ARMS & SLEEPERS Arms & Sleepers have flown under the radar in their hometown of Boston since forming in 2006. Max Lewis and Mirza Ramic, the group's core duo, make lush, ambient electronic soundscapes, and most folks in Beantown seem to be keeping an eye out for the next Pixies—it's almost bizarre how thoroughly guitar-based indie rock dominates the city's music scene. Arms & Sleepers are more about creating expansive moods than big singles; their warm, low-key songs balance languor and liveliness, combining buoyant hip-hop beats with soothing vocals (both from samples and from an array of guests). Onstage Arms & Sleepers synchronize their music moment by moment with a series of evocative but nonnarrative short films (hazy sepia-tone footage of a guy walking along the Charles River, shots of apparently abandoned carnival rides, et cetera). For this tour they've got a new addition to their live show—singer Ben Shepard of Brooklyn rock act Uzi & Ari—and Lewis will be staying home. They're playing in support of two 2011 releases: Nostalgia for the Absolute, whose minimalist instrumentals remind me of the score to The Social Network, and their forthcoming third album, The Organ Hearts (both on Expect Candy). Blink. headlines. 9:30 PM, the Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-3530. —Leor Galil
JAMES FALZONE, LOU MALLOZZI, AND MICHAEL VORFELD In Michael Vorfeld's visual art, the arrangement of light sources—lamps, fluorescent fixtures, slide projectors—transforms the viewer's perception of a space. But it can also be an end in and of itself, and the Berlin-based percussionist wields sound much as he does light. On Snake's Eye (Formed), a 2009 album that Vorfeld and percussionist Christian Wolfarth made as Vorwolf, the reverberations of stroked metal and membranes accentuate the relatively conventional kit work much like spotlights change the appearance of a sculpture. But on "Parabel," a track from his 2010 solo CD Flugangst (Monotype), there's nothing that sounds like drumming set against the rustle of agitated snares and the sigh of bowed cymbals, and unmoored like this, they become a vast, encompassing presence. If you're reading this on Wednesday, April 6, you may still be able to see Vorfeld at the Goethe-Institut, where he's lecturing on the lightbulb as a cultural artifact and presenting a short excerpt of Light Bulb Music—in which he transforms the flicker of fixtures into a sound field teeming with clicks and hums. (That event starts at 7 PM, and it's free.) Tonight he'll stick to percussion as he improvises with two locals, electronicist and turntable artist Lou Mallozzi and clarinetist James Falzone. Double bassist Devin Hoff opens with a solo set. 10 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, $7. —Bill Meyer
JOE LOVANO For most of his two decades at Blue Note, reedist Joe Lovano has made concept records. But whether they've been tied to an instrumental setting, a subgenre, or a historic figure (Frank Sinatra, Gunther Schuller), these concepts have never just been gimmicks to prop Lovano up—as a musician and bandleader he's followed an utterly independent path. Fluent in the history and development of jazz over the past six or seven decades, Lovano long ago established himself as a brilliant synthesist who gently but consistently pushes the envelope from his roost in the mainstream. He's arguably among the two or three most respected and influential saxophonists in jazz today, and no longer needs to justify his artistic choices—particularly when the results sound as good as Bird Songs, his 22nd album for Blue Note and the second effort by his quintet Us Five. In the press materials for Bird Songs, Lovano says he didn't approach it as a tribute—a rather absurd statement about a record focusing on the music of Charlie Parker. Accompanied by Esperanza Spalding (bass), James Weidman (piano), Otis Brown III (drums), and Francisco Mela (drums), Lovano remakes the material, parsing Parker's melodies to build improvisations from terse fragments, incorporating Brazilian and Caribbean grooves, and slowing down ripping tunes to ballad speed. On "Passport" Lovano navigates the blistering tempo with immaculate articulation and nimble logic, his thoroughly modern playing demonstrating his mastery of bebop's 70-year-old lessons. In the album's liner notes, he writes that these arrangements are his personal response to "unanswered questions" about where Parker might've taken his music if he hadn't died at 34—another way of saying that they reveal where Lovano's music is today. He fronts Us Five for this engagement, with Petar Slavov subbing for Spalding and Steve Williams filling in for Mela. See also Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $25. —Peter Margasak
HAYES CARLL As a student of Steve Earle's twangy country-rock drawl and Bob Dylan's word-crammed cadences on "Subterranean Homesick Blues," Hayes Carll has few contemporary rivals, but on his new record for Lost Highway, KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories), the Texan sometimes struggles when he ventures into other territory. A sharp sense of humor and nonchalant smarts run through everything he does, but on the ballad "Hard Out Here," where he's mock indignant about how hard it is to be a budding country star, his humor seems like a way to distance himself from any real feeling. He does show some nice range (and vulnerability) on the emotional ballad "Chances Are," and the high-energy title track—whose wild narrative follows an enlistee unhappy with a tour in Afghanistan, who turns to stealing poppies from the Taliban and gets sent home to become a guinea pig for military drug experiments—benefits from Carll's sly chutzpah. I'm betting he's got more than enough talent to step out of the shadows of his influences (among them fellow Texans like Ray Wylie Hubbard and Guy Clark), but he's not quite ready yet. Shovels & Rope open. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, sold out. —Peter Margasak
DAEDELUS, SHLOHMO When California's so-called post-hip-hop scene began to coalesce, it seemed likely to produce little more than slight variations on the sound Flying Lotus perfected on his mind-bending 2008 breakthrough, Los Angeles—psychedelic samples arranged with a sensibility on loan from avant-garde jazz, tangling with beats that circle (but never lock into) the standard boom-bap. Had that been the case, I probably wouldn't have minded—as Radiohead's The King of Limbs proves, there's still a lot of mileage left in FlyLo's formula. But the brightest names in the game have moved on to other things. Take DAEDELUS: aided by an array of guest vocalists, from neosoul crooner Bilal to chillwaver Baths, the beat maker steers toward electro-pop on the forthcoming Bespoke (Ninja Tune), with relatively club-friendly rhythms and a stronger sense of melody. The track titles refer obliquely to high-end menswear, and the songs themselves—tasteful and clean-lined—suit that conceit just fine.
Post-hip-hop has long flirted with ambient music; SHLOHMO makes the relationship official with his recent Places EP (Friends of Friends). He lets his airy, dreamlike compositions drift wherever they please, which frequently seems to be right to the edge of unraveling completely into hypnotic washes of sound. With its amorphous structures and gentle sonic palette—plump bass synths, reverb-soaked bells, bird calls—Places should have no trouble finding an audience of bliss-seeking stoners.
Daedelus headlines; Tokimonsta and Shlohmo open. 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775, $18, $15 in advance, 17+. —Miles Raymer
- Anastasi osKetsios
INDIAN, BLOODIEST It's been three long years since Chicago doom unit INDIAN released an album. The news that they'd signed to Relapse for their fourth full-length boded well, as did the addition of a second guitarist and vocalist, Will Lindsay of Wolves in the Throne Room. Produced by Sanford Parker and due on Tuesday, Guiltless is worth the wait—a hundred tons of crusty, primitive grit, churning with a beautiful mess of greasy, grimy gopher guts. The noise and drone elements that were already a huge part of Indian's sound don't exactly dominate the record, but they add something important this time out: a new feeling of promise and threat, woven deep into the fuzzy, feedback-drooling riffs. And then there's something like emotional depth, which I wasn't quite prepared for: Guiltless is akin to a song cycle of remorse and ruthlessness, a cathartic drama of accused and accuser, all rendered in vicious, vibrating screams. This isn't the almost relaxing flavor of doom favored by heavy-lidded stoners—this is Armageddon style. —Monica Kendrick
Not to disparage the efforts of the good people at Relapse's design department, but if they were really serious about capturing the feel of Descent, the new debut album by local septet BLOODIEST, they would've packaged each copy in a jagged monolith of black marble as tall as a three-flat. That approach would at least adequately reflect Descent's immense mass and raw, cruel beauty. Working out of Steve Albini's Electrical Audio, producer Sanford Parker didn't do much more than capture the band as they sound in their killer live shows—and that's all he really needed to do. When you've got three guitars, gothic piano, and the unhinged vocalizations of man-about-metal-town Bruce Lamont, do you even need overdubs? Descent rumbles with the heavy energy of metal, but there's something almost classically elegant about the way the songs carry themselves, even as they edge toward pure noise. —Miles Raymer
Indian headlines; Bloodiest and Anatomy of Habit open. 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $8.
ROBERT PLANT & THE BAND OF JOY Most classic-rock titans still active today are washed-up chumps. Robert Plant is that rare icon who's maintained his dignity through the decades, and part of the reason is that he still seems to love music—you can hear it on Raising Sand, his excellent 2007 collaboration with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss. For last year's terrific Band of Joy (Rounder), produced by Plant and Nashville guitarist Buddy Miller, Miller assembled a flexible band that tackled a slew of dark American folk tunes and well-crafted numbers of a more recent vintage by the likes of Low, Los Lobos, and Richard Thompson. Age has tempered Plant's voice, and he smolders rather than wails, meticulously modulating to suit the mood of each cut—he brings whispery intensity to "Monkey" (where he's shadowed by Patty Griffin's gorgeous singing) and shades of Arabic melisma to "Even This Shall Pass Away" (Plant was a fan of Saharan rockers Tinariwen long before they became Pitchfork's flavor of the week). On this tour Plant leads an excellent version of the album's ensemble—Miller, Griffin, bassist Byron House, drummer Marco Giovino, and stringed-instrument whiz Darrell Scott. If the New York Times review of a recent concert can be trusted, they'll ratchet up the energy level on tunes from the record and throw in a few Led Zeppelin classics. The North Mississippi Allstars opens. 8 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy., 312-902-1500, sold out. —Peter Margasak
WIRE Most 35-year-old bands are doing pretty well if their old songs don't make the new ones sound embarrassing. But Wire isn't just any band; their most indelible work has combined catchy pop with a cruel, knowing subversion of pop's most arresting qualities, guided by a restless refusal to settle for doing the same thing twice. So even though the alternately graceful and brutal songs on Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag) prove that the band can still match the high points in their catalog, it's disconcerting how much of the record sounds like retooled versions of older material: the tick-tock rhythm on "Clay" brings to mind a streamlined interpretation of "I Am the Fly," while the acerbically lilting "Please Take" sounds like it popped out of the same bubble as "Kidney Bingos." But tucked away at the end of the album is "Red Barked Trees," a song like nothing else in Wire's discography. Propelled by waltz-time drumming from Robert Grey and briskly strummed bouzouki and acoustic guitar, it's a sublime folk-rock tune that delivers a dry-eyed analysis of the inherent conflict between technological progress and the still-untapped offerings of the natural world. On this tour, guitarist Matt Simms joins the core Wire lineup of Grey, Colin Newman (voice, guitar), and Graham Lewis (voice, bass). Lasers and Fast and Shit open. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $21, 18+. —Bill Meyer
WORMROT I'm told that Singapore is one of the cleanest cities in the world—you can land in some real trouble for getting careless with chewing gum or cigarette butts. So of course it's also produced one of the filthiest, nastiest grindcore bands in recent memory. Upstart trio Wormrot signed to Earache in early 2010 after label head Digby Pearson heard them on a mix Andrew Childers from Grind and Punishment posted at Cosmo Lee's great metal blog, Invisible Oranges. Last spring the label reissued the band's debut, Abuse, and set up their first U.S. tour (which their manager documented in three hilarious IO posts). Last fall Wormrot took fourth place in the worldwide grindcore "tournament" decided by the readers of Childers's blog, and even Lee, who's not much of a grindcore fan, called their gig at Scion Rock Fest in March "one of the most perfect live sets I've ever seen." The band's follow-up to Abuse, called Dirge, won't see a physical release till May, but after it leaked online Earache just shrugged and treated fans to a free legitimate download, obviously confident that the more people hear of Wormrot, the more they'll want. Dirge injects fresh life (death?) into a style that can seem monotonous—the band modulates its vicious bursts of momentum with surgical precision, which is practically the only way to keep the audience on the hook in a genre that almost totally lacks choruses and melodies and barely has room for recognizable riffs. The album is an unrelenting and nearly flawless 18 minutes of sick, ballistic violence (that's, uh, 25 songs), but you won't feel time passing till the music stops and you're standing there wondering what the fuck just happened to you. Sick/Tired, War Brides, and Blackbeard open. 9 PM, Pancho's, 2200 N. California, 866-468-3401, $10, 18+. —Monica Kendrick
ICP ORCHESTRA Amsterdam's brilliant ICP Orchestra, founded in 1967 by pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink, turns in an unexpectedly straight reading of the Thelonious Monk standard "'Round Midnight" on its most recent album, the vinyl-only !ICP! 50 (released on the band's own label, it's named after its catalog number). But even though nobody upends the performance with a burst of characteristic prankishness, it's playful and surprising in other, more subtle ways: the gorgeous arrangement calls on the members of the ten-piece group to juggle its melody among themselves, and they're constantly changing roles. The ICP Orchestra is well into its fifth decade, and by now its shenanigans are familiar—such is its predilection for self-sabotage that someone in the band often drops a new tune into the middle of a song everybody else is already playing—but those old tactics can still produce fresh and original music. !ICP! 50 and its CD-only predecessor, ICP 0rchestra (both from last year), make it clear that the group hasn't lost an ounce of potency: it leaps from wide-ranging composed material to equally eclectic improvisations with a wildness that seems chaotic but actually arises from graceful, invisible communication among the musicians. This is the group's first trip to town since its appearance at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2008, and now as then, both Mengelberg and Bennink will play solo before the full-band show. Tonight's concert, part of the tenth-anniversary celebration of the Hungry Brain's Sunday Transmission Series, moves from those solo sets into ad hoc groupings drawn from the rest of the band's roster: trumpeter Thomas Heberer, bassist Ernst Glerum, cellist Tristan Honsinger, trombonist Wolter Wierbos, violinist and violist Mary Oliver, and reedists Ab Baars, Michael Moore, and Tobias Delius. It might seem like the ICP Orchestra plays pretty often here, but I wouldn't take it for granted, not with Mengelberg turning 76 in June. See also Monday. Update: Due to fatigue Mengelberg has returned to Amsterdam and will not join the group for this weekend's shows. 9 PM, Hungry Brain, 773-935-2118, $15 suggested donation. —Peter Margasak
- Septeto Nacional
SEPTETO NACIONAL Like any ghost band, Havana institution Septeto Nacional exists largely for nostalgic reasons. It's still around to preserve son—Cuba's classic sound—as it was developed by the group's founder, bassist, and composer, the late Ignacio Piñeiro. The band was called Sexteto Nacional upon its founding in 1927, but then Piñeiro recruited trumpeter Lazaro Herrera—a move that modernized its sound, gave it extra melodic and improvisational muscle, and helped make the septet format (bass, two percussionists, acoustic guitar, tres, vocalist, and trumpet) the default in son for several decades. Septeto Nacional's show in Chicago a couple years ago, one of its first stateside gigs since 1933, was an early symptom of a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations, and the ensemble is returning to town with a terrific new album, Sin Rumba No Hay Son! (World Village). Sturdy originals complement the classic cuts, and singer Eugenio Rodriguez has the soulful style and power to keep the music lively despite its throwback sound. 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $22, $20 members, $18 seniors and children. —Peter Margasak
ICP ORCHESTRA See Sunday. This is a performance by the entire ensemble. Update: Due to fatigue pianist Misha Mengelberg has returned to Amsterdam and will not join the group for this weekend's shows. 6:30 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630.
REMPIS PERCUSSION QUARTET The name saxophonist Dave Rempis chose for this ferocious ensemble alludes to its two drummers—Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly, both pillars of Chicago's diverse improvised-music scene. But ever since powerhouse Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten (Atomic, the Thing) replaced Anton Hatwich in early 2009, it might as well be referring to him too. The Rempis Percussion Quartet's fifth and latest album, Montreal Parade (482 Music), is its first with Haaker Flaten, and when Rempis drops out of "This Is Not a Tango," the bassist's furious thwacks and string snaps make it sound a bit like a third drummer has joined the fray. In his liner notes Rempis writes that he made the lineup change to "inject some fresh energy and ideas" (he joined Haaker Flaten's now-defunct quintet in 2006, so they know each other's playing), and though this hasn't affected the group's basic MO, its attack is certainly different. Daisy and Rosaly keep time despite plenty of sideways, coloristic excursions, but the way they interact to subtly shape the music's grooves often creates more of a steady simmer than a driving pulse—the bassist is the real motor of the group. Rempis benefits hugely from the drummers' constant motion and variation, as they roll from high-velocity swing to abstract funk to stuttering shuffles to hydroplaning cymbal scrapes without a hiccup—they give him the freedom to unfurl his rangy lines in any direction he can imagine. He delivers a tirelessly energetic performance on the 42-minute "If You Were a Waffle and I Were a Bee," running the gamut from astringent, buoyant postbop to howling free jazz. Rempis is already a respected and valuable figure in Chicago jazz, but Montreal Parade makes a case that he's still underrated. Jeff Parker spins; the Rempis Percussion Quartet also plays Sun 4/17 at 10 PM at the Hungry Brain. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $8. —Peter Margasak