Music » Soundboard

The List, October 1-7, 2009

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: the Anti-Pop Consortium, Fever Ray, Monotonix, Om, Yo La Tengo, Faust, and more

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Digital Primitives
White Hills


Anti-Pop Consortium


Fever Ray
Moore Brothers


Living Colour


Yo La Tengo


Butthole Surfers
Kylie Minogue
Yussuf Jerusalem


DIGITAL PRIMITIVES Scrappy New York improvising trio the Digital Primitives bring a rigorous and thoroughly modern approach to primeval blues-based grooves, and on their second album, Hum Crackle & Pop (Hopscotch), their focus is sharper than ever. Israeli-born reedist Assif Tsahar, the only member playing a traditional front-line instrument, looks and sometimes sounds like the band's leader, whether embroidering the written-out tunes or uncorking probing solos in his grainy, arid tone—his upper-register tenor cries on the lyrical "Love Truth" remind me of early-80s David Murray—but the center of attention is usually veteran free-jazz pianist Cooper-Moore. Here he plays no keyboard at all, instead crafting earthy, funky patterns on "primitive" homemade instruments like diddley bow and mouth bow—a device of his own design that's kind of a cross between a jaw harp and a fiddle. Tsahar and Cooper-Moore routinely use simple effects like flange and distortion, but the band's rigorous, nuanced workouts don't need any bells and whistles to get over. In combination with the lean, danceable rhythms of drummer (and former Chicagoan) Chad Taylor, Cooper-Moore's simple but eloquent contributions—the roiling diddley-bow twang on "Crackle & Pop," the slide-guitar raunch he wrings from a fretless three-string banjo on "Hum"—posit a link between modern-day club tracks and the most ancient forms of dance music. 8:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $20. —Peter Margasak

WHITE HILLS New York combo White Hills have covered a lot of territory in the past few years, from searing guitar freak-outs on 2007's Heads on Fire (recently reissued on vinyl by Thrill Jockey) to spacious ambient meditations on 2008's A Little Bliss Forever (Drug Space), which may be why people can't decide whether to call them stoner rock or space rock. Common to all of the band's music, though, is devotion to a groove—it's kind of ironic that their Dead EP, due this week on Thrill Jockey, includes a remix of one of their more rocking songs that actually deemphasizes the beat in favor of pulsing feedback and guitar tones. Those imperturbable rhythms, whether chugging or crawling, provide a broad canvas for grainy, blown-out guitar reveries—or, as the lyrics to one song call them, "electronic oceans of sound." The band sometimes chants simple lyrics, weaves in found recordings of voices, or colors the songs with synthesizer washes, but nothing can dislodge its druggy, extravagant six-string excursions from the foreground. Wovenhand headlines; White Hills and DRMWPN open.  9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12. —Peter Margasak


Anti-Pop Consortium
  • Anti-Pop Consortium

ANTI-POP CONSORTIUM New York's Anti-Pop Consortium made their mark at the turn of the century by subverting hip-hop orthodoxy. Two of APC's MCs had been regulars on the spoken-word scene, and there were more than a few strands of electronica in the group's genes; their rhymes were like riddles and their beats were often built mostly from bleeps. Many of their songs created a queasy tension between the rapping and the music: either or both might be oddly lumpy and off-kilter, bunching, stumbling, and dragging counterintuitively. Internal squabbling splintered the group in 2002, and the spin-offs—Beans's solo career, High Priest and M. Sayyid's collaboration Airborn Audio—made it clear that the three of them (plus longtime producer Earl Blaze) sounded better as a unit. They seem to have realized this themselves: on October 13 the Anti-Pop Consortium will release Fluorescent Black (Big Dada), their first album since 2002's terrific Arrhythmia (Warp), and they're picking up more or less where they left off. Of course, that means everybody else has had seven years to catch up, and as a result the album's relatively straightforward tracks—like "Shine," with its garden-variety narrative about an artist who can't handle sudden fame—sound a bit passe. Much better is "C Thru U," where the MCs' stuttering flow complements a manic electro groove and stabbing, paranoid synth. The gang chorus on "Volcano" taps into some P-Funk shit, and on "The Solution" some of the vocals are treated not with the ubiquitous Auto-Tune but with vocoder, a technology that had its heyday in the 70s—just the kind of contrarian jab for which APC has always had a special gift. Magical, Beautiful and I Kong Kult open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Peter Margasak


Fever Ray - ELIN BERG
  • Elin Berg
  • Fever Ray

FEVER RAY The Knife's 2006 album Silent Shout is deeply unsettling—though its minor-key synths, pitch-shifted vocals, and dreamlike lyrics convey the same kind of free-floating dread as Blue Velvet or Charles Burns's comic serial Black Hole, many of the songs are somehow also addictively catchy. Fever Ray is Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Knife solo—that is, without her brother, Olof Dreijer, the Knife's other half—and her self-titled debut album, released earlier this year on Mute, works the same kind of dark magic that Silent Shout does. Thunderous faux-tribal drum programs push ominous electronic swells aloft, and Dreijer Andersson's piercing, waifish vocals arrive like a cold wind that cuts clean through your coat. The standout track, "When I Grow Up," begins as an IDM-inflected ambient drone, then coalesces into tight electro-funk—and its video neatly captures the album's vibe. An elfin girl in filthy Keds and some sort of ragged shaman's costume lip-synchs to the song while standing on the diving board of a backyard pool and dancing a ritual to summon an entity from the water. A stone-faced man watches from the house, and unnameable horrors lurk just out of frame—we never see the summoned creature, if it's even a creature, just trails of bubbles, explosive sprays of water, and glimpses from the point of view of whatever it is that's moving in the pool. A sick part of my brain wants it on repeat all the time. Finnish-American singer Vuk opens with a solo set. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $25, 18+. —Miles Raymer

MONOTONIX Put on the blistering new Monotonix album, Where Were You When It Happened? (Drag City), and you can almost smell the body odor and feel the condensation coating the walls. The Tel Aviv three-piece know which side their bread is bloodied on, and in this eight-song salvo of throat-grabbing rock they aim to capture the sweaty fervor of their live shows—or at least come as close as they can without the insane antics of charismatic front man Ami Shalev, who's fond of fire, filth, climbing the walls, and stuffing himself bodily into trash cans. Last February, when I fought the flu to trudge to the Hideout for Monotonix, I was greeted immediately by flying chunks of blues-tinged punk guitar that sliced through the sticky layers of humidity in the room. Shalev wormed through the boozy crowd—the band prefers to play on the floor, not onstage—and guitarist Yonatan Gat and drummer Haggai Fershtman followed close behind, Gat with the help of a long guitar cable and Fershtman with the help of the fans, who carried him and his kit crowd-surfer style while he struggled valiantly to keep drumming. If Shalev could use something as a prop, he would, and he got especially attached to the Hideout's cow skull, repurposing it as, um, let's say a codpiece. The floor had become a beer slip 'n' slide, and in my feverish state I remember needing to try especially hard not to fall on any broken bottles. I can't even imagine what sort of mayhem Shalev and company will wreak at a space like the Logan Square Auditorium. Turbo Fruits and Ga'an open.  9 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 866-468-3401, $15. —Kevin Warwick

Monotonix - JOSH SISK
  • Josh Sisk
  • Monotonix

MOORE BROTHERS Whether it's because they share DNA or just because they've shared so much else, certain brothers—from the Delmores to the Louvins to the Everlys—have an undeniable way of harmonizing. Though they don't play country music like those other groups, the Moore Brothers—who recently moved from Oakland to the small town of Grass Valley, California—definitely do belong in that category. On their fifth album, Aptos (American Dust), Greg and Thom Moore hang the exquisite tapestry of their vocals over a framework of gentle folk pop. Their supercatchy originals have a Beatlesque sweetness, and their harmonies evoke Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills & Nash—but they've got an angle to play that those greats didn't, since their voices sound almost exactly alike and blend together flawlessly. On the record they're joined by a rhythm section that brings extra crispness and focus to the songs, but here they'll be a duo, both playing acoustic guitar. That shouldn't matter much, though—even a cappella, their singing would knock me out. Vintage Gramma and Rachele Eve open. 9 PM, Dollop Coffee, 4181 N. Clarendon, 708-655-6753, $3 suggested donation. —Peter Margasak


Living Colour - BILL BERNSTEIN
  • Bill Bernstein
  • Living Colour

LIVING COLOUR If you lost track of Living Colour not long after their 1988 breakout album, Vivid, you probably didn't miss as much as you think: they spent the last half of the 90s broken up, and since reuniting in 2000 they've released mostly live albums. Anyway it's not like they've taken their music in some unexpected new direction in the intervening years—on their brand-new studio record, The Chair in the Doorway (Megaforce), they're instantly recognizable, thanks to Corey Glover's unmistakable singing and Vernon Reid's equally unmistakable shredding. They've gotten a bit thrashier and gnarlier with age, and Glover's voice is higher, a little more like H.R.—never a bad thing. Sekond Skyn opens. 8 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $20. —Jessica Hopper


OM Since Om play such long-form minimalist doom drone—their songs often run more than 15 minutes, and in late 2007 they played a set in Jerusalem that topped five hours—it's easy to think of them as existing outside any human time frame, like an ancient stone idol that only ever changes imperceptibly as the wind and rain do their work. Of course, that's an illusion—bassist and vocalist Al Cisneros and original drummer Chris Hakius were once the rhythm section of Sleep, and in early 2008 Hakius departed, to be replaced by Emil Amos, also of Grails. Om's new album, God Is Good (Drag City), is Amos's first; it was recorded at Electrical Audio by Steve Albini and includes guest appearances by Lorraine Rath on flute and Chicago's own Robert A.A. Lowe, aka Lichens, who adds tambura to the sexy trance-out of the 19-minute opening track, "Thebes." Om have such a solid foundation, though, that a new drummer and extra players don't upset the band's disciplined aesthetic balance. Like Sunn 0))), they can apparently pile on the adornment and still sound like themselves: uneasy mystical ecstasy in slow gravitational motion. Lichens and Ga'an open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $15. —Monica Kendrick

YO LA TENGO It's been three years since Yo La Tengo's I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, but we've hardly had to suffer through a drought of music from the band. On Fuckbook (Matador), released this spring under the name Condo Fucks, they ran songs by the Beach Boys, Slade, and Richard Hell through a garage-punk blender. You can't get the original music they wrote for Adventureland yet, but last year's They Shoot, We Score (Egon) rounds up Yo La Tengo material from Shortbus, Junebug, Old Joy, and Game 6. And then there's the splendid new studio album Popular Songs (Matador), which kicks off with the best musical response to the recession I've heard yet. The lyrics to "Here to Fall" sound pretty bleak ("I know you're worried / I'm worried too / But if you're ready I'm here to fall with you / What else is there for us to do?"), but the song's groove—think Curtis Mayfield meets Sun Ra at King Tubby's—never fails to buck me up. Subsequent tracks bring succinct forays into swooning pop, fragile folk rock and playful, 60s-steeped R & B—and then come two long, dreamy space-outs and an even longer feedback eruption. Whatever it takes to help you get out of your head, whether it's sweet bubblegum backup vocals or ego-destroying noise, the trio are at your service. Tennessean garage rockers Cheap Time open. 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $24, 18+. —Bill Meyer


BUTTHOLE SURFERS This anarchic Texas-born band has never operated by anything you could call a rule—if you were to study the Butthole Surfers' nearly 30-year career and try to extrapolate a governing principle from it, I doubt you'd do any better than "Constantly piss off as many people as possible." Freaking out the squares was the easy part, taken care of with the band's notoriously messy, lewd, and pyromaniacal live shows and a string of early recordings that crashed punk rock head-on into Yoko Ono's weirdest records and a heroic quantity of LSD—for my money they've never topped 1987's brilliantly warped Locust Abortion Technician. Enraging people sympathetic to the band was tougher, but the Surfers rose to the occasion: by the mid-90s they were releasing generic alt-rock, and then they squandered their remaining credibility by successfully suing Touch and Go for ownership of their back catalog. If they're not universally unloved now, it's thanks to the forgiving glow of nostalgia, not anything they've done to redeem themselves. They're currently touring with the lineup from their late-80s heyday, which is at least not another step backward. This show is part of Riot Fest; the House That Gloria Vanderbilt, the Bomb, and Blackbox open. 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $24. —Miles Raymer

FAUST Faust's first incarnation was more like a commune than a band. Living together in a German farmhouse, between 1971 and '75 they produced a body of work that challenged almost every convention in pop music. They stitched together elements of rock, classical, jazz, and prerock popular song, indulging in brazen studio trickery and dadaist humor, and they attracted enough attention with their releases—their first album was on clear vinyl in a transparent sleeve, and they sold their most radical effort, a sprawling LP-length collage called The Faust Tapes, for 49 pence, the price of a single—to become notorious even though they barely toured and rarely gigged. Founding members Jean-Hervé Peron (vocals, guitar, bass), Werner "Zappi" Diermaier (drums), and Hans-Joachim Irmler (keyboard) sat out almost all of the next 15 years, and since then they've carried on like a feuding family: both Peron and Irmler have toured and recorded with Diermaier, but all three haven't played together since 1997. Irmler is in charge and Peron is absent on 1999's Ravvivando, while the opposite is true on 2007's Nurse With Wound collaboration Disconnected. And in October of last year, dueling versions of Faust played on the same day in Austria and England. The four-piece group appearing tonight includes Peron and Diermaier, whose latest record, C'est Com . . . Com . . . Complique (Bureau B), is fairly rock oriented thanks in part to French guitarist Amaury Cambuzat, who's since moved on. The lineup here is rounded out by guitarist James Johnston (Gallon Drunk, Bad Seeds) and painter, video artist, and vocalist Geraldine Swayne. Expect monstrously heavy rhythms and cross your fingers for a spectacle—Faust's live show has been known to include real-time painting, TV smashing, functional cement mixers, and an old boiler repurposed as a percussion instrument. Bobby Conn opens. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $20. —Bill Meyer

KYLIE MINOGUE Kylie Minogue's 2001 album Fever topped charts all over the globe and spawned several club classics, but since then her path has been far from smooth. Sales of her 2003 follow-up, Body Language, were relatively tepid, and in 2005 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to cut short a tour to fight it. But on her tenth and latest album, 2007's X (Parlophone), Minogue shows no signs of being worse for wear. In interviews she's unpacked the meanings of some of its songs, explaining how they reflect on her struggle, but if you only listen to the music you'd never be able to tell—it's pure disco candy, as glossy, glitzy, and featherweight as anything she's done. The album was nominated for a Grammy, but she has yet to conquer the U.S. market. Perhaps it's her weird blend of perkiness and seductiveness that isn't clicking, or perhaps America's pop machinery doesn't know what to make of a woman who's basically the anti-Madonna—mortal, vulnerable, earnestly coquettish, modeling for H&M instead of Louis Vuitton, her trademark look gold hot pants instead of couture fetishwear. Minogue may be downmarket sassy, but she's no less a star. Moved from the Congress Theater. 8 PM, UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine, 312-413-5740 or 312-559-1212, $75. —Jessica Hopper

YUSSUF JERUSALEM Most contemporary lo-fi sounds like the monochromatic four-track dick-arounds that dope dealers in college dorms insist on playing, as a sort of surcharge to that first smoke-out. So it's refreshing to hear France's Yussuf Jerusalem use the freedom of lo-fi recording—a freedom whose usual by-product is self-indulgence from would-be bedroom auteurs who really could've used some bandmates to act as editors—to make a willfully challenging and prismatically audacious album. The band's debut LP, last year's A Heart Full of Sorrow (the first full-length from Orlando label Floridas Dying), skips from genre to genre with the same sort of derring-do Led Zeppelin showed off when they tried their hands at calypso and bluegrass—and does it without the rock-dinosaur excess. The first song, "Gilles de Rais," is corrosive black metal, but before you can start wondering what might come on a Yussuf Jerusalem burger at Kuma's, the album careens into a brooding gothic waltz, a Marianne Faithfull cover, a piece of paranoid psych-pop that sounds like something Syd Barrett might've written in his mummy's garden, and finally an original tune that could be a Bill Callahan homage. It should be interesting to see what directions this takes onstage—and on future releases. Thomas Function headlines. Yussuf Jerusalem also plays a free in-store with opener Judith Swan at Permanent Records, 1914 W. Chicago, at 6 PM.  9 PM, Ronny's, 2101 N. California,, $7. —Brian Costello

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