Music » Soundboard

The List: January 13-19, 2011

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Concretes, Lia Ices, Matt Ulery's Loom, Golem, Angel Olsen, Sick of It All, Toxic Holocaust, and more

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>Critic's Choice< Guillermo Gregorio, Jason Roebke, and Brian Labycz
>Critic's Choice< Lia Ices


Rita J
>Critic's Choice< Matt Ulery's Loom
Dale Watson


>Critic's Choice< Concretes
>Critic's Choice< Golem
>Critic's Choice< Matt Ulery's Loom


>Critic's Choice< Angel Olsen, Scott Tuma
Sick of It All


>Critic's Choice< Toxic Holocaust


>Critic's Choice< Charlie Hunter


GUILLERMO GREGORIO, JASON ROEBKE, AND BRIAN LABYCZ Local clarinetist Guillermo Gregorio was born in Buenos Aires in 1941 and lived there till the mid-80s, but he has rarely acknowledged Argentine popular culture in his music or visual art, preferring to honor his native country's avant-garde heritage. So it's a bit of a surprise that his trio with double bassist Jason Roebke and electronic improviser Brian Labycz has named its first recording, Colectivos, after the colorfully painted buses that were as much a part of Buenos Aires's 20th-century image as the tango and the Obelisk. But the name makes conceptual sense: the original colectivos were a grassroots response to the city's antiquated public-transport system, and the album's content and delivery system both seem to pay tribute to the idea of shaking off the old. The record's five title tracks are free improvisations that show off the ensemble's chamber dynamics and edge-of-noise textures. And though both Gregorio and Roebke have connections to high-profile labels, Colectivos is a limited-edition release on Labycz's CD-R imprint, Peira. A quartet of reedist Nick Mazzarella, keyboardist Paul Giallorenzo, bassist Anton Hatwich, and drummer Marc Riordan headlines. Guillermo, Roebke, and Labycz also play at Heaven Gallery on Sat 1/22. 10 PM, Elastic, 2830 N Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, donation suggested. —Bill Meyer

LIA ICES On her second album, Grown Unknown (due January 25 on Jagjaguwar), Brooklyn singer Lia Ices balances the ethereal with the muscular, shaping elegant pop songs that both billow and throb. Her breathy quiver, wordless coos, and elongated ahs connect her to the unfortunate tradition of overwrought post-Sarah McLachlan indie pop, but she resuscitates those worn-out mannerisms by using them as emotional punctuation rather than empty ornamentation. She writes strong songs with rigorous episodic structures and an undercurrent of folky melancholy. "Daphne," for instance, opens with simple acoustic guitar figures, elegant strings, and a gossamer vocal melody that sounds as much like Joan Baez as it does Feist; as the tune unfolds it grows in power and density, with lush harmony vocals from Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, martial piano lines, and propulsive drums arriving in rapid succession. I'm reserving final judgment until I see Ices live, but the album impresses the hell out of me. This show is part of Tomorrow Never Knows. The Besnard Lakes headline; Frankie Rose & the Outs, Lia Ices, and A Lull open. Ices also plays a free in-store set at 3 PM at Reckless Records, 1532 N. Milwaukee. 8 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $15, 18+. —Peter Margasak

SUPERDRE In her bio, Grand Rapids-based DJ, producer, and label owner SuperDre (nee Andrea Wallace) refers to herself as "a byproduct of years of classical music training and nerdy computer skills." The latter are evident in the tweaked-out keyboard sounds and heavily processed samples she uses in her tracks, the former in the crafty arrangements she gives them. She tends to vacillate between minimal house and dubstep, but occasionally a cut like "Ghetto Circus" carves out an interesting patch of ground between them, bringing minimal house's crisp, clean aesthetic to dubstep (which often gets lost in its own thick haze) and using a bit of dubstep's organic funk to loosen up minimal house (which frequently falls victim to its own fussiness). DJ C, Merrick Brown, and Subnoxious open.  10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140, $7, $5 before midnight. —Miles Raymer

Rita J
  • Jamal Jameel
  • Rita J


RITA J Though she's the face of a headphone-ad campaign that's landed her image everywhere from the pages of The Fader to a giant billboard in Times Square, Rita J has otherwise kept a low profile—at least for now, she's unlikely to end up in the Source any other way. It's safe to say that more people have seen her than heard her. But if her good looks and wistfully contemplative expression in those ads intrigue you enough that you follow through and google her, you might be pleasantly surprised. Her strong but supple voice begs for positive comparisons to Ladybug from the Digable Planets, and in keeping with the tastes of the local All Natural crew—whose label released her 2009 album, Artist Workshop—she prefers a dense, wordy flow and beats that drip with funk. This show is part of Tomorrow Never Knows. Freddie Gibbs headlines; Shad and Rita J open. DJ RTC spins. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $15, 18+. —Miles Raymer

MATT ULERY'S LOOM Chicagoan Matt Ulery is ostensibly a jazz bassist, but with each recording he's made over the past few years his interest in composing and arranging has grown, further eclipsing his interest in improvisation. That said, the group's impressive new second album, Flora. Fauna. Fervor. (482 Music), has its fair share of solos, particularly from keyboardist Rob Clearfield—whose warmth and restraint here stand in stark opposition to his chilly, synthetic playing with Greg Ward's Fitted Shards—but they all feel inextricably woven into Ulery's elaborate, beautiful compositions. (It's obvious why he named the band Loom.) On the stately, slow-growing opener, "Great Full," the band doesn't pull back for Clearfield's Wurlitzer solo but instead builds around it, and on "The Queen" trumpeter Thad Franklin and saxophonist Tim Haldeman embark on free-blowing excursions that take intimate cues from the tune's frequent shifts in mood, tempo, and density. In his liner notes Ulery writes, "Classical chamber music, modern jazz, folk music of the Americas and Eastern Europe, modern indie-rock and evocative, orchestral film scores have all played a key role in the Loom compositions," and the music bears that out. The recording features a septet streaked by the violin of Zach Brock, but he'll be missing for these shows, as will vibist Katie Wiegman—Ulery will lead a sextet with Franklin, Haldeman, Clearfield, drummer Jon Deitemyer, and guest guitarist Dave Miller, which should have no problem re-creating the album's richly cinematic vibe. See also Saturday. 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12. —Peter Margasak

DALE WATSON Dale Watson made his bread as a country-music rebel, so the lead track on his latest album, Carryin' On (E1), is a little jarring—I never figured I'd hear the guy who named a record Heeah!! deliver a line like "Crashin' into 40, might better think about growing up." Watson has indeed mellowed over the years, and by the final verse of that song it becomes clear that the narrator isn't a blowhard scolding a friend but rather a husband and father talking to himself in the bathroom mirror. The sappy "Flowers in Your Hair," which sounds like it could've been a hit for Anne Murray, is the low point of the album, which is definitely the smoothest of his career. But Carryin' On was cut in Nashville with veteran session players like steel guitarist Lloyd Green and pianist Hargus "Pig" Robbins, and for the most part Watson stays faithful to the verities of hardcore country from the late 60s and 70s—in one song he's drowning his sorrows in beer ("Hey Brown Bottle"), and in another he's complaining that nobody appreciates old-school honky-tonk anymore ("Hello, I'm an Old Country Song"). The Wabash Cannonballs open. 9:30 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494, $12. —Peter Margasak


CONCRETES Original lead singer Victoria Bergsman left the Concretes in 2006 to perform solo as Taken by Trees, but on Hey Trouble, released the following year (it never came out in the States), this Swedish pop group didn't sound all that different. Lisa Milberg had abandoned the drum kit for the microphone, and her voice is thicker and more subdued than Bergsman's, but the music was still dreamy, guitar-driven pop with frothy hooks nearly as sunny and bright as those of a much more famous Swedish pop group. Oddly, though no major personnel shifts preceded the band's latest album, WYWH (Friendly Fire), this time their sound has made a big change: four-on-the-floor disco-style drums contrast with pensive, ethereal melodies, making for one of the least propulsive dance records I've ever heard. There are a few exceptions, like the relatively ebullient "All Day," but for the most part Milberg's sorrowful melodies crawl over the grooves like cold syrup. Sparse guitar patterns, muted organ swells, and pretty vocal harmonies fill the spaces carved out by the heavy beats and Martin Hansson's plush, slow-moving bass lines. WYWH maintains a quiet tension between its driving rhythms and the honeyed, melancholy languor of its tunes, so that neither element dominates the feel of the music—it's a neat trick, and it makes the album one of the most compelling things the Concretes have done. This show is part of Tomorrow Never Knows. Seapony, the Kopecky Family Band, and Red River open. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15, 18+. —Peter Margasak

  • Golem

GOLEM For a long time, the rich Yiddish culture inherited from the Jews of eastern Europe was on the endangered-species list, both for the most horrific of historical reasons and for the much less tragic but still significant reason that immigrant Jews have assimilated to the cultures of their new homes. Thankfully, for the past few decades there's been a movement afoot among young American Jews to recapture and update the music, language, and other folkways of their grandparents and great-grandparents, and Brooklyn's Golem play an important role as one of the best current practictioners of Yiddish folk-punk. Their latest album, 2009's Citizen Boris (JDub), is their first written largely in English, and though it takes an outsiders' view on some songs (such as the vaguely sinister "Train Across Ukraine"), it reverts to hilarious type with, the, er, bounciness of "Tucheses and Nenes." Sadly, this usually rambunctious outfit will be playing in a sort of Missing Man formation tonight, and might sound a bit less rowdy: drummer Tim Monaghan suffered an accident in December and is still in intensive care with a brain injury. Since he has no health insurance, proceeds from this show will go to his medical fund; details are available at Environmental Encroachment opens.  9:30 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494, $15, $12 in advance. —Monica Kendrick

MATT ULERY'S LOOM See Friday. 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12.

Angel Olsen
  • Angel Olsen


ANGEL OLSEN, SCOTT TUMA Just after Thanksgiving, indie luminary Will Oldham debuted a new band called the Babblers without promoting it in advance or sharing a lick of information about the other musicians involved. In videos from the group's debut, though, many Chicagoans recognized local singer-songwriter ANGEL OLSEN, who fronts the Babblers with Oldham. She's since hit the road with his Bonnie "Prince" Billy band, but she's back in Chicago to play solo material for her first headlining set at the Empty Bottle. In 2010 Olsen released two cassettes of warm, stripped-down, hypnotic folk, Strange Cacti (Bathetic) and Lady of the Waterpark (Love Lion), whose melancholy, heartsick tunes float heavenward with her arresting voice. Onstage her approach is just as minimal and no less disarming: against a backdrop of sparse, nimble fingerpicking, the vibrato in her singing is downright haunting. She can be something of an introverted performer, but you don't need flash to put on a mesmerizing show—sometimes a voice and a guitar do just fine. —Leor Galil

The notes on the back cover of SCOTT TUMA's latest, Dandelion (Digitalis), include the phrase "Made by Nature," and the album does sound like you're overhearing a musician blending in with his habitat. Tuma records at home with the windows open, and household and neighborhood noises mix with his leisurely, rustic melodies, which he sings in his cracked, expressive voice and plays on various guitars, pump organ, music box, and harmonica. But though the music can give the impression that it's the result of serendipity or chance, that's an illusion. Tuma spends years getting just the right performance of each piece—the oldest material on Dandelion dates from 1991—and tinkers with the tape speed to obtain timbres and pitches you'll never find in nature. In concert he creates a similar vibe, though he usually restricts himself to electric guitar, harmonica, and lots of reverb. Vocal fragments and long instrumental passages flow together, paced so gradually that they ease you into a trance. He'll be accompanied by Califone multi-instrumentalist Jim Becker, whose fiddling brings out the ancient in Tuma's melodies, and Zelienople percussionist Mike Weis, whose pure-sound approach can be as atmospheric as anything that floats in through an open window. —Bill Meyer

Olsen headlines; the Cairo Gang and Scott Tuma open. 7 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $3.

SICK OF IT ALL Any band that could shove, slam, and spin-kick their way to the forefront of the thriving 80s New York hardcore scene—which at the time included the likes of Agnostic Front, Warzone, and Gorilla Biscuits—had to have the right balance of rage and fortitude. Queens outfit Sick of It All have racked up 25 years together, going without a lineup change since 1993, and last year they released their ninth studio album, Based on a True Story (Century Media), proving that you're never too old to wear camo shorts with a basketball jersey. And their rage hasn't faded any either: brothers Lou and Pete Koller still anchor a classic wrecking-ball style that pairs chugging breakdowns and sing-along group shouts with furious thrash and gravelly vocals. Old-school hardcore and youth-crew bands keep reuniting and disappearing again, but Sick of It All have never stopped repping the New York hardcore sound they helped create. Outbreak, Mother of Mercy, and Noose open. 7 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $17, $15 in advance, 17+. —Kevin Warwick

Toxic Holocaust
  • Scott Kinkade
  • Toxic Holocaust


TOXIC HOLOCAUST The past several years have seen the resurgence of thrash metal that's distinctly redolent of the genre's 80s heyday. This has unsurprisingly irked fans who were around back then, the major complaints being that the newcomers are too jokey about their thrashiness and too motivated by fashion. This ignores that (a) we're talking about a genre whose most popular practitioners wanted to name a record Metal Up Your Ass and (b) a lot of 80s fans came to it via Suicidal Tendencies hats. Joel Grind, the founder, mastermind, and sole constant member of Portland neothrash outfit Toxic Holocaust, rattles off over-the-top stage banter that suggests he appreciates thrash's absurdity—blistering tempos matched to a gnarly, comic-booky aesthetic with enough self-awareness that it borders on self-parody—but he delivers his heavy-ass riffage and throat-ripping vocals with nary a wink. The group's 2008 album, An Overdose of Death . . . , is its most recent full-length, and dudes around the world wearing baseball caps with the bills flipped up are eager for the next one. I Decline, Whut?, Souls Demise, and Predator open. 6 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $10, 17+. —Miles Raymer


CHARLIE HUNTER Guitarist Charlie Hunter distinguished himself early in his career by taking a cue from the Hammond organ. He added extra strings to his instrument—for years he played with eight, but he recently cut back to seven—and learned to play bass and lead parts simultaneously. On the recent Public Domain (Spire Artist Media) Hunter goes it alone, tackling 11 songs that, as the title suggests, have passed into the public domain, from "Danny Boy" to "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Hunter claims in the album's press materials that he's referencing guitarists like 1920s ragtime wizard Blind Blake and Bahamian folk iconoclast Joseph Spence, whose playing emphasized rhythm as much or more than chord progressions or melody. But those guys both sang too, and Hunter doesn't—though he plays the roles of guitarist, bassist, and drummer all at once, the performances sound austere and schematic despite their deft funkiness. For tonight's show he'll be joined by his regular drummer, Eric Kalb, which ought to relieve the pressure on Hunter to provide all the rhythm in the music and let his improvisations take flight. 8 PM, SPACE, 1245 Chicago, Evanston, 847-492-8860, $22, $18 in advance. —Peter Margasak

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