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The List: November 18-24, 2010

DJ Shadow, Mario Diaz de Leon, Incantation, the Catburglars, Mike Reed's Loose Assembly with Roscoe Mitchell, Grinderman, and other notable shows

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>Critic's Choice< Chord
>Critic's Choice< Mario Diaz de Leon
>Critic's Choice< James Falzone's Allos Musica
Bill Frisell's Disfarmer Project
>Critic's Choice< Incantation
>Critic's Choice< DJ Shadow


>Critic's Choice< Catburglars
Miya Masaoka
>Critic's Choice< Joe McPhee
>Critic's Choice< Mike Reed's Loose Assembly with Roscoe Mitchell


Barn Owl
>Critic's Choice< Joe McPhee


>Critic's Choice< Grinderman




CHORD There are high concepts, and then there are concepts so high that you want to give them a Xanax and put them in a dark room to chill the fuck out. Local band Chord is very much a product of the latter. The self-described "power ambient" group consists of a keyboardist and four electric guitarists (including Trevor de Brauw of Pelican), who each contribute one droning note to make up a chord and then sustain it for an arbitrary-seeming but inevitably long time. It sounds like a punch line in a comedy about pretentious music geeks, but in person it's actually kind of amazing. The pieces themselves are soothingly ambient, and though the sonics can get heavy, the way the tones swell and recede over ten-plus minutes is conducive to a meditative mood. According to the group's mission statement, they're "not concerned with, nor do they attempt to play, songs," and their blunt composition-naming policy—"Gmaj (Flat13)," "EbMaj9 (Descent)," et cetera—makes it clear what they do consider themselves to be playing. Their new Progression (Important), for which this is a release party, comes as a CD and LP meant to be played simultaneously. Miracle Condition and DJ Stalker open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. —Miles Raymer

Mario Diaz de Leon
  • Mario Diaz de Leon

MARIO DIAZ DE LEON Electronics have been part of classical music since at least the 1930s, the conservative programming of most mainstream presenters notwithstanding, but aside from Iannis Xenakis I can't think of a composer who's pushed harsh noise like young New Yorker Mario Diaz de Leon (he also plays in an experimental metal band called Mirrorgate). On last year's fantastic Enter Houses Of (Tzadik) he juxtaposes relatively conventional lines played by acoustic instruments—some of which are quite lovely—with abstract electronic sounds that can be confrontational, even brutal. On "Mansion" the gracefully twining alto flutes of Claire Chase and Eric Lamb are surrounded by sputtering low-frequency digital pulses, haunting waves of ambience, lacerating bursts of synthetic shrieking, and explosive drumming by Nathan Davis that alternates between ceremonial gravitas and psych-rock fury. On "The Flesh Needs Fire," Chase and clarinetist Joshua Rubin engage in swooping, acrobatic interplay while electronic noise builds in force, density, and nastiness. Diaz de Leon's writing for acoustic instruments tempers dissonance with flashes of serenity, and his rhythmic sensibility likewise balances frenetic intensity with near stillness. The electronic element of his music is much more than merely decorative—it's fully integrated, and alternately jostles, caresses, and dominates the other voices. The five pieces on tonight's program—the first local survey of Diaz de Leon's work—include "Mansion" and "The Flesh Needs Fire" as well as two world premieres. Diaz de Leon will play laptop, joined by Chase, Lamb, Davis, and Rubin, all of whom are members of the International Contemporary Ensemble. On Thursday, November 18, at 7 PM, Diaz de Leon will give a talk and present short demonstrations of his music at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, 835 W. Washington. 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $15. —Peter Margasak

JAMES FALZONE'S ALLOS MUSICA Lamentations (Allos Documents), the superb new album by clarinetist James Falzone and his Allos Musica project, diverges dramatically from its classically inspired predecessor, 2007's The Sign and the Thing Signified. Falzone got the idea for the record four years ago, after exploring the intersection of jazz improvisation and Arabic maqam for a commissioned piece. Initially he worked with Palestinian oud player and composer Issa Boulos, but in 2007 Ronnie Malley of Lamajamal took over on oud; Tim Mulvenna plays hand percussion to round out the trio. In his candid liner notes, Falzone refers to "other" musics (allos means "other" in Greek), by which he means traditions that have influenced him but that remain outside his mastery or at the edges of his experience—and he doesn't attempt to play pure Arabic music here. Instead he uses Arabic forms as a base for his expert improvisations, clearly referencing the beautiful hybrid developed by Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem and Turkish clarinetist Barbaros Erköse. The album includes several beautiful original pieces by Falzone—he calls many of them "lamentations on time," and they meditate on its relentlessness, its mercuriality, or the restless human desire to speed it up. There's also an original by Boulos, an ancient muwashah, and a series of brief clarinet-percussion improvisations. Though the Arabic influence is unmistakable, the music's emotional clarity and lyrical grace is universal. 7 PM, Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2012 W. Dickens, 773-486-9590, $10. —Peter Margasak

BILL FRISELL'S DISFARMER PROJECT Bill Frisell's latest album, Beautiful Dreamers (Savoy Jazz), is the recorded debut of his trio with drummer Rudy Royston and violist Eyvind Kang, but the guitarist doesn't introduce any new ideas on it. Considering how much mileage he still gets from the ideas he's been running with for the past couple of decades—and how simpatico his pool of regular collaborators has proven—he doesn't really need to. On originals and well-chosen covers (including pieces by Blind Willie Johnson, Benny Goodman, and the Carter Family), his nimble trio traverses the history of American music, veering between rustic melancholy and ebullient bliss and coloring everything with a delicious wistfulness. Tonight Frisell leads a totally different band—violinist Jenny Scheinman, bassist Viktor Krauss, and steel guitarist Greg Leisz—playing different material, mostly original pieces from the 2009 album Disfarmer (Nonesuch). Pervaded by Frisell's distinctive take on Americana, it's a collection of moody, gorgeous meditations inspired by the work of brilliant photographer Mike Disfarmer—whose subject matter was the community of his native Heber Springs, Arkansas, in the 40s. 8 PM, SPACE, 1245 Chicago, Evanston, 847-492-8860, $28-$58. —Peter Margasak

INCANTATION Formed in New York in 1989 and now based mostly in Pennsylvania, this legendary death-metal band has undergone a dizzying number of personnel changes over the decades, helpfully detailed on its website—of particular interest is the late-90s tenure of guitarist-bassist-vocalist Daniel Corchado, also of the Chasm, which he brought to Chicago from Mexico City around the time he left Incantation in '98. Guitarist and singer John McEntee, the sole constant member, has held Incantation to a steady course, but this consistency hardly makes them tedious—their savage death metal plays with tempo in startlingly dynamic ways, setting hypnotic, slow-cycling tremolo-picked riffs against pell-mell thrash drumming or suddenly downshifting into menacing doom. And like many veterans from the early years of American death metal, McEntee has developed a growl that's relatively expressive; he likes to twist it tortuously upward into a choking gargle or agonized shriek. Beginning in 1990 Incantation released a steady stream of stormy, apocalyptic records, with great titles like The Forsaken Mourning of Angelic Anguish, Upon the Throne of Apocalypse, and Decimate Christendom, but lately their output has been more of a trickle—the new seven-inch Scapegoat consists of two outtakes from their most recent full-length, 2006's Primordial Domination (Ibex Moon). This show is one of only three (the others are in Brooklyn and Cleveland) where they'll play the entirety of their landmark 1992 LP, Onward to Golgotha. Funerus, Fatalist, Cardiac Arrest, Bloodstream Parade, and Ezurate open. 7 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $30, $25 in advance. —Monica Kendrick

DJ SHADOW The 14 years that have passed since the release of DJ Shadow's debut album, Endtroducing. . . . . , have done little to diminish the shocking impact of its elaborate sample-based constructions, and the legions of wannabes who've tried to match its quality haven't done much damage either. The tense, anticipation-building piano riff that opens the first proper song on the record, "Building Steam With a Grain of Salt," still raises hairs, and its berserk polyrhythmic breakdown—a word that's more apt and literal here than almost anywhere else—still astonishes. Shadow himself seems to have given up on matching it, and has instead switched from showcasing the depth of his crates (cutting up painfully obscure soul cuts for the pants-creaming pleasure of hard-core trainspotters) to emphasizing their breadth (putting out an album steeped in Bay Area hyphy or curating Soundcloud mixes of tweaked-out vintage Korean psych-funk). He hasn't dropped a proper album since 2007, but at his online store (and his merch table) you can pick up self-released DJ mixes from throughout his career. Pigeon John opens. 9 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959, $30, 18+. —Miles Raymer


CATBURGLARS The Catburglars aren't exactly a fount of musical innovation, but that's never been the point. The back cover of their almost-posthumous self-titled LP on Criminal IQ says it all: Four dudes in their 20s hanging out on a couch with a dirty 30 of PBR, laughing at what might be an inside joke that will probably find its way into one of their songs. Like Handsome Dick Manitoba of their heroes the Dictators, the Catburglars revel in the "smart guys who like dumb stuff" aesthetic, which was enough to set them apart on the burgeoning house-party circuit of the mid- and late aughts. The band pairs dumb-ass riffs with Michael Popinski's smart-ass riffs on eternal verities like food, late-night TV, girls, and blacking out. Live, Popinski's between-song banter is splendidly annoying; his rants on the inferiority of, say, Saint Louis-style pizza are as detailed as Jello Biafra's anti-Reagan tirades and sure to rile up the "Shut up and play!" meatheads in any crowd. The Catburglars haven't really been an active band for the past year, and they've decided that this show will be their last. CoCoComa, Weekend Nachos, and Fascist Beauties open.  10:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $8, 17+. —Brian Costello

MIYA MASAOKA Traditional kimonos aren't simply articles of clothing but decodable documents whose color, pattern, adornment, shape, and quality can disclose the wearer's family origin, profession, and social standing. Japanese-American composer, improviser, and instrument developer Miya Masaoka has reversed the direction of this process with her LED Kimono Project, devising a garment that can encode the sounds and motions of people around it. It's a formal woman's kimono in the furisode style, with 444 light-emitting diodes sewn into one of its long, hanging sleeves; the LEDs emit different sounds and patterns of moving light depending on audiovisual cues from its surroundings, different positions struck by the wearer, and input from video feeds. Tonight Masaoka's koto and electronics will interact with the kimono, which will be worn by her daughter, dancer Marika Masaoka-Drew. The performance will also include video by Michelle Handelman, and U. of C. philosophy professor Arnold Davidson will read from Luigi Russolo's 1913 futurist manifesto, The Art of Noises. This event is part of the MCA's Creative Music Summit, a weekend of concerts that also includes celebrations of the AACM's 45th anniversary. Francis Wong's Legends and Legacies (with guest Dee Alexander) headlines; Dohee Lee's Flux and Masaoka's LED Kimono Project open. 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-280-2660, $28, $22 members. —Bill Meyer

JOE MCPHEE See Sunday. McPhee plays a solo set to celebrate the release of Sound on Sound. 5 PM, Corbett vs. Dempsey, 1120 N. Ashland, third floor, 773-278-1664.

MIKE REED'S LOOSE ASSEMBLY WITH ROSCOE MITCHELL "Empathetic Parts," the 33-minute title track of the latest album by local quintet Loose Assembly, introduces a form of "collective arranging" developed by drummer and bandleader Mike Reed. After a brief composed introduction, each player—Reed, bassist Joshua Abrams, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, cellist Tomeka Reid, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, and guest reedist Roscoe Mitchell—assumes responsibility for one of six categories of musical activity, among them long tones, free time, pointillistic swing, and silence. They all have batteries of color-coded paddles they use to signal one another—each paddle corresponds to the stripes sewn to a different musician's jacket—and for each section of the piece one player serves as conductor, directing the rest of the ensemble in its interpretation of the concept he or she is assigned. Everyone is free to dissent from such direction, though, and a different band member—not the conductor—gets to decide when and how the next section begins. By now it should be obvious how the album got its name—without empathy, this would be a recipe for ego-tripping and frustration. But the members of Loose Assembly support rather than dominate one another, so that the music slips fluidly from full-steam-ahead ensemble swinging to spiky staccato exchanges. Mitchell, an outsider to the group, uses his astounding virtuosity to keep things from getting too cozy: sometimes he hangs back, contributing tiny but telling gestures, and sometimes he uses circular breathing to unleash extended barrages of confrontationally sharp pitches that ratchet up the tension to thrilling effect. The result is Loose Assembly's most exciting music to date. The band will perform all new material for this concert, which takes place on the glass-enclosed stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion—allowing the audience to enjoy a view of the park without freezing in it.  4 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph, 312-742-1168. —Bill Meyer

TIESTO Tiesto is the Led Zeppelin of dance music—his songs are omnipresent, though their true home is the arena, and people either love or loathe their outsize audacity and ambition. His earlier tracks, like 2002's "Obsession," have a slight acid-house tinge that wouldn't feel out of place at a not-too-far-underground rave, but mostly he deals in trance anthems that conjure up visions of stadiums full of hair-gelled eastern Europeans completely losing their shit. You may not be able to name the songs on his recent greatest-hits collection, Magikal Journey, but if you've ever lived in Ukrainian Village you've definitely heard them pumping out of somebody's car. 6 PM, UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine, 312-413-5740 or 866-448-7849, $40-$65, 17+. —Miles Raymer

Barn Owl
  • Dianne Jones
  • Barn Owl


BARN OWL You pick up a record by a band called Barn Owl and you expect twangy, harmless Americana—if you look up "Barn Owl" on MySpace, in fact, you will indeed find a twangy, harmless Americana group called the Barn Owl Band (along with bands called Barn Owl that make folk punk, Mogwai-style postrock, and cerebral free jazz). The one we're talking about here is the Barn Owl from San Francisco, who call themselves "Psychedelic/Trance/Blues," and the only noticeable twang on their recent Ancestral Star (Thrill Jockey) is the echoing arpeggiated acoustic guitar that holds down "Cavern Hymn." The rest of the album is swirling psych ambience made up of less easily identified sounds—I can definitely pick out guitar feedback and heavily treated strings—and it unfolds unhurriedly and often beautifully. David Daniell, Scott Tuma, and High Aura'd open. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Miles Raymer

JOE MCPHEE Poughkeepsie multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee didn't release the classic solo saxophone album Tenor till 1976, but he was experimenting with the instrument much earlier—and the proof is on the stunning double album Sound on Sound, recently released by local art gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey. One track is from 1968—the year Anthony Braxton released For Alto, to which McPhee acknowledges his debt in Tenor's liner notes—and pairs McPhee's tenor sax with toy piano and toy percussion. Two solo tenor pieces from early 1969, while not quite as distinctive as those that would come later, are eloquent and fully formed. On the second disc, recorded mostly in 1970, McPhee adds other instruments, like kalimba, "Space Organ" (actually a Wurlitzer), Nagoya harp, and flute. He also employs feedback, echo, and overdubbing to great effect, often embroidering two-chord organ patterns with his lyrical yet screeching tenor sax. McPhee has maintained solo practice as a major part of his art, and last year he released Alto (Roaratorio), a superb live recording on the titular saxophone. He's only played that instrument regularly for the past decade or so, but he's one of the few reedists who can make its more strident tones—upper-register cries, acidic multiphonics—sound so vulnerable and tender. Tonight McPhee plays first in a duo with vibist Jason Adasiewicz and then in a quartet with cornetist Josh Berman, bassist Joshua Abrams, and drummer Mike Reed. See also Saturday, when he plays solo at Corbett vs. Dempsey. 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested. —Peter Margasak

  • Grinderman


GRINDERMAN I couldn't be happier that the side project Nick Cave started in 2006 with three of his Bad Seeds—drummer Jim Sclavunos, bassist Martyn Casey, and violinist Warren Ellis—has turned out to be more than a one-off. The new Grinderman 2 (Anti-/Mute) doesn't attempt the bristling fury and seat-of-the-pants feel of the band's debut, but it's a deeper, more thoughtful record that still has plenty of raw muscle. In his lyrics Cave goes even further over the top this time, beginning with the pathetic braggadocio of a man suffering through a midlife crisis and then pumping it full of steroids. He sings "Kitchenette" as a man trying to seduce a woman whose husband is asleep in the next room, his glass eye and dentures by the bed, but he soon devolves into spitting insults at the would-be cuckold: "What's this husband of yours ever given to you / Oprah Winfrey on a plasma screen." On the fierce opening track, "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man," Cave plays a sexual predator named after the Disney character, and on "Worm Tamer" he gives his girl a series of laughable nicknames that are little more than dick jokes ("snake charmer," "serpent wrangler") before admitting that she calls him "the Loch Ness Monster / Two great big humps and then I'm gone." The band cranks out some of the nastiest rock scuzz I've heard since their debut, with a tense balance of primitive energy and expert polish that gives it a distinctively menacing swagger. Cave's rudimentary guitar work and Ellis's hurricane-force, effects-enhanced violin create crashing waves of sound—more texture than notes—and Casey's gut-rumbling bass lines give the tunes a sinister heartbeat. None of these guys takes himself too seriously these days, but they pour themselves into this music with total conviction. Armen Ra opens. 8 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 866-448-7849, $29, 18+. —Peter Margasak


BALLISTER In this new trio, saxophonist Dave Rempis, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love have little use for subtlety. On their self-released debut, Bastard String—a live set recorded this summer at the Hideout—they use their instruments like artillery, launching a barrage of explosive free improvisation. Though individual players occasionally drop out and the group sometimes turns down the heat, giving the performances dynamic range, the music is never polite. Nilssen-Love, one of the planet's loudest and most energetic jazz drummers, is at his most ferocious, and Lonberg-Holm adds electronic tones and heavy effects to his amplified cello. Rempis exerts the most power of the three, whether he's on alto, tenor, or baritone—he routinely pushes his horn into its upper register, turning the unwieldy squeals into brushstrokes both broad and fine. Nilssen-Love spins records between sets.  9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Peter Margasak

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