Music » Soundboard

The List: June 3 - 9, 2010

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: Warpaint, Jacuzzi Boys, Entombed, Yakuza, Liza Minnelli, Damien Jurado, and more

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Ballrogg, Vertex
Jacuzzi Boys


Lionel Marchetti


Jonathan Biss with the Brentano String Quartet
Liza Minnelli


Golden Filter, The Hundred in the Hands
Dave Holland Quintet
Damien Jurado


BALLROGG, VERTEX Norwegian duo BALLROGG, aka reedist Klaus Ellerhusen Holm and bassist Roger Arntzen (best known from the piano trio In the Country), have reinvented the intimate, lucid jazz-based sound of their self-titled 2008 debut, where they interspersed originals with tunes by the likes of Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman. On the new Insomnia (Bolage) most traces of jazz language are gone—instead the music is a sober exploration of pure sound, ghostly harmony, and minimalist composition (one track is a concise adaptation of a Morton Feldman piece). On "Woody Creek," a series of contrasting episodes interrupted by Holm's gorgeously lyrical alto solo, guest violinists Ole-Henrik Moe and Kari Ronnekleiv add massed, repetitive pulsations reminiscent of Philip Glass; another guest, Lars Myrvoll, enhances the rustic elegance of "Sleepwalker" with judiciously strummed acoustic guitar and quiet laptop noises. Holm doesn't necessarily need help to create the effects he wants, though. With carefully deployed amplification and feedback, he gives his playing—whether hovering resonant tones or gentle churning patterns—a massive core and an incandescent aura.

Fellow Norwegians VERTEX, aka guitarist Petter Vaagan and percussionist Tor Haugerud, delve even deeper into abstraction on their knockout debut, Shapes & Phases (Sofa), augmenting their instruments with electronics and live sampling. Short pieces like "Blue Shift" and "Hutong" merge fractured lap steel and acoustic-guitar licks (a la Tetuzi Akiyama) with sparse bursts of percussion texture, but for most of the rest of the album it's difficult to tell what's making any particular sound. Vertex's sonic landscapes—ominous drones, bowed strings and metal, terse synthetic crackles, hard-to-identify field recordings, ringing thwacks on what's probably an electric guitar—straddle the gap between free improvisation and collage.

Ballrogg headlines.  9:30 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, donation requested. —Peter Margasak

CAVE The motorik groove of Krautrock has always been the bedrock of Cave's music, but on the new three-track EP Pure Moods (Drag City) this local trio have tamed the desperate wildness of their previous releases—with a fresh emphasis on forward-mixed vocals and relatively clean instrumental sounds, they seem to be trying to grow, perhaps even mature a little. The band can still cast a spell with their high-speed lockstep rhythms—the tightly coiled drumming, the terse, looping guitar, the pointillist keyboard splatter—and it's magnetic when they ride a lick into infinity on the epic "Brigitte's Trip (White Light/White Jazz)" or smear analog synth and effects-heavy guitar into a levitating miasma on the second half of "Teenager." But the flat, rather uncharismatic singing of Dave "Rotten Milk" Pecoraro is a poor substitute for the noisy intensity that's missing now. Jerusalem & the Starbaskets and Daniel Lutz open. 10 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Peter Margasak

JACUZZI BOYS Now that Arizona has pulled ahead of the Sunshine State in the "Who Has, Per Capita, the Stupidest Assholes in the Country?" contest, it feels a little better to pay attention to Florida's garage-punk scene—of which Miami's Jacuzzi Boys are as fine a representative as you're likely to hear. Orlando-based label Floridas Dying has been working tirelessly to bring the music of this scene to audiences beyond the peninsula, and late last year it released Jacuzzi Boys' debut LP, No Seasons, whose upbeat three- or four-chord sweat jams combine Stonesy rhythms and psych-tinged guitars, recalling both the ooga-booga pounding of the Black Lips and the careening-around-in-the-open feel of early Meat Puppets. The boys are confident enough in the swing and sway of their Nuggets-y guitar lines to ride them right up to their breaking point before shifting gears—whether by pulling back, collapsing, rebuilding, or just ending the tune. The slow-fast-slow swirl of "Komi Caricoles," the beach-party blast of "Planet of the Dreamers," the econo-style "Sister Ray" shimmy of "Dock," the "Get Off of My Cloud" waltz-march of "The Park (Dig It)"—they all say their piece and split before wearing out their welcome. Mannequin Men headline; Jacuzzi Boys, CoCoComa, and Maximum Wage open.  10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Brian Costello


ENTOMBED Sweden's Entombed started out in the late 80s as a completely sick but fairly typical death-metal band.But by the time they recorded their landmark 1993 album Wolverine Blues—which, despite the marketing efforts of their American label, had nothing to do with the X-Men character—they'd become something much more idiosyncratic and interesting. While their fellow Scandinavians were just starting to organize the aesthetics of black metal, Entombed were ripping up death's rulebook and pissing on the shreds, crossbreeding it with punk, crust, hard classic rock, and seemingly whatever else they had on their record shelves. The fusions benefited both sides of the equation, giving death metal a sense of melody and dynamics it had previously lacked and injecting the more straight-ahead rock styles with a gnarlitude that their contemporaries in the American pigfuck scene could only hope to achieve. Their most recent album, 2007's Serpent Saints: The Ten Commandments (Candlelight), leans harder on the metal side, but doesn't suffer for it. Jungle Rot, Woe of Tyrants, Sweet Cobra, and Black Breath open.  7 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $20, $18 in advance. —Miles Raymer

Lionel Marchetti
  • Yoko Higashi
  • Lionel Marchetti

LIONEL MARCHETTI Pop music typically presents dreams simplistically, as nothing more than waking wishes awaiting some sort of magical fulfillment—think Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover." Frenchman Lionel Marchetti, on the other hand, makes music that's more like the stuff of actual dreams. It's often confusing and sometimes terrifying, and despite its chaotic juxtapositions it feels pregnant with meaning—if only you can crack its code. He composes musique concrete, a style that arose in the late 40s, after the advent of magnetic tape made it possible to collage, layer, and manipulate recorded sounds with relative ease. Some of Marchetti's works—like the two CDs he's released on Intransitive Recordings—are more like shamanic ceremonies than musical performances. Knud un Nom du Serpent, originally released in 2001, is a collage of ritual performances disrupted by screaming women, sober radio commentators, and snatches of recorded music; 2007's Hatali Atsalei deploys the sounds of a crackling fire, a blustery wind, and a myriad of birds, bugs, and doglike animals around the wordless growls and solemn drumbeats of percussionist Seijiro Murayama (Absolut Null Punkt, Fushitsusha). Marchetti's 2002 album Train de Nuit (Metamkine), however, uses noises made mostly by devices, not by living things. Its sequences of hissing brakes, screaming steam whistles, and machine sounds at the edge of audibility conjure the presence of something that couldn't exist in the physical world—an enormous but untouchable engine passing nearby. For his first area appearance in eight years, Marchetti will play two hours of selected works using an eight-speaker, eight-channel sound system. The concert is free, but space is limited; RSVP to 8 PM, Graham Foundation, Madlener House, 4 W. Burton Place, 312-787-4071. —Bill Meyer

POCAHAUNTED This crazily prolific Los Angeles band makes a virtue of its frequent lineup shifts and wild stylistic schizophrenia. On the more than a dozen live and studio records Pocahaunted has released since 2006, there's little by way of a consistent vision, unless you count calculatedly loose performances, quick-and-dirty studio techniques, and a druggy vibe—depending on the recording, you might hear tribal percussion jams, quasi-soul, dub, drone, or psychedelia. On their latest album, Make It Real (Not Not Fun), Pocahaunted embraces reggae the way the Slits embraced reggae—that is, without much concern for fidelity to its traditions. The loping bass lines, skittering beats, and dubby, spaced-out textures vaguely suggest the style, but the wiry, echoing guitar riffs and swampy organ swells don't; above it all, two female voices smothered in reverb bounce and float around each other like lottery balls on jets of air. I've never seen the band live, but their shows are reputed to have a hypnotizing intensity only hinted at by their studio recordings. Champagne Champagne headlines; Pocahaunted, Emanuel Vinson, E.T. Habit, and Brain Idea open. 8 PM, Ronny's, 2101 N. California,, $10, 17+. —Peter Margasak


YAKUZA It's been three years since Yakuza released Transmutations, and it was such a big step forward for this Chicago progressive-metal quartet that anticipation has been running high for the new Of Seismic Consequence (Profound Lore), recorded here in town with Sanford Parker. The band has fanned the flames with an online teaser video and a listening party last month at the Liar's Club, though, so it's not exactly a tightly guarded secret that this album, due June 22, is incredibly good. Front man Bruce Lamont, who plays saxophone and occasionally guitar, is also a member of avant-doom-drone outfit Bloodiest and the crowd-pleasing Led Zeppelin 2 (in which he channels Robert Plant with uncanny accuracy), and he always keeps a toe in the demimondes of noise and improv. In Yakuza, these disparate strains of his musical personality—and the personalities of his bandmates, including new bassist Ivan Exael Cruz—find their purest, fullest expression. Of Seismic Consequence careens recklessly but eloquently between brutality and beauty, marrying psychedelic space-rock to enough jet-engine power to send the whole package hurtling straight into a supernova—and out the other side unscathed. The band's set at this release party will include the entire album, top to bottom, and they'll have help from cellist Alison Chesley (aka Helen Money) and Lamont's singing sister, Kelly, who also plays Elvis's girlfriend Dyanne in the musical Million Dollar Quartet. The Alaya Conscious and the Swan King open. 10 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Monica Kendrick


JONATHAN BISS WITH THE BRENTANO STRING QUARTET Among the concerts I've heard pianist Jonathan Biss play, none has impressed me more than a recital he gave at Ravinia three years ago with his mother, violinist Miriam Fried. They performed Beethoven violin sonatas, and Biss demonstrated a remarkable ability to blend the piano with the violin, picking up where its sound ended and complementing its timbre. Now 29, he's well established internationally, with five CDs that showcase his exceptional musicality, and for this all-Beethoven program he's doing one of the things he does best—playing chamber music with strings. He'll join the Brentano String Quartet, named Princeton University's first quartet-in-residence in the late 90s, for the Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1, No. 2; Beethoven wrote it while still a student of Haydn, but it's bursting with invention. Biss will play alone for the Piano Sonata in E Minor, Op. 90, which dates from the end of Beethoven's middle period; its first movement combines agitation and mystery, and the second presents a long-lined melody in the form of a rondo. The Brentano will also perform two of Beethoven's late quartets, his final and most personal works: Op. 127 in E-flat Major and the far more complex Op. 131 in C-sharp Minor, whose seven movements, beginning with an intense fugue, are played without pause. Composed while Beethoven was completely deaf, they're private and at times otherwordly music.  3 PM, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $22-$96. —Barbara Yaross

LIZA MINNELLI Through all the highs and lows of Liza Minnelli's notoriously erratic career, one thing has remained constant: of all the performers of her generation, she has the deepest connection to what scholars have dubbed the Great American Songbook—the repertoire of classic popular songs by giants like George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and Lorenz Hart and in later years by Minnelli's frequent collaborators John Kander and Fred Ebb. This tradition is embedded in Minnelli's DNA: as the daughter of Judy Garland, she's heir to the GAS tradition of musical storytelling, which is rooted in lyrical melodies, complex harmonies, and urbane, witty, character-based lyrics designed to showcase a singer's idiosyncratic personality. And that she's got in spades: reviewing Minnelli's Tony-winning 2008 Broadway show Liza's at the Palace . . . , Variety's David Rooney wrote, "Sure, the voice is frayed and husky, the control wavers . . . [but] her vocals still have power, warmth and a startling ability to make every song personal." That show teamed Minnelli with dancing boys and a brass-heavy orchestra, but this one-nighter will be a more intimate affair, featuring a quartet led by her longtime friend and musical soulmate, jazz pianist Billy Stritch.  7:30 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, 312-462-6300 or 866-448-7849, $55-$125. —Albert Williams

WARPAINT It doesn't seem too difficult for a group of attractive young ladies from LA with movie-star connections (their first drummer was actress Shannyn Sossamon, sister of guitarist-vocalist Jenny Lee Lindberg) to get a lot of easy buzz, but Warpaint's appeal goes deeper. They actually rip: "Elephants," the standout track on their Exquisite Corpse EP (self-released at the beginning of last year and reissued by Manimal Vinyl in October), revolves around a nimble, highlife-inflected guitar arpeggio and a burbling bass line, neither of which any sort of dilettante could come close to pulling off. And they've got ideas: Though their songs show a fair amount of Cat Power influence, the hypnotic, circular melody of "Billie Holiday" and its interpolation of Mary Wells's "My Guy" are brilliant. And deep, dreamy moods like the one that dominates the record don't come along by accident. This set is part of the Do-Division Street Fest; see page 53 for more. 4 PM, Damen Stage, Division and Damen, 312-850-9390 or, $5 suggested donation. —Miles Raymer


GOLDEN FILTER, THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS When the Golden Filter first started showing up on dance-music blogs, they were promoting themselves as a "somewhat secretive" act, and the demo of a track called "Moonlight Fantasy" that they were circulating—a super mellow slice of electro-pop embellished with disco strings and a breathy female vocal—inspired theories that the group was a cover for one of any number of dance-y, poppy acts, from Hot Chip to various former Spice Girls. The speculation didn't develop into a blazing Internet meme the way the duo—since revealed to be singer Penelope Trappes and producer Stephen Hindman—might have hoped, but a series of remixes by Empire of the Sun, Cut Copy, and Peter Bjorn and John and a spot on A-Trak's popular Infinity +1 mix CD cultivated an appetite for more Golden Filter that the recent Voluspa (self-released) should satisfy nicely. —Miles Raymer

Low-calorie summer-breeze pop goes Brooklyn blogbeat on This Desert, The Hundred In The Hands' debut EP for Warp. The dude-lady duo has some easy-to-love touchstones: Yeah Yeah Yeahs sans the rock, New Order's romantic, bouncy new wave. The Sleigh Bells comparisons they seem to be picking up are lazy and off-base—though guitarist Jason Friedman is better known for fronting punks the Boggs, THITH is pastel electro blur blissfully free of crunch and aggression. —Jessica Hopper

The Golden Filter headlines; the Hundred in the Hands and Brilliant Pebbles open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.

Damien Jurado Sarah Murphy Jurado

DAVE HOLLAND QUINTET The quintet led by bassist Dave Holland has been one of the most distinctive bands in jazz for nearly three decades, despite several changes in personnel—his elegantly knotty and densely contrapuntal compositions, anchored by his shapely, pulsing bass lines, frame inside-outside improvisation from the group's consistently great soloists. Holland often revisits old material in new contexts, which reinforces this sense of continuity in his sound. On the recent Pathways (Dare 2), by an octet that includes saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibist Steve Nelson, and drummer Nate Smith—all current members of the quintet—his tunes retain their familiar character despite the dense, elaborate new arrangements. The downside to all this is that Holland's music is often predictable, but given the quality of the performances, that's really a small quibble—all five players swing with passion and grace, their buoyant solos both steeped in tradition and pushing at its seams. The quintet's run continues through Sunday, June 13, with shows at 8 and 10 PM every day plus a 4 PM matinee on Sunday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20. —Peter Margasak

DAMIEN JURADO Damien Jurado's brilliant 2008 album Caught in the Trees—which includes "Gillian Was a Horse," one of my favorite tunes of the year—is full of sharp Neil Young-inspired pop, but the new Saint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian) is much less outgoing and direct. Haunting and somber, it flirts with an expansive, echoing sound, as if parts of it were recorded in a grain silo, and each song seems to be trying to out-heartache the one that came before it. But regardless of which direction this veteran Seattle singer-songwriter takes his rustic indie-folk yarns, he's still a magnetic performer. Saint Bartlett, produced by fellow songwriter Richard Swift, uses more of the orchestral accents, found-sound backdrops, and guitar-noise tangents that Jurado favors, which helps deepen its contemplative feel. On the swaggering, idyllic opener, "Cloudy Shoes," he answers his own lines in a faint, distant-sounding drawl, as though that second voice were climbing through the song's hazy scenery to try to reach the first one. The new record might not turn out to as durable as Caught in the Trees, which is still at the top of my list, but only time will tell—and either way it's another ambitious and inventive entry in an already impressive catalog, and still more evidence that Jurado doesn't get the credit he deserves. Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground and Santah open. 7 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $14. —Kevin Warwick

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