Music » Soundboard

The List: August 5-11, 2010

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Night Gallery, Phosphorescent, Cephalic Carnage and Decrepit Birth, Vox Arcana, and more

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Druid Perfume
Night Gallery
A Woman Beyond Time: Mary Lou Williams at 100


J. Cole
Night Gallery


Gary Allan


Cephalic Carnage, Decrepit Birth




Ken Camden
Vox Arcana


DRUID PERFUME Detroit five-piece Druid Perfume includes three-fifths of the defunct Piranhas, whose post-apocalyptic future-primitive caterwaul set the tone for countless bands in the Motor City and elsewhere at the turn of the millennium. They pick up where the Piranhas left off, barfing out homespun surrealist manifestos whose feverish theses are underlined by death-ray effects pedals, coarse sprays of saxophone, or even flying-saucer theremin—they're so transcendentally nasty that they make all the studied Art Institute-y noise in this town sound like the half-assed hokum it is. There's no other front man quite like "Gentle" Jamie Easter; I'll never forget the 2001 Piranhas show at Beat Kitchen where he picked up a broken bottle (one of several tossed by delinquents like Chris Ilth of the Daily Void) and used it to slice his bare ass. Not since GG Allin have I seen so many people step back in revulsion and awe. Druid Perfume's live show isn't as violent (time marches on, and everybody's getting older), but the music still has the feral menace the Piranhas wielded in those halcyon days—similar in spirit to the output of Human Eye, it's further proof that the maelstrom of Detroit's avant-skronk scene blows the best tar balls ashore. Plastic Crimewave Sound, the Frustrations, the Zygoteens, and E.T. Habit open. 8:30 PM, Crown Tap Room, 2821 N. Milwaukee, 773-252-9741, donation requested. —Brian Costello

NIGHT GALLERY Half-local duo Night Gallery (aka Aaron David Ross of Gatekeeper, who recently left for Brooklyn, and Adam Griffin of Golden Birthday) say they met at a starry-night outdoor screening of The Neverending Story, and if that isn't the perfect way to start a questionably sincere New Romantic band then my name ain't Atreyu. True to the genre, the slow-motion dance music on their imminent debut LP, Constant Struggle (Rainbow Body), flaunts some impressively trashy synth prowess and lots of overblown, overemotional lyrics bemoaning the pain of loving a self-absorbed woman, the pain of having a sense of dignity, the pain of falling asleep . . . the pain of anything, really. Ross and Griffin flavor all the entertaining OMD-style moping and frippery with different varieties of excess: "Real Normal," for instance, is slimy Grace Jones-tinged slink-funk, while "Wild Palms" is a pert and tangy little tropical ditty that 25 years ago could've accompanied a TV commercial by an optimistic Caribbean tourism board. Now somebody needs to slap together a steamy 80s-noir crime movie with a detective and a femme fatale and a pre-lovemaking scene featuring a glimpse of garter belt and a suggestive shot of miniblinds crumpled by a groping hand—I know exactly who can do the soundtrack. The Big Pink headlines; White Car and Night Gallery open. See also Friday; these shows are record-release parties.  9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $20, 18+. —Liz Armstrong

PHOSPHORESCENT Last year Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck tipped his hat to Willie Nelson with To Willie, an album of tunes by the pigtailed Texas legend. The group's new full-length, Here's to Taking It Easy (Dead Oceans), makes it clear that the previous record was the gateway to a new path for Houck. The opening track, "It's Hard to Be Humble (When You're From Alabama)," is a horn-stoked boogie with a general good-timey feel, and the closer, "Los Angeles," channels Neil Young's droning guitar intensity, but in between the Brooklyn-based Alabama native seems to put himself in a southern state of mind circa 1973, accenting his slack-jawed drawl with a twangy folk-rock sound. Most of the songs essay romance blooming and disintegrating in a cycle fueled by extended time on the road. The dolorous ballad "We'll Be Here Soon" does its best to embrace the promise of reunion ("So get yourself and bring her here / And fix yourself up in the mirror"), while the narrator in "The Mermaid Parade" sadly accepts that both parties in the relationship have moved on to other affairs. The sound of the record is hardly original, but the mix of weepy steel guitars, lazily swinging rhythms, and melancholy organ swells fits the sodden self-indulgence of Houck's characters perfectly. J. Tillman and Ceiling Stars open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12. —Peter Margasak

Night Gallery

A WOMAN BEYOND TIME: MARY LOU WILLIAMS AT 100 The second concert in the city's series Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz pays tribute to one of the most fascinating figures in jazz history: pianist, composer, and arranger Mary Lou Williams. Williams wasn't the only female instrumentalist in prewar jazz, but her influence is unparalleled. She began her professional career as a teenager in Pittsburgh in the 1920s and within a few years was writing and arranging for Andy Kirk & His 12 Clouds of Joy, originally subbing on piano before becoming a permanent member on the instrument. She went on to arrange for Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey, host her own radio show, and mentor young boppers like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk; her 1936 tune "Walkin' and Swingin'" would later provide Monk with a key melodic germ for his "Rhythm-a-Ning." In 1945 she completed her classic "Zodiac Suite," a powerful collection of trio pieces based on the astrological signs and some friends and characters who reflected their traits, and in the early 50s she moved to Europe for a couple of years. When she returned to the U.S. in 1954, she retired from music for three years to focus on her Catholic faith. But later works, such as her jazz interpretations of Catholic mass, reconciled her spirituality with her love of jazz. She retained open ears until her death in 1978; in '77 she even went head to head with avant-garde icon Cecil Taylor in a two-piano performance at Carnegie Hall. Tonight's concert, organized by Chicago pianist Bethany Pickens, features solo, trio, and big-band settings; Williams will also be saluted with a newly commissioned piece for piano and big band by keyboardist and composer Amina Claudine Myers, a former Chicagoan, who'll conduct. 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Randolph and Michigan, 312-742-1168. —Peter Margasak


J. COLE Introductions don't get more auspicious than a cameo on a Jay-Z song called "A Star Is Born." That's how most people first encountered this native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and J. Cole has smartly followed that breakout with guest spots alongside fellow on-the-verge rappers like Wale, B.o.B., and Jay Electronica—he's even been a little more ambitious there, at one point promising, "On this new school of rappers I really will go Columbine." Whether or not he'll live up to the promise of that Jigga track's title remains to be seen, but his latest single, "Who Dat" (Roc Nation), sounds like a club ripper-upper, and the fact that it contains a line where he actually brags about not having a chain suggests that he's got healthy reserves of personality to draw on. FreeSol, Vonnegutt, Bin Laden Blowin' Up, and Sulaiman open. 10 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $15, 17+. —Miles Raymer

NIGHT GALLERY See Thursday. White Car and Deep Earth open. 10 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8.


GARY ALLAN For most of his career Bakersfield native Gary Allan has juggled roles as a mainstream country star and a Nashville outsider—usually on the same record. His latest effort, Get Off on the Pain (MCA), follows suit, opening with radio-ready rockers and then breaking into impressively crafted songs with a more old-school feel. As implied by the album title, his themes are heartbreak and the hard life on the road, and Allan dispenses masochistic machismo like a vending machine. On the mawkish "Today" he suffers through the wedding of his ex, while "That Ain't Gonna Fly" finds him declaring "I'm gonna show her" from the bottom of a whiskey bottle. His raspy tenor saves him from his own worst excesses; it also elevates his best material, such as the atmospheric, Roy Orbison-influenced "We Fly by Night" and the honky-tonk ballad "No Regrets," in which he reckons with his wife's suicide of four years ago. Brooks & Dunn headline. 7:30 PM, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, I-80 and Harlem, Tinley Park, 708-614-1616 or 866-448-7849, $28.50-$73.75. —Peter Margasak

Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent


CEPHALIC CARNAGE, DECREPIT BIRTH Denver's Cephalic Carnage have been messing with metalheads' minds since their 1998 full-length debut, Conforming to Abnormality, whether by subverting the musical tropes their audience is used to or by using significantly less subtle psych-out tactics like encouraging their fans to think about how, like, fucked-up aliens are (see the cover of 2007's Xenosapien). Their upcoming Misled by Certainty (Relapse) continues the band's frontal assault on metal's stylistic boundaries, erasing the relatively minor distinctions between closely related subgenres like grindcore and death metal on "Raped by an Orb" and the much bigger ones that normally separate metal from things like jazz fusion on "Abraxas of Filth."

Fans of sick beats, including beats that have more to do with dance clubs than heavy-metal package tours, should sit down for at least one spin through Polarity (Nuclear Blast), the new album from California death-metal group Decrepit Birth. Death metal is famous for its punishing flurries of doubled-up kick drum—in fact they're one of the genre's defining characteristics—but drummer KC Howard, who recently left the band to pursue a career as a music teacher, ratchets up the technical complexity to fairly insane levels, letting the kick surge and ebb in ways that resemble nothing so much as footwork music. The rest of the band is equally sick, delivering neck-snapping hyperfast riffage, razor-sharp shifts in tempo and time signature, and, in the case of vocalist Bill Robinson, guttural bridge-troll utterances.

These sets are part of the Summer Slaughter tour. Decapitated headlines; the Faceless, All Shall Perish, the Red Chord, Veil of Maya, Cephalic Carnage, Decrepit Birth, Carnifex, Animals as Leaders, and Vital Remains open.  1:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 866-448-7849, $23, $20 in advance. —Miles Raymer

VICTOIRE Along with Clogs and William Brittelle, this New York chamber-ish quintet is part of a thriving community of classically trained musicians incorporating ideas from rock into serious composition. Victoire's forthcoming Cathedral City (due September 28 on New Amsterdam, a label that's been specializing in such hybrids) delivers a kind of mesmerizing, catchy minimalism, blending elaborate counterpoint, rich yet often dissonant harmony, and sophisticated melodic development into warm, accessible pieces you might even call songs. Led by pianist Missy Mazzoli, the group also includes violinist Olivia De Prato, keyboardist Lorna Krier, clarinetist Eileen Mack, and bassist Eleonore Oppenheim; sometimes soprano Mellissa Hughes adds her sweet voice. Additional instruments (the National's Bryce Dessner plays guitar on "A Song for Mick Kelly") and found sounds also make their way into Victoire's work—the album closer, "India Whiskey," even includes clips of disembodied voices counting, courtesy of the shortwave-transmission archivists at the Conet Project.  6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Randolph and Michigan, 312-742-1168. —Peter Margasak


GAIDA Gaida Hinnawi's first album, Levantine Indulgence (Palmyra), captures an ever-widening sensibility that radiates expansively outward from the Fairuz and Umm Kalthoum songs she learned as a child. Though her talent was evident early, Hinnawi's father insisted that she pursue a stable vocation, so for many years the Damascus native pursued music as a sideline. She majored in biology at Wayne State in Detroit and has pursued a career as a speech pathologist working with Arabic children in New York, where circa 2005 she hooked up with musicians orbiting the Arab cultural organization Alwan for the Arts. Levantine Indulgence, released earlier this year, is rooted in classical Arabic and folk sounds as well as vintage Lebanese pop, but working with jazz musicians—in particular trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, a longtime collaborator who was very involved in the making of the record—broadened her vocabulary further, resulting in some surprisingly breezy hybrids. The extended improvisations on "Indulgence" find the same masterful balance of traditions ElSaffar has presented in his Two Rivers project, while "Illak Shi" brings in Brazilian music and Latin jazz. Hinnawi made her local debut a couple years ago at the World Music Festival, but here she's bringing a new band that includes ElSaffar as well as guitarist Arturo Martinez, percussionist Tony De Vivo, bassist Jennifer Vincent, and oud player Zafer Tawil. See also Wednesday. Midnight, Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park, 773-348-7592, $10. —Peter Margasak

Vox Arcana


KEN CAMDEN Ken Camden titled his debut solo LP Lethargy & Repercussion (Kranky), but History & Progression might better describe the course set by the local guitarist, who also plays in Implodes. The layered, undulating melodies of its opening tracks are dead ringers for the pastoral keyboard tunes that German electronic duo Cluster played on mid-70s albums like Sowiesoso; not a bad trick, given that Camden improvised them all in real time with a guitar. But while he uses similar sounds on the side-closing "In Your Ears," he doesn't organize them according to some obvious musical antecedent. Rather, the way he draws flickering tones in and out of a field of silence brings to mind fireflies at play just after nightfall. He repeats the process on side two, working through the influences of Robert Fripp and Richard Pinhas before finding a more personal orbit on the gorgeously spaced-out closer, "Jupiter." Moonrises, Above Below Sea Level, and Black Math open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. —Bill Meyer

GAIDA See Tuesday. 9:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $5 suggested donation.

VOX ARCANA On the second album from his trio with clarinetist James Falzone and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, percussionist and composer Tim Daisy digs deeper into an ongoing exploration of the intersection of contemporary classical and improvised music. A musician whose productivity hinges on bold improvisation, he's developed an interesting hybrid with this project, drawing on three distinct spheres of musical thought: the New York school of modern classical (Cage, Wolff, Feldman, et al), Chicago's AACM, and early minimalists like LaMonte Young and Terry Riley. On the new Aerial Age (Allos Documents) two members typically veer rapidly yet naturally, in solo and duo sections, between improvisation and tightly written passages built on stabbing, zigzagging unison patterns while the third generally sticks to the piece's written themes. The improvisational material rarely has much to do with jazz—though Lonberg-Holm's walking lines and Falzone's buoyant swooping on a piece like "The Silver Fence" make the connection explicit. When Daisy solos on his kit he definitely delivers the elaborate architecture of contemporary classical percussion music, but he also plays a lot of marimba on the album, and that instrument tends to add a more melodic, less complex element to the mix. Daisy's writing isn't especially compelling on its own, but its intricate use of space, dissonance, and jagged rhythm helps launch the improvisations in an exceptional way. Jim Baker spins. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $7. —Peter Margasak

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