —Steve Langendorf

LITTLE AL THOMAS Blues vocalist Al Thomas has been a mainstay on Chicago's south and west sides for decades, but his recorded legacy is somewhat slim—perhaps because his style is so close to B.B. King's that it's been easy to write him off as just another imitator. With the right backing band and the right material, though, he's more than a mere copycat. On his most recent album, Not My Warden (Music Avenue), he gets what he needs from his band the Deep Down Fools, who crunch out an agreeably tough barroom blues with a tinge of metallic funk; for the most part, they show enough sense to choose emotional honesty over pyrotechnics. Thomas adds cagey fillips and seasonings—a teary falsetto break here, a swooping flourish there—to his vocals, and his phrasing is fluid yet resolutely in the pocket. On swinging up-tempo shuffles like the title tune and the loping, Dallas-to-Memphis-style "Cartoon Lover," he rides the beat with hip effortlessness and a veneer of toughness that accentuates the lyrics' good-natured machismo. He shines brightest, though, on deeper fare like "Anger Heats My House," a nightmarish vignette by DDF guitarist John Edelmann. Thomas's vocals seethe with torment and barely submerged fury, laying bare the anguish and dread of being trapped in an imploding relationship.  9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 700 S. Wabash, 312-427-1190, $10. —David Whiteis

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