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The List: September 2-8, 2010

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Scissor Sisters, Rhys Chatham and Bill Orcutt, Michael Rother's Hallogallo 2010, and more

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Scissor Sisters


David Boykin Expanse


Tambours Sans Frontieres


Dum Dum Girls


Dollyrots Cancelled


Rhys Chatham, Bill Orcutt
Rich Corpolongo Trio
Michael Rother's Hallogallo 2010
Tambours Sans Frontieres


SCISSOR SISTERS Scissor Sisters' latest, Night Work (Universal), is at its best when it goes heavy into classic disco—unrepentant glitter and gnashing 4/4 hi-hat stomp—and then lays on the Scissters' trademark high camp. The second single off the album, "Any Which Way," is a club anthem, calling out to folks both queer and straight; front man Jake Sheers gives the Gibbs brothers a run for their falsetto and Ana Matronic deadpans lyrics about wanting a supertan man to take her and do her anywhere, including in front of her parents. This is the band's magic: mocking the club scene and sending up club tracks while effortlessly cranking out body music that sets a dance floor grinding. Sammy Jo and Casey Spooner open. Sammy Jo, the band's tour DJ, also spins at a 10 PM afterparty at Berlin (954 W. Belmont) with Young Josh.  7:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 866-448-7849, $35, 18+. —Jessica Hopper


DAVID BOYKIN EXPANSE Saxophonist David Boykin has long embraced a fiercely independent ethos—he releases his own recordings, books his own concerts, and plays only as a bandleader. (The exception: he'll be a sideman to his partner, jazz flutist Nicole Mitchell.) Unfortunately, that MO has prevented him from getting more widespread recognition. The new Ultra Sheen (on Boykin's Sonic Healing Ministries label) is his first proper album since 2003 (he released a few CD-Rs in the interim) and the first recording I've heard where he incorporates rapping the way he does live. His dry, syllable-crammed flow reminds me a bit of the late rapper Guru, but the music's not hip-hop flavored with jazz like Gang Starr—it's jazz flavored with hip-hop. Boykin's sturdy original tunes leave plenty of space for his rhymes; pianist Jim Baker, bassist Joshua Abrams, and drummer Mike Reed bang out cycling grooves as Mitchell improvises accents and lines that nicely interact with Boykin's delivery. His lyrics are as complex as his solos, and not at all constrained by bar lines. The second half of the album offers some extended, instrumental versions of the same tracks, with crisp performances and lovely arrangements that recall David Murray's primo 80s work on Black Saint Records. This album-release performance is part of Boykin's annual Hereafter Fest; Sam Jewell fills in for Reed on drums. The Alex Wing Group opens. 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor,, donation requested. —Peter Margasak


TAMBOURS SANS FRONTIERES This percussion ensemble specializes in traditional rhythms from the Congo, which form the roots of myriad genres that have spread and evolved throughout Africa and the Americas. Bandleader Teber left his war-torn homeland in 2002 and spent several years in different West African countries before emigrating to Chicago with his band in 2008. They were a smash hit at last year's World Music Festival and have since become prolific local performers, rocking the Old Town School, cultural festivals, and recently a game-watching party during the World Cup finals. Onstage they're both playful and virtuosic, summoning a huge sound that's somehow intimately familiar even to listeners for whom it's brand-new, as it's the heartbeat of so much of the planet's music. This show is part of the African Festival of the Arts. 5 PM, Main Stage, Washington Park, 51st and Cottage Grove, 773-955-2787, $15, $10 in advance. —Monica Kendrick

Dum Dum Girls
  • Tyson Wirtzfield
  • Dum Dum Girls


DUM DUM GIRLS Dee Dee (nee Kristin Gundred) started Dum Dum Girls as a lo-fi solo project a couple years ago, but even on her earliest recordings the Los Angelena's sharp pop sensibility cut through the garagey guitar scuzz and primitive drum-machine beats. She brought in a few friends (including Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) while recording this year's infectious I Will Be (Sub Pop), then handed over the rough mixes to Richard Gottehrer—a music-biz vet who went from writing 60s pop classics like "My Boyfriend's Back" and "I Want Candy" (which he also performed as a member of the Strangeloves) to producing the Go-Go's and Blondie. I'm guessing he polished things up, but if he drew out the lovely overdubbed harmonies and melodic sweetness, he also kept the recordings' trebly bite intact. Ultimately I Will Be recalls the sound of 80s British indie acts like the Shop Assistants, the Flatmates, and Talulah Gosh more than, say, the Marvelettes—which is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when the tunes are so classically catchy. Last fall Gundred hired three female musicians to fill out the touring version of the band. Vampire Weekend headlines; Beach House and Dum Dum Girls open. Members of Dum Dum Girls also DJ a free afterparty with Brent Zmrhal at 10 PM at Beauty Bar, 1444 W. Chicago; that event is 21 and up.  7 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 773-561-9500 or 866-448-7849, sold out. —Peter Margasak


DOLLYROTS Cancelled. The two guys and one girl in this California trio say in their bio that they quit school and left the Sunshine State for LA when Bush won that 2000 Florida court case, out of a pre-Apocalyptic drive to carpe diem. But what comes out of their amps is pop punk that vibrates with joy. Their third full-length, A Little Messed Up (on Joan Jett's Blackheart label), is grittier in places than its predecessors but maintains a pure and ardent Riff Randall-like devotion to the genre that harks back to a more innocent Rock 'n' Roll High School age. Singer Kelly Ogden even maintains her perkiness during a star turn as a murder victim on the less ingenuous CSI: New York—that fluff is woven with steel. Ramova, the Cathy Santonies, and Faggy Pussy open. Cancelled. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-463-5808 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. —Monica Kendrick

Rhys Chatham
  • Rhys Chatham


RHYS CHATHAM, BILL ORCUTT On September 14 Nonesuch will release the second recorded version of RHYS CHATHAM's A Crimson Grail, an epic piece commissioned by the city of Paris in 2005 and written for as many as 400 electric guitars—the first, released by Table of the Elements in 2006, was a recording of its debut performance, which involved 125 musicians in the famous Sacre-Coeur Basilica. The new version was recorded in 2009 in Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park, with an ensemble of 200 guitarists, 16 electric bassists, and one drummer arranged to surround the audience. In some ways the piece is an expansion of Chatham's classic Guitar Trio, an art-rock signpost that combined his interest in minimalist composition and microtonal harmony with the scrappy DIY postmodernism of the late-70s downtown New York scene. Like that piece, A Crimson Grail shapes the swarming, richly layered tones produced by multiple guitarists strumming simple, sustained patterns into a gorgeous symphonic arc—though of course with 50 or 60 times as many guitarists, the result is both more monumental and more ethereal. On Chatham's recent album The Bern Project (Hinterzimmer), cut with a small group of Swiss musicians, he returns to his first instrument, the trumpet (he also played it for most of the 90s, though he's focused on guitar music for the past decade), but he's still exploring the same terrain—spacious drones shimmering with intricate harmonic effects. At the beginning of the opening track, "War in Heaven," it sounds like he's playing a didgeridoo, and on "Scrying in Smoke" Chatham and trombonist Beat Unternährer overlap long notes to create a shifting spectrum of psychoacoustically lively interference patterns while a drummer and bassist lay down a fierce Krautrock-esque beat. Chatham will also play trumpet for this concert, joined by drummer Tim Barnes and guitarist David Daniell.

After the 1997 breakup of Harry Pussy, the influential Miami noise-rock group he anchored with singer and drummer Adris Hoyos, guitarist BILL ORCUTT retreated from making music. He moved to San Francisco, got married, had children, and worked as software engineer. But when he helped assemble the 2008 Harry Pussy anthology You'll Never Play This Town Again for Load Records, he got interested in, well, playing again. Last year he returned with a powerful solo statement, A New Way to Pay Old Debts (Palilalia), using an acoustic guitar fitted with pickups similar to those used by Chicago blues great Elmore James. His approach could be loosely characterized as fingerstyle, but his ferocious attack and in-the-red tone are anything but rustic or folksy—though he draws on country-blues language, he does it with a violence reminiscent of his playing in Harry Pussy, wrenching dense bent-note scale patterns and resonant explosions from his instrument. He covers Lightnin' Hopkins's "Sad News From Korea," transforming it into a barrage of abrasive bursts, and that cluster-bomb treatment makes it of a piece with his originals, which thread similar detonations along single-note strands or slashing chords to create a sort of probing, throbbing "blues." Here and there Orcutt vocalizes, and though sometimes he seems to be forming words, his singing generally follows the shape of his guitar lines, giving them an extra emotional heft instead of adding anything like a foreground melody—it's as though his turbulent playing is simply carrying his voice with it.

The Rhys Chatham Trio headlines; John Wiese and Bill Orcutt open. This concert kicks off the festival Adventures in Modern Music. Orcutt also plays a free in-store at noon at Reckless Records, 1532 N. Milwaukee.  7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-280-2660 or 773-276-3600, $20, $18 members, $10 students. —Peter Margasak

RICH CORPOLONGO TRIO Chicago reedist Rich Corpolongo recently released his first album as a leader in 12 years, Get Happy (Delmark), a wonderfully naturalistic trio recording with bassist Dan Shapera and drummer Rusty Jones. On previous efforts Corpolongo has focused on rigorous original material with an exploratory bent, even dipping into avant-garde techniques like serialism, but here he embraces old-school postbop—the program consists entirely of jazz standards, bookended by the Charlie Parker classics "Chi Chi" and "Dewey Square." The session was recorded by local engineer Ken Christianson with just two microphones, lending it a warm, roomy sound, and given the instrumental format and Corpolongo's buoyant tenor-sax style and gift for motific improvisation, it's hard not be reminded of vintage Sonny Rollins. Corpolongo has been working with Shapera and Jones for years, and you can hear it in the band's effortless grace and intuitive spontaneity. Get Happy isn't as bold as some of his older work, but it's as joyous as any jazz record I've heard this year. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $10, $5 students and musicians. —Peter Margasak

MICHAEL ROTHER'S HALLOGALLO 2010 As labels go, "Krautrock" has never been a good fit for bands like Neu!—besides recycling an old slur, it lumps together groups that shared only a nationality and a desire to sound unlike anyone else. When guitarist-keyboardist Michael Rother and guitarist-drummer Klaus Dinger formed the group in 1971 after a brief sojourn in Kraftwerk, they stripped out all hints of the blues-based beat-combo rock they'd played growing up and forged a music from layers of thick, sustained guitar lines, environmental sounds, and near-metronomic beats, all of which became part of the DNA of groups like Stereolab and Sonic Youth. Aside from an abortive mid-80s comeback, Neu! has been defunct since 1975, and discord between Rother and Dinger, who died in 2008, not only prevented licensed reissues of their records till 2001 but also dashed fans' hopes for a reunion concert; unless you were in Germany back in the day, you've probably never had a chance to see this music performed live. But this summer Grönland Records released a vinyl box set featuring Neu!'s three classic LPs, a rough EP of live tracks from 1972, and a so-so recording from that mid-80s comeback, and now Rother is taking to the stage, backed by bassist Aaron Mullan (Tall Firs) and drummer Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth). But he isn't simply playing the old tunes; instead he and his bandmates use themes by Neu!, Harmonia (Rother's collaboration with electronic-music duo Cluster), and his solo albums as launching points for driving, open-ended guitar jams and percolating proto-techno interludes. Disappears opens. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $20. —Bill Meyer

TAMBOURS SANS FRONTIERES See Saturday. 8:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $5 suggested donation.

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