Music » Soundboard

The List: April 1-7, 2010

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Xiu Xiu, High on Fire, Small Black, Orquestra Contemporanea de Olinda, Little Women, Titus Andronicus, and more

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Thursday1

Box Elders
Spoon

Friday2

Dillinger Escape Plan
Gilberto Gil
High on Fire

Saturday3

Tobacco
Xiu Xiu

Monday5

Small Black, Washed Out

Tuesday6

Love Is All
Orquestra Contemporanea de Olinda

Wednesday7

Little Women
Titus Andronicus

thursday1

BOX ELDERS Among other things, Box Elders' debut LP, Alice and Friends, features one of the jauntiest odes to necrophilia you will ever hear in your too-short life. Since its release last summer on Goner, the Omaha trio's been touring North America and Europe, bringing their "cave pop" to growing legions of fans, and in December, out of consideration for those of us still driving 20th-century cars, they released a cassette-only version on Burger Records. No matter the format, though, their playfully charged songs—drummer/organist Dave Goldberg has a knack for attacking the beat without being hamfisted about it—feel like contemporary reinterpretations of 60s surf soundtracks. Once heard, their harmonies aren't easily forgotten (not that you'd want to), and the subtleties—the well-placed organ hooks in "Jackie Wood," the quarter-note triplets of "Atlantis," the repetition of the lyric "What do you call it / When you love someone who's dead?" in the aforementioned "Necro"—separate them from the mere dabblers mining the same vein. Black Lips headline, Box Elders play second, Mickey opens, and the Get Drunk DJs spin.  8:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15. —Brian Costello

Box Elders

SPOON Though I like Transference (Merge), Spoon's seventh and latest album, it's the first where they seem to be treading water. Sometimes they try to jostle their sound into a new configuration—the openings of "Before Destruction" and "Trouble Comes Running," for instance, are calculatedly lo-fi, in contrast to the top-shelf production elsewhere—but those efforts mostly just draw attention to themselves. Though the arrangements behind Britt Daniel's austere melodies remain taut, elegant, and minimal—as though they were made by paring down instead of building up—the fleeting guitar and keyboard licks that have always popped in and out of the band's music now seem to arrive according to a schedule. All that said, sometimes the Spoon formula is still irresistible: on "Written in Reverse" Daniel's voice circles carefully around a seesawing groove, his constantly shifting rhythms playing off the razor-sharp backbeat. I just wish I noticed the songs more than the formula. Deerhunter and Micachu & the Shapes open. 6 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 773-561-9500 or 312-559-1212, $27.50. —Peter Margasak

friday2

Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist Ben Weinman
  • Nathaniel Shannon
  • Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist Ben Weinman

DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN Yeah, I get why you don't like the Dillinger Escape Plan: the new Option Paralysis (Party Smasher Inc./Season of Mist) is like a hardcore version of the DSM-IV, a mishmash of schizophrenic metal riffage and maniacal syncopation. But what frustrates critics of these Jersey mathcore dudes is exactly what I find so magnetizing—an inventive and unrelenting ferocity, both on album and onstage. Since their benchmark 1999 debut, Calculating Infinity, DEP have shuffled through two vocalists, three guitarists, and three drummers—no easy feat for such a technically outrageous band—all the while sustaining this almost unfathomable tenacity. And though they're gripping the reins a bit tighter on their blastbeat-laced shitstorms and making broader use of Greg Puciato's surprising vocal range (for instance on "Gold Teeth on a Bum" and "Widower"), apocalyptic clamor is still their bread and butter. Oh, and live? Well, I've seen microphones smashed into faces, light fixtures scaled, and fire breathed, just for starters. Animals as Leaders, Iwrestledabearonce, and Darkest Hour open. 7 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $18, $16 in advance. —Kevin Warwick

GILBERTO GIL To judge by the records Gilberto Gil has made with a full band over the past three decades, the Brazilian legend has lost his edge—too many of them are frothy crowd pleasers whose slick, swiftly dated arrangements obscure the intelligence of his songcraft. But stripped-down recordings like the solo album Gil Luminoso (released in Brazil in 1999 and in the U.S. by DRG in '07) and the recent live disc Banda Dois (Warner Music Brasil), where he's joined only by his son Bem on second guitar and percussion, prove that his music can still be intimate and intricate. Gil can get a little carried away, crossing the line between exuberance and showing off, but alone or with only the sketchiest of accompaniment he sounds way better than on his latest studio effort, the overwrought Banda Larga Cordel. His guitar playing, steeped in the seductive rhythms of samba and bossa nova, isn't overwhelmed by an electric band, and his rich falsetto, now well worn and occasionally unsteady, shapes his melodies with astonishing beauty and warmth. Tonight's concert is a trio performance: Gil and Bem will be joined by cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, a top-notch arranger who worked on many of Caetano Veloso's best 90s albums.  8 PM, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $15-$50. —Peter Margasak

Matt Pike of High on Fire

HIGH ON FIRE High on Fire have been making a mainstream breakthrough in slo-mo for a couple years now, but this heavy-as-fuck Oakland trio's long-awaited fifth album, Snakes for the Divine (Koch), could be the one that finally punts them over the top. Produced by Greg Fidelman, who's worked with Metallica and Slayer, the record has a crisp, clean quality that's a little bit at odds with their manky, throbbing swamp soup of a sound—especially when Matt Pike revisits his Sleep roots for a slow, nightmarish nap on "Bastard Samurai." Who expected polished-chrome-shiny doom? Pike's guitar brilliance really comes through in this context, though, and the shifting structures of the epic title track and the fist-pumping "Frost Hammer" have a timeless, fierce glory. But turn the drums back up, please! Bison B.C., Black Cobra, and Priestess open.  8 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $15, 18+. —Monica Kendrick

saturday3

Tobacco The members of Black Moth Super Rainbow claim to be from Pittsburgh, but this is obviously just cover for the fact that they're aliens from a distant planet made out of synthesizers and drugs. The group's front man, Tobacco, has recently taken his explorations of psychedelic electronic pop solo, and on his second album, Maniac Meat (due in late May on Anticon), he meanders through some outre new territory, right on the border of art-school weird and genuine-brain-problems weird. The musical references to vintage hip-hop and electro-funk might bring to mind Midnite Vultures—especially since Beck shows up on two songs—if they didn't twitch around in such an unsexy way, or if they weren't slathered in greasy, no-fi distortion and rife with squealing, klaxon-like synth peals. The Hood Internet and Daniel Francis Doyle open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Miles Raymer

XIU XIU How odd. The synth response to the refrain "Dear God, I hate myself"—the title lyric of the title track of Xiu Xiu's February 23 album for Kill Rock Stars—is the same four notes as the whoah-oh-oh-oh in the chorus of Lady Gaga's ubiquitous "Bad Romance." I'm sure the similarity is just coincidence—even if Xiu Xiu mastermind Jamie Stewart hadn't finished "Dear God, I Hate Myself" by the time "Bad Romance" leaked on October 2, why would he plagiarize from one of the biggest stars in the universe? And anyway it's the differences that are more illuminating. Gaga and Stewart share a love of tortured-weirdo drama-queen artifice, but as singers they couldn't be less alike: she's broad and declamatory, while his quivering voice is usually wry and fragile. Next to Xiu Xiu's difficult music—brittle, angular electro-pop that's alternately jangly, dinky, and noisy—the pumped-up club stomp that accompanies Gaga's grimaces feels especially seductive in its simplicity. Likewise, though Gaga is hardly two-dimensional, the way Stewart uses distancing wit to undercut his own infamously bleak lyrics (in "Gray Death" he begs to be beaten to death by a lost love who's "like a whip covered in pins and glue") makes her seem self-serious and shallow by comparison. And try following up the grotesque and expensive revenge fantasy of the "Bad Romance" video with the minimalist and polarizing clip for "Dear God, I Hate Myself": while Stewart bops to the beat and eats a chocolate bar, bandmate Angela Seo forces herself to vomit repeatedly, finishing with a wrenching, messy heave onto his shoulder. Tune-Yards, Talk Normal, and Zola Jesus open. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $12, 18+. —Ann Sterzinger

monday5

c SMALL BLACK, WASHED OUT Be prepared to hear the word chillwave tossed around a lot in the coming months, in reference to a loose coalition of projects (some bands, lots of solo performers) that meld mid-90s tape-saturated indie pop with the electronic sounds that ruled popular music a decade prior to that. Jon Pareles of the New York Times blogged from SXSW, which was a hotbed of chillwave, that the music is "a hedged, hipster imitation of the pop they're not brash enough to make," but that sort of misses the point. SMALL BLACK's upcoming self-titled EP (Jagjaguwar) succeeds largely because of the bedroom-recording intimacy conjured up by their palpable unsureness and the washes of tape noise they hide behind. We already have a lot of bands brashly making 80s/90s retro pop, and they're called every shitty fake Weezer in the world. —Miles Raymer

For a cassette-core twentysomething working in near isolation from his 'rents house in a rural peach orchard, Ernest Greene, aka WASHED OUT, certainly knows a lot about making body music. His debut mini-LP, last year's Life of Leisure (Mexican Summer), is silky synth rock that's meaty enough for the club, and the kid isn't afraid of pop—there's no art sabotaging the hooks here. Tracks like "Feel It All Around" are dusky and sensual, right for summer sundown or the after-afterparty, where 10cc's luscious smooth rock goes downtown on a Sleeping Bag Records cut—dance music for when you're too tired to dance, but not too wasted to hook up. Greene's bubble-up beats cut in and out of the blown-out, overdriven keyboard bass lines, and the modest fidelity makes the mixes sound like the album was mastered off a cassette of songs you taped with a boom box held up to the radio in 1987. Dude made early pledges of no touring, but now he's making the rounds countrywide; best catch him before he changes his mind. —Jessica Hopper

Small Black headlines; Washed Out and Pic-tureplane open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.

tuesday6

LOVE IS ALL On their third album, Two Thousand and Ten Injuries (Polyvinyl), Sweden's Love Is All are still playing their own version of early British postpunk—brittle guitars, bouncy pogo-ready rhythms, James Ausfahrt's post-James Chance saxophone, Josephine Olausson's squeaky, cheeky shout—but this time they've softened the music's jittery edge. The melodies are more sophisticated and accessible, and the arrangements get a new warmth from additions like serene keyboard lines and sweet backing vocals (the soft-focus baah ba-da-bup baah chorus that opens "Kungen" even reminds me a bit of the Turtles). "False Pretense" has the clunky, reggae-fied lilt of the Slits and "Early Warnings" has the sing-song simplicity of Kleenex, but I'll take that kind of neo-80s action over dreary synth-pop worship any day. Tyvek and Nodzzz open.  9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. —Peter Margasak

ORQUESTRA CONTEMPORANEA DE OLINDA In the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco, indigenous musical traditions have evolved in concert with popular styles, a state of affairs that's produced an impressive crop of vigorous hybrids. This spectacular Pernambucan band embodies this process at its most sublime, opening itself up to a dizzying number of influences and combining them organically. The vibrant sound of Orquestra Contemporanea de Olinda incorporates the brass-band carnaval music called frevo, regional rhythms like ciranda and maracatu—the latter a key element in the manguebeat sound pioneered by Chico Science in Recife two decades ago—and even traces of samba, rock, and dub. The result is an aesthetic that's neither folkloric nor self-consciously postmodern; the richness of the band's musical environment makes both revivalism and premeditated pastiche unnecessary. Resourceful guitarist Juliano Holanda gives the songs extra heft and drive with his propulsive licks and concise, lyrical interjections. The group's superb lead singers, Maciel Salu and Tiné, each make records on their own with more of a purist's approach to traditional Pernambucan music, and this bent is sometimes audible in the Orquestra's songs: when Salu scrapes at a fiddle-like rabeca on "Balcao da Venda" he doesn't try to approximate any modern style, so that his primitive playing creates a delicious tension with the sophisticated horn arrangements, loping electric bass, and shuffling funk polyrhythms. For its first Chicago concert the band will consist of ten musicians (as opposed to the 12 on its self-titled debut album, released in 2008 by Som Livre), including a four-strong horn section. There hasn't been a show I've been more excited about this year.  9 PM, Rumba, 351 W. Hubbard, 312-222-1226, $10. —Peter Margasak

Little Women
  • Little Women

wednesday7

LITTLE WOMEN Last year young New York saxophonist Darius Jones made waves with his debut album, Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing), a sensual blast of dark, ruminative post-Coltrane free jazz. On that record Jones cozied up to swinging rhythms and smoldering melodies, so it's a bit of a shock at first to hear him in the quartet Little Women, whose ferociously abrasive music recalls the tightly wound "brutal prog" that former Chicagoan Weasel Walter used to play with the Flying Luttenbachers. Their first full-length, Throat (due later this month on Aum Fidelity), is a seven-part suite that uses recurring clusters of tightly registered blasts to lend structure to the same kind of blitzing chaos that defines Peter Brötzmann's 1968 classic Machine Gun—there's a constant push-pull between rigidly metered pummeling and unhinged violence. Over the high-speed, almost martial rhythms of drummer Jason Nazary and guitarist Andrew Smiley, Jones and fellow reedist Travis Laplante blow terse lockstep riffs that frequently explode into tangled strands of overblown overtones. But Throat isn't always assaultive: sometimes the two reedists uncork eerie unaccompanied long tones, or the band reshapes a melody that sounds like an old spiritual (a la Albert Ayler) into a beautiful meditation that wouldn't feel out of place in a Radiohead song. Little Women toggle between extremes with impressive fluidity, and the transitions consistently make sense—something that couldn't always be said of their debut EP, Teeth. I'm looking forward to the next step in their evolution. Apiary opens. Little Women also play Thursday, April 8, at the Velvet Lounge; Ken Vandermark opens that show with a solo set. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Peter Margasak

Titus Andronicus Titus Andronicus's self-titled 2008 debut was a sprawling mess that tried to crossbreed nervy, nihilistic hardcore with the more epic moments of Born to Run—and though most of the compositions ended up flaming out before they reached their potential, they did so spectacularly. The band's new album, The Monitor (XL), only tweaks the formula, but they've got a better grip on the wheel, and when I say it's another sprawling mess, I mean it in the best possible way. The punk/Boss hybrids still come off like they're held together with Bondo, threatening to fly apart at any second under the band's relentless drive, but most cuts make it through their impressive run times—frequently seven or eight minutes—more or less intact. The album's concept is apparently tied up in something having to do with the Civil War, but though the theme doesn't come through lyrically, you can feel in the band's desperate energy the free-floating angst that comes from living in a splintered nation. The Saps and Bully in the Hallway open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance, 17+. —Miles Raymer

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