Music » Soundboard

The List: July 29-August 4, 2010

Critic's Choices and other notable shows: Zomes, Night Beats, Andrew W.K., the Aram Shelton Quartet, Seu Jorge & Almaz, Bob Log III, and more

by , , , and

comment

Thursday29

Tortoise 2.0
Zomes

Friday30

Tift Merritt

Saturday31

Mwata Bowden Ensemble
Cults
Lightning Swords of Death
Night Beats
Andrew W.K.

Sunday1

Night Beats
Aram Shelton Quartet

Tuesday3

Seu Jorge & Almaz

Wednesday4

Bob Log III

thursday29

TORTOISE 2.0 I've been listening a lot lately to last year's Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey), which strikes me as one of the most consistent and assured records Tortoise has ever made. Dense with deep grooves and almost aggressively catchy, it's a thoroughly charted-out, tightly arranged piece of work that makes clearer than ever that no matter how many jazz festivals they're invited to play, Tortoise are a rock band. But for me that only makes the premise of this show more interesting. The group was commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Jazz Institute of Chicago to kick off the series Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz with an original composition incorporating some of the city's most interesting jazz players. Reedists Ed Wilkerson Jr. and Greg Ward, flutist Nicole Mitchell, pianist and ARP wizard Jim Baker, and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm won't merely be stepping up in turn to improvise solos—they were invited to rehearsals to develop their own parts and help shape the work. The Tortoise guys tend to write new music at the pace of their namesake, so I'm looking forward not just to watching them interact with this distinguished cast but also to hearing a whole set of all-new material.  6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Randolph and Michigan, 312-742-1168. —Peter Margasak

ZOMES The bio accompanying Zomes' self-titled album on Holy Mountain claims that the band's sole member, Asa Osborne, uses a human tooth as a guitar pick. It's the kind of one-sheet tidbit that you just know is too perfect to be true, but Osborne's former gig as guitar god for Lungfish—a band devoted to transcending all sorts of musical and nonmusical conventions—makes it kinda believable. Osborne remains dedicated to trance-inducing riff repetition, not only on guitar but on drum machines and keyboards as well, though Zomes' peaceful, meditative vibe is the flip side of Lungfish's third-eye-opening apocalyptics. Between the sparse arrangements, loose performances, and no-fi production it sounds like an unearthed 78 from a prewar drone scene that never existed. Jason Urick and Flower Man open. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Miles Raymer

Tift Merritt

friday30

TIFT MERRITT Seattle producer Tucker Martine brings a scaled-down grandeur to Tift Merritt's See You on the Moon (Fantasy), opting for intimacy over spectacle in showcasing her delicate post-Emmylou vocals. The country-soul groove of the opener, "Mixtape," gets its juice from hand claps and a meticulously pitched string arrangement all played by Eyvind Kang, but the focus is on the singer's beautiful delivery, which is streaked with a fitting vulnerability on songs that grapple with the difficulties of communication. Though I still like Merritt best on more upbeat, extroverted material—the sleek, driving "Papercut" is my fave here—she's found a way to handle ballads without resorting to twee coffeehouse sentimentality. She almost makes Anne Murray's stink bomb "Danny's Song" palatable, and that's really saying something. Dawn Landes & the Hounds open. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $18. —Peter Margasak

saturday31

MWATA BOWDEN ENSEMBLE While the recent passing of saxophonist and Velvet Lounge proprietor Fred Anderson is undeniably tragic, it doesn't make me worry for the future of Chicago jazz because he wasn't the only veteran in town nurturing the music's younger practitioners. Take Mwata Bowden, for example. Anyone who has heard the 62-year-old multi-instrumentalist's thrillingly intricate clarinet solos, bottomless tenor- and baritone-sax figures, and hypnotic didgeridoo drones in the Miyumi Ensemble or 8 Bold Souls knows that he has world-class chops. But rather than focus on making his own name, he's spent his time cultivating the local scene, chairing the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, helming the AACM's Great Black Music Ensemble, and directing jazz groups at the University of Chicago. Tonight he'll lead a pickup band through some of his characteristic compositions—labyrinths with sudden directional changes designed to steer the players away from their customary habits. 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $15. —Bill Meyer

Mwata Bowden

CULTS Earlier this year the San Diego duo Cults, aka boyfriend/girlfriend Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin, posted three songs for free download on Bandcamp that earned praise from everyone from Pitchfork to Perez Hilton. It's easy stuff to like. "Go Outside" balances guitar and bass riffs snappy and precise enough to evoke the Jackson Five with vocals so drenched in reverb that you can't even tell how many voices you're hearing. The combination makes it a great summer jam for those times when you want something catchy but it's too hot to listen hard—even the pain of agreeing with Perez Hilton isn't enough to ruin it. Light Pollution opens. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Miles Raymer

LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH This Los Angeles four-piece may have a corny name (taken from a Japanese cult film in the "Lone Wolf and Cub" series) that makes them sound like a joke band or at least a hipster-metal outfit, and they may live in one of the sunniest, shiniest cities on the planet, but the thrashy black metal on their second full-length, The Extra Dimensional Wound (Metal Blade), goes to extreme measures to capture the atmosphere of a dark, bone-littered Scandinavian cave. These guys work so hard at ambience and brutality that they sacrifice memorability—put the album on shuffle and it's not always easy to tell which of the eight tracks you're listening to. But it's such a powerful sound—"Paths to Chaos" and "Invoke the Desolate One" are particularly hair-raising—that I found myself unbothered by the sameyness. Forty-five minutes isn't too long to spend revelling in a murky grind that's nasty enough to make your eyeballs bleed. Jungle Rot headlines; Lightning Swords of Death, Woe of Tyrants, Trials, and Pathology open. 9 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $15, $13 in advance, 17+. —Monica Kendrick

NIGHT BEATS If the hype over Pitchfork and Lollapalooza has left you with little more than a low-level desire to own a Toyota or an unexplained craving for energy drinks, the post-psych glaze of Night Beats can sonically squeegee your heart, mind, and soul. This Seattle three-piece pairs hypnotic ooga-booga drums with the sort of incredible howling guitar solos you only wish you could be subjected to at Guitar Center. Their debut four-song seven-inch, just released by Chicago's own Trouble in Mind label, is an enchanting motherfucker of dark Nuggetry that eschews the unsubtle freak-outs of the Black Lips for a more nuanced freak-in that brings to mind the ego-melting hours nine through twelve after taking suburban acid of questionable quality, when the strychnine kicks in and you're perched on the mental precipice between total doom and transcendent awareness. You people are hip; I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, pay attention during "H-Bomb" and "They Came in Through the Window." TV Set headlines; Night Beats, Electric Hawk, and the Clams open. DJ Psyched Alex spins. See also Sunday. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Brian Costello

ANDREW W.K. The out-of-nowhere success of Andrew W.K.'s 2001 I Get Wet was a coup for this veteran of the weird, fertile noise scene in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The album owed much of that success to W.K.'s self-made image as a nonstop party machine—and while his cleverly meatheaded metal-pop struck some observers as a little ironic, the public's appreciation of it sometimes seemed almost entirely so. Instead of becoming just another one-hit wonder, though, he's maintained a cultishly devoted audience that helps support his other ventures, including a TV show, motivational-speaking gigs, and a venue in New York City. His fans' fervor hasn't been diminished by the several years he spent in a contract dispute, which kept him from releasing new records in the States, or by the brief kerfuffle in late 2009 over whether or not "Andrew W.K." is a stage role that's been played by more than one person over the years—as if that matters. Since resolving his contract problems he's been on a tear. Last year he dropped an album of piano improvisations, 55 Cadillac (Skyscraper), and his most recent album is a two-disc Universal reissue of Close Calls With Brick Walls (widely released only in Japan and South Korea back in 2006). His most recent nonmusical project appears to be encouraging his Twitter followers to eat more bananas. This set is part of Warped Tour.  Noon, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, I-80 and Harlem, Tinley Park. 708-614-1616 or 866-448-7849, $40, $34.25 in advance. —Miles Raymer

sunday1

NIGHT BEATS See Saturday. 5 PM, Permanent Records, 1914 W. Chicago, 773-278-1744.

Aram Shelton Quartet Though he left Chicago five years ago for the sunny climes of Oakland, reedist Aram Shelton is still almost as enmeshed in the local music scene as he was when he lived here. He may not play on local stages quite as often, but he remains a member of multiple Chicago-based bands, among them Rolldown, the Fast Citizens, and Arrive. Tonight he leads a quartet rounded out by tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson, bassist Anton Hatwich, and drummer Marc Riordan, all locals. The group's superb debut, These Times (Singlespeed Music), contains six Shelton originals that vary in style and approach, though they have in common relatively simple themes and arrangements that employ lots of open space. The emphasis is on improvisation, especially the easy rapport between Shelton and Jackson on the front line. On the title track, Shelton's alto solo begins with terse little jabs and builds into taut, astringent figures, while Jackson rips out of the gate with hard-driving, rhythmically kinetic postbop lines on tenor; as Jackson's solo winds down, Shelton drops in phrases from the theme behind him, in sweet-sour riposte. The rhythm section serves up a crisp, stately groove on "Rings" while Shelton (on clarinet) and Jackson shape its terse up-and-down theme, with Shelton veering into the upper register of his instrument a la John Carter. Riordan expresses his deep sense of swing without relying on his ride cymbal—more often he creates a sense of propulsion with his snare and toms, and his fluid patterns provide a jagged counter to the linear shapes up front. On this visit Shelton also plays Monday at Myopic Books (1564 N. Milwaukee) with Brian Labycz and Frank Rosaly and Wednesday at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia) as a member of Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown.  10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation suggested. —Peter Margasak

Seu Jorge
  • Seu Jorge

tuesday3

SEU JORGE & Almaz Seu Jorge has released three solid modern samba albums over the last decade, but the Brazilian singer-actor (City of God, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou) hasn't exactly been pushing the envelope, which makes his new album with the trio Almaz all the more stunning. In the spring of 2008 Jorge got together with guitarist Lucio Maia and drummer Pupillo (of Recife manguebeat pioneers Nacao Zumbi) to record a track for Walter Salles's film Linha de Passé, and they had such a blast in the studio they decided to make a full album. The group, which also includes bassist Antonio Pinto, didn't write any new material for Seu Jorge and Almaz (Now-Again), choosing instead to cover a dozen songs they found meaningful. The track list includes a few unexpected Western choices (Kraftwerk's "The Model," Michael Jackson's "Rock With You") and some lesser-known Brazilian gems by the likes of Jorge Ben, Tim Maia, Nelson Cavaquinho, and Joao Donato. Former Beastie Boys sidekick Mario Caldato produced, and he captures a wonderfully loose vibe. Strong doses of dub, psychedelic samba, and gritty rock shape the spacious, elastic performances, which casually ditch some of the melodic and rhythmic ideas of the originals. But even when Almaz turns Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell's bossa nova classic "Tempo de Amor" into a minimal dirge, the drama in Jorge's deep, rough-around-the-edges voice keeps the song utterly magnetic. Elsewhere there's a totally straight take on the Roy Ayers standard "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" and a fuzzed-out spin on "Pai Joao," a rarity by the 70s hippie collective Tribo Massai. The more I've listened to this record the more I've fallen in love with it—right now, in fact, it sounds like my favorite of the year.  8 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $25. —Peter Margasak

wednesday4

BOB LOG III One-man band and Doo Rag veteran Bob Log III released his fourth solo album, My Shit Is Perfect (Birdman), last year; like its predecessors, it's full of primal, sweaty, riff-and-rhythm-driven garage blues, with fuzzy slide guitar oozing all over the place like a huge grabby radioactive slug. But as much fun as his records are, you can't really experience his essence without seeing his live show, where he plays guitar and drums all by himself—occasionally with a female audience member on his lap—while wearing a stuntman's jumpsuit and a motorcycle helmet that has a microphone (or rather a telephone handset) embedded in the visor. He's come into some criticism for his fixation on breasts (documented in nearly every song) and his tendency to encourage exhibitionism from fans who have them. But he's also quite rightly observed that, as the inventor of the "Boob Scotch" (in which a lady dips her bosom in his drink—he'll do it himself if no woman volunteers), he's given his audiences fair warning what to expect. Consider this your warning as well—and a good warning is the same as an advertisement. The Pork Torta opens. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12. —Monica Kendrick

Add a comment