Music » Soundboard

The List: April 22-28, 2010

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Reflection Eternal, Peter Brötzmann & Hamid Drake, Céu, Drop the Lime, the Styrenes, and other notable shows

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Miracle Condition
Moullinex, Xinobi


Susana Baca
Peter Brötzmann & Hamid Drake; Mike Reed's People, Places & Things
Anat Cohen
Drop the Lime


Peter Brötzmann & Hamid Drake
Anat Cohen
Jozef Van Wissem


Reflection Eternal


Thomas Function


MIRACLE CONDITION Guitarist Mark Shippy and drummer Pat Samson made their bones in U.S. Maple, a band responsible for some of the most delightfully perverse and fractured rock music since Captain Beefheart. Last year they resurfaced as two-thirds of Miracle Condition, a trio with guitarist Matt Carson (both he and Samson sing), releasing the EP 68 Degrees. Where U.S. Maple was twitchy, tangled, and discordant, their new band is almost serene—but that's not to say it's predictable. Instead of disassembling rock and leaving the pieces in an artful heap, they put it back together in a novel way. Though relatively conventional-sounding at any given instant, their songs develop unconventionally, dissolving and reconstituting themselves and almost never relying on anything you could call a verse or a chorus. This winter Miracle Condition released a self-titled full-length on Tizona, and it's straight-up beautiful, from the ghostly vocal melodies to the luxuriant layers of electric guitar—hovering, swelling, ringing, pulsing—that glide over and through Samson's elegant, powerful beats. Even when they kick up a thunderstorm of distortion flecked with 70s classic-rock riffs on "Alphaspectra Rising," the effect is more transcendent than confrontational. Untied States and Solemn Meant Walks open.  9 PM, Quenchers Saloon, 2401 N. Western, 773-276-9730, $5 requested donation. —Peter Margasak

MOULLINEX, XINOBI Chances are if you've boogied somewhere too dark and too grabby at least once in the past two years, you've done so to a track by Xinobi and/or Moullinex—or to something that sounded just like one of them. Probably you couldn't help yourself; no disrespect to the complicated guerrilla dance-floor tactics of electronica's intelligentsia, but there's something about happy genero-disco (Xinobi) and inoffensive emo-lectro (Moullinex) that shuts down the mind and sets the ass to autoreply. Bruno Cardoso and Luis Clara Gomez, as they're otherwise known, are both Portuguese (Gomez is now based in Munich) and often DJ together; they spin here as part of the Stardust series with Jordan Z. 10 PM, Berlin, 954 W. Belmont, 773-348-4975, $7. —Liz Armstrong

PHANTOGRAM If your appetite for electronics-enhanced, twee-as-balls indie rock wasn't completely ruined by the Postal Service, then Owl City—basically Postal Service lite, impossible as that may seem—probably finished the job. But if not, Phantogram's recent Eyeball Movies (Barsuk) might be just the thing to bring you back from the brink. The Saratoga Springs duo—who, according to their bio, practice in a barn in the woods—work in twee-pop signifiers like twangy guitars and plaintive boy-girl vocals, but they slather them in growling analog synth sounds or run them through enough filters to render them almost incoherently warbly. The songs themselves tend to be epic and dramatic, but to the band's credit are rarely too self-serious. The Antlers headline. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $15, $13 in advance, 18+. —Miles Raymer


SUSANA BACA Last year two of Peru's greatest living female singers, Eva Ayllon and Susana Baca, paid tribute to Chabuca Granda, one of the grand dames of Peruvian song. Granda died in 1983, and late in her career she'd begun exploring Afro-Peruvian music, though at the time it existed at the margins of the country's popular culture—a little like race records in the States in the 20s and 30s. Shortly before her death Granda encouraged Baca to carry that torch, and since then she's made it her mission to preserve Afro-Peruvian folklore and traditions; her records have been dominated by Afro-Peruvian songs, and in the early 90s she and her husband founded the Instituto Negrocontinuo to support their work. Her latest release, last year's Seis Poemas (Luaka Bop), uses relatively stripped-down arrangements well suited to the intimacy of the songs and the tenderness of her singing—on most tracks she's backed only by hand percussion, acoustic guitar or violin, and bass. For this concert, her first in Chicago in several years, she's supported by a trio—and in a departure from tradition, the percussionist is playing congas rather than cajon. 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $28, $26 members, $24 seniors and kids. —Peter Margasak

Peter Brötzmann & Hamid Drake
  • lisa chung
  • Peter Brötzmann & Hamid Drake

PETER BRÖTZMANN & HAMID DRAKE; MIKE REED'S PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS With a half century of experience and six solo albums under his belt, PETER BRÖTZMANN doesn't need anyone else in the room to make world-class music. But to reach his greatest heights, this first-generation free jazz originator—who wields nearly every horn in the clarinet and saxophone families, as well as a Middle European single-reed instrument called the tarogato—requires a partner with the energy and ideas to match his immense, commanding tone, bottomless stamina, and whisker-singeing ferocity. In the 90s Chicagoan percussion master HAMID DRAKE set the bar with his virtuosic facility with tonal colors and dynamic contrasts—the reedist has had some great duo partners since, but none better. Drake's combination of fearless confrontation and generous support is very different from the approach of earlier Brötzmann foils like Han Bennink, who delighted in trying to stump the German with Dada madness; he might introduce alien material like reggae or Middle Eastern grooves, but he always takes care that the total music makes sense. In his company Brötzmann's playing has reached new levels of rhythmic daring and emotional tenderness. They haven't worked together much since the early aughts, but tonight they'll revive the duo they immortalized on The Dried Rat-Dog (Okka Disk) in 1994—and they're bringing copies of a new CD recorded on their previous stateside tour, in 2004, also available online from the Eremite label. —Bill Meyer

With the release the new PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS album, Stories and Negotiations (482 Music), drummer and bandleader Mike Reed has completed the trilogy he began with this quartet a few years ago: in their three-part tribute to Chicago's late-50s hard-bop scene, Reed, saxophonists Tim Haldeman and Greg Ward, and bassist Jason Roebke reimagine underappreciated tunes from that era and explore the still-vital legacy of the musicians who shaped it. Their debut, 2008's Proliferation, showcased the interplay between Haldeman and Ward, as well as the band's ability to balance avant-garde technique with blues-based swing, on a collection of mostly vintage material. Last year's About Us shifted toward new compositions, with guest spots by three of Chicago's best players: guitarist Jeff Parker, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and reedist David Boykin. The new album, with five 50s pieces and three contemporary originals, splits the difference—and not just with repertoire. Recorded live during a Millennium Park concert in August 2008, it features People, Places & Things joined by trombonist Jeb Bishop and three veterans who were active in Chicago in the 50s—trombonist Julian Priester, trumpeter Art Hoyle, and reedist Ira Sullivan. Reed and Ward had some fun with the extra horns—their version of Sun Ra's "El Is a Sound of Joy" sometimes recalls the storming gospel polyphony of Charles Mingus or the lush orchestrations of Duke Ellington, circa The Far East Suite—and in a perfect marriage of past and present, the elders embrace their bright, daring new arrangements, rife with carefully deployed chaos and harmonic ambiguity. Tonight is the octet's first local performance since that Millennium Park gig; saxophonist Ari Brown subs for Sullivan. —Peter Margasak

Brötzmann and Drake headline; People, Places & Things open. John Corbett spins. See also Saturday, when Brötzmann and Drake play as part of a larger group. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $12.

  • Céu

CÉU Céu's second album, last year's Vagarosa (Six Degrees), almost makes it sound like she's from Kingston, not Sao Paulo; heavy reggae grooves and spaced-out dub production are more prevalent than samba and bossa nova. Reggae has long been a favorite import in Brazil, of course, and there's no mistaking Céu for Judy Mowatt—her chill, luxurious sound is just as Brazilian as the music of Gal Costa or Rita Lee. She's part of a tight-knit musical community in Sao Paulo that includes Curumin, 3 Na Massa, Instituto, and Beto Villares (coproducer of her new record), all of whom borrow not just from reggae, dub, samba, and bossa nova but from pop, hip-hop, baile funk, rock, and more; she's the primary singer for Sonantes, a great group at the center of this scene that features members of Nacao Zumbi and of her band. Céu doesn't exactly have intimidating vocal technique, but she knows her instrument intimately enough to work effectively within its limits, favoring sexy and smoldering over flashy and virtuosic. On the ballad "Vira Lata," which has a vocal cameo by funky MPB veteran Luiz Melodia, she handles samba rhythms with relaxed authority, delivering a melody that combines bossa nova cool with neosoul sensuality; on the midtempo numbers like "Comadi," "Bubuia," and "Cordao da Insonia" she's even better, shading her voice with little emotional quivers that mirror her expressive but tightly controlled motions onstage. 9:30 PM, Green Dolphin, 2200 N. Ashland, 800-838-3006 or 773-395-0066, $25, $20 in advance. —Peter Margasak

ANAT COHEN When New York-based Israeli reedist Anat Cohen tackles a particular style or discipline—playing Brazilian choro, for instance, or writing cinematic orchestral arrangements—she throws herself into it with total commitment. Booked for a week at New York's prestigious Village Vanguard last summer—the first female horn player ever to headline the club—she decided to use the gig to celebrate the centennial of swing clarinetist Benny Goodman, born in Chicago on May 30, 1909. So she assembled a new band for the occasion—pianist Benny Green, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Lewis Nash, an excellent mainstream rhythm section—and worked up a repertoire of standards she called "Clarinetwork: Benny Goodman and Beyond." The new Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard (Anzic), recorded at their July 5 concert, augments Goodman's rhythmic grace and melodic purity with a musical vocabulary drawn from the seven decades of jazz since the swing era. Hoary warhorses like "St. James Infirmary" and "After You've Gone" sound as fresh and vivid as the new compositions you usually find on an Anat Cohen album. She practically sings on her instrument, her tone sweet and gorgeously full-bodied, and her fluid improvisations are alternately nimble, sensitive, playful, and heartbreaking. For this performance she'll focus on her own music, leading the sturdy working band that best expresses her modern, stylistically inclusive aesthetic: keyboardist Jason Lindner, drummer Daniel Freedman, and bassist Omer Avital. James Farm—a band consisting of saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Eric Harland—headlines. See also Saturday, when Cohen plays a free in-store at the Borders on State. 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $24-$55. —Peter Margasak

DROP THE LIME Producer/DJ Luca Venezia, aka Drop the Lime, no doubt lost some fans when he quit making the kind of mischievous, aggressively glitched-out electronic mayhem that endeared him to the early-aughties Tigerbeat6 scene and started making music you could actually dance to. But the significantly larger fanbase that he's attracted since then probably provides some consolation. Over the past few years, not only has Venezia gone hard into house music—programming the same kind of four-on-the-floor beats he and his old cohorts did their best to obliterate—but he's actually started working an updated take on vocal house, which had a decent amount of commercial success in its 90s heyday (if not a lot of critical love). But Venezia dodges a lot of the style's cheeseball traps with a touch of his earlier aggro sound, and that's been going over well with neo-club kids, who're turning their attention from bloghouse—so 2007—to actual house house. Willy Joy and Black Holes open. 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140, $10, $12 after midnight. —Miles Raymer


PETER BRÖTZMANN & HAMID DRAKE See Friday. Tonight Brötzmann and Drake are joined by local saxophonist Mars Williams and bassist Kent Kessler, fellow cofounders of Brötzmann's most enduring large group, the Chicago Octet (which later got even bigger). Josh Berman & His Gang open and Mitch Cocanig spins. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $12. —Bill Meyer

ANAT COHEN See Friday. Cohen plays a free in-store with local guitarist Andy Brown and signs copies of Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard. Noon, Borders, 150 N. State, 312-606-0750.

STYRENES Formed in Cleveland in 1975 by Paul Marotta, the Styrenes (and their companion bands, the Electric Eels and Mirrors, which also include Marotta) often get thrown into the proto-punk grab bag because the keepers of the categories don't quite know what else to call them. But like their mates Pere Ubu, the Styrenes are really a sprawling, ambitious, hard-to-pigeonhole concept. They've written freestyle Beat-like spoken-word pieces, flirted with jazz fusion and classical gases, and recorded a version of In C by minimalist composer Terry Riley. They're a grab bag unto themselves, and they can do it all without losing their focus and intensity. This tour, however, is about their rock 'n' roll side, most recently explored on 2008's City of Women (Rent-a-Dog), a collection of intense and efficient songs mostly written by New York singer-songwriter Tom Warnick (why? because Marotta liked them) and given a rough-and-ready buzzsaw treatment. On this tour a lineup that includes Mirrors mastermind Jamie Klimek and Electric Eels founder John Morton (both on guitar, trading lead vocals with Marotta) will play songs by all three bands. The Daily Void and John Bellows open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, limited $5 tickets. —Monica Kendrick

JOZEF VAN WISSEM Dutch-born lutenist Jozef Van Wissem pairs a Renaissance-era instrument with modern-day artistic strategies like cut-up composition and electronic processing, which is great for attracting the attention of critics looking for a hook, but what keeps me coming back is the way his stark, beautiful music messes with my sense of time. While his plucking forms tones into shapes as elaborate and palpable as ornamental wrought iron, the lute's quick decay—much faster than a guitar's—makes it seem as though the music is disappearing even as he plays it. And on the recent It Is All That Is Made and Ex Patris (both on Important Records), he overlays palindromic figures that continually advance and retreat, ending where they began and vice versa—rather than sounding like they're from one era or another, they exist outside time, retracing their steps like ghosts doomed to forever walk the same staircase. Though Van Wissem often plays solo, he's collaborated with the likes of industrial-music composer Maurizio Bianchi and guitarists Gary Lucas, Tetuzi Akiyama, and James Blackshaw, and tonight he'll introduce a new group effort: Heresy of the Free Spirit, an improvising trio with multi-instrumentalists Che Chen (True Primes) and Robbie Lee (Howling Hex, Baby Dee, Brightblack Morning Light). The one track I've heard is a sublime mixture of country blues, old-time mountain music, and minimalist drone that features Van Wissem playing his lute with a slide. Chen and Lee play first, followed by a Van Wissem solo set and then by Heresy of the Free Spirit. 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor,, donation requested. —Bill Meyer


JONSI A couple years ago Sigur Ros front man Jon Thor Birgisson (aka Jonsi) found himself with a bunch of material that didn't make sense for his main band; a solo project beckoned. Last year's Riceboy Sleeps, an instrumental album cocredited to his romantic partner, Alex Somers, sounded like a less bombastic version of Sigur Ros's fantastical symphonic post-rock, but Jonsi's new Go (XL) makes a cleaner break. Though there's still a wealth of texture and detail, thanks to orchestral arrangements by composer Nico Muhly, the tunes are brisk and lucid—on a Sigur Ros record they often feel more like weather systems than songs. Add to this Jonsi's relatively direct and extroverted singing (mostly in English, not the invented language Hopelandic) and the driving rhythms of Finnish drummer Samuli Kosminen, and you've got a bona fide pop record. Jonsi retains the eunuch-high voice and soaring melodies that are his trademarks in Sigur Ros, but their effect is radically different when they're presented with such immediacy. The set for this tour, created by acclaimed British theatrical designers Fifty Nine Productions, reportedly resembles a ruined museum, with an elaborate light show that includes projected images and animations, used to transform both the backdrop and individual performers. Death Vessel opens. See also Wednesday. 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $35. —Peter Margasak

REFLECTION ETERNAL With the 2000 album Train of Thought, rapper Talib Kweli and producer Hi-Tek, together known as Reflection Eternal, continued a mission they'd begun with Mos Def in the group Black Star: to keep rap's soul intact during Puff Daddy's reign, as even paragons of conscious-rap virtue like Q-Tip were making blingy videos with Hype Williams. And unlike backpacker rap, with its strong anhedonic streak, their music bumped hard enough, with enough sugary hooks, to make its spiritual nourishment palatable to even Top 40 fans. Unfortunately for their hard-core following, both members of the group have a nearly pathological resistance to repeating themselves, so it's taken a decade for them to make a proper follow-up, but the upcoming Revolutions Per Minute (on Kweli's own Blacksmith Records) is a worthy sequel. Hi-Tek chops up soul records and makes old-school boom-bap sound fresh and new, and Kweli delivers tongue-trippingly complex raps of the sort that earned him a famously backhanded compliment on Jay-Z's "Moment of Clarity," which the pair cheekily turn around and sample on "In This World."  9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $28, $22.50 in advance, 17+. —Miles Raymer


JONSI See Tuesday. Death Vessel opens.  7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $35.

Thomas Function
  • Thomas Function

THOMAS FUNCTION I don't know whether Thomas Function singer Josh Macero models his vocals after Bob Dylan or the guy from the 90s snot-punk band Sloppy Seconds, or whether it's his own adenoids and inspiration that make him sing like he's trying to boil the mucus in his throat. In any case, in the past his scruffed-up skronk did a lot to reconcile the band's affable garage-pop jangle with lyrics about, say, killing cops. The group, based in Huntsville, Alabama, is notorious for sloppy, alcohol-fuelled antics on the road (drinking urine shots, falling off bridges, snorting what they suspect was cat tranquilizer), but the tighter, more urgent playing on their recent EP, The Insignificants (on the Chicago label Tic Tac Totally) suggests that they're learning to hold their liquor. There are no songs here as catchy as the proudly loping "Belly of the Beast," which anchored last October's LP, In the Valley of Sickness (Fat Possum), but perhaps they're hoarding the barn-burners for their next full-length. Unfortunately, the EP was recorded as a three-piece, minus bassist Travis Thompson. He hasn't been replaced for the tour. Other Minds and Black Math open. 9:30, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, $5 in advance. —Ann Sterzinger

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