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The List: October 29-November 4, 2009

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: Ghostface Killah, Dan Deacon, Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, and more

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Thursday29

Peeping Tom
Wye Oak

Friday30

Dan Deacon
Vijay Iyer
Kad Bi Bio Bijelo Dugme
Peeping Tom
Poster Children
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down

Saturday31

Arriver
Warsaw Village Band

Sunday1

Debashish Bhattacharya
Pacifica Quartet

Tuesday3

Marble Sheep

Wednesday4

Ghostface Killah
Yasmin Levy

thursday29

PEEPING TOM On its superb debut album, File Under: Bebop (Umlaut), this clever French-Swedish trio transforms classic tunes by the likes of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell into delivery systems for loosey-goosey free jazz. Alto saxophonist Pierre-Antoine Badaroux, bassist Joel Grip, and drummer Antonin Gerbal clearly love and understand the hijacked standards, and in each performance Peeping Tom refer back to abstracted bits of their source material. Their buoyant, spontaneous improvisations are somehow both craggy and lithe, hurtling surefootedly along knotty paths—even at its most chaotic the music is as elegant as it is explosive. Local electroacoustic trio Breakway opens. See also Friday. 10 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, donation requested. —Peter Margasak

WYE OAK Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack sometimes sparkled on their raw debut as Wye Oak, If Children, but on their second album, The Knot (Merge), the Baltimore indie-rock duo consistently shine. Wasner's vocals have matured from merely airy to wistfully soulful, and the arrangements nudge her to the fore, so that compared to the first record there's more breathing room between the exhilarating passages where she and Stack sing twirling double melodies—a smart restraint that makes them even more powerful when they do arrive. The Knot has an almost orchestral polish thanks to overdubbed violin, pedal steel, and piano, but it's roughed up by sweeping, dissonant guitar noise that wavers between dainty twangs and dilated crunches, each deftly mirrored in tone and rhythm by Wasner's singing. With this sophisticated record, Wye Oak have skipped ahead a few grades—they've ditched the teeter-totter and are ready to share the jungle gym with the big kids. Herman Dune headlines; Julie Doiron and Wye Oak open. On their previous visit they were a two-piece, with Wasner on guitar and Stack playing drums and keyboards, sometimes at the same time. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $14, $12 in advance. —Kevin Warwick

Wye Oak
  • Dan Stack
  • Wye Oak

friday30

DAN DEACON I've said some mean things about Dan Deacon. I've called his music "boring" and "the worst thing since car accidents." I've referred to him as a "sweaty man-child" and described his live show as a "blazing Technicolor annoyance machine." I've accused him of making music ironically, and I've made light of the theft of his beloved strobing-green-skull stage prop. I don't remember any specific instances where I've made fun of his fashion sense, but I can't imagine I haven't gotten around to it. And OK, I take it all back. Last year I had a road-to-Damascus moment after meeting Deacon backstage before a show he played in Washington, D.C., and I realized that the dude is serious about what he does—even his performing-on-the-floor crowd-participation thing is more than simple shtick. Ever since then his music's made sense to me in a way that it never did before. It helps that this year's Bromst (Carpark) swaps out some of the Day-Glo overload of his earlier stuff for a darker, more organic strain of hipster electro-tribalism. He could still stand to kick his wardrobe up a notch, but at this point I'm willing to overlook it. Nuclear Power Pants open. 8 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 866-468-3401, sold out. —Miles Raymer

VIJAY IYER TRIO On his superb new album, Historicity (ACT), Vijay Iyer hasn't exactly reinvented the piano trio, but he does treat the format as something more than a showcase for flashy extended solos. It's not that Iyer, bassist Stephan Crump, and drummer Marcus Gilmore don't improvise. Though they're playing tunes, not free jazz, these are some of the most rigorous, multipronged improvisational performances I've heard this year—all three members independently and spontaneously retool the material, and no one player is ever really in the spotlight. In a departure for Iyer, only four of the ten pieces are originals (and only two of those are new), but almost none of the others are part of the standard jazz repertoire—the trio reshapes songs by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Leonard Bernstein, and Andrew Hill so thoroughly that they might as well be entirely new works, a practice Iyer refers to as "versioning" in the liner notes. The most imaginative improvising here isn't of the usual solo-over-chord-changes variety; instead the trio plays with tempo, density, phrasing, and groove, creating a wonderful tension between the way we expect to hear the tunes and what Iyer and company do with them. In his takes on M.I.A.'s "Galang" and Ronnie Foster's "Mystic Brew" (best known as a sample source for A Tribe Called Quest's "Electric Relaxation") he mutates and dilates key passages beyond recognition. Justin Brown will play drums here; the quartet of bassist Dave Holland, pianist Jason Moran, saxophonist Chris Potter, and drummer Eric Harland headlines. 8 PM, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $18-$70. —Peter Margasak

KAD BI BIO BIJELO DUGME As if the country's ethnic mix and sub­sequent fragmentation didn't make Yugo nostalgia confusing enough, now the most popular band ever to come from Yugoslavia, Bijelo Dugme, are reunited and touring as Kad Bi Bio Bijelo Dugme—the name of their first single, which translates as "If I Were a White Button." The lineup is missing founder and songwriter Goran Bregovic, but it includes all three lead singers from the group's original run. Bijelo Dugme formed in 1974 in Sarajevo, and in 1989, when Yugoslavia started to fall apart, so did the band. Their recordings haven't all aged well—despite early influences like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, they often sound like the Rolling Stones trying to play Slavic disco—but there's no question that Bijelo Dugme are the reason Yugoslavia developed an indigenous rock scene when and how it did. They also made huge hits of songs inspired by Balkan folk music, including "Lipe Cvatu" ("Lindens Are Blooming") and "Djurdjevdan," a version of the Romany tune "Ederlezi" (which Bregovic rearranged as part of the soundtrack he did for Emir Kusturica's 1988 film Time of the Gypsies). After the band split, Bregovic went on to international fame with his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra and several more Kusturica soundtracks, but his bandmates have struggled. Original vocalist Zeljko Bebek left in 1984, to be replaced by Mladen Vojicic (aka Tifa), who was replaced in '86 by Alen Islamovic of Yugo metal band Divlje Jagode ("Wild Strawberries"). Though Bregovic has participated in some of the recent Bijelo Dugme reunion activity—including a 2005 series of arena shows that drew as many as a quarter million fans—Bebek, Tifa, and Islamovic are keeping a version of the band going on their own (the name change is to avoid legal trouble). The current touring lineup includes musicians who played with the original band at various times, though not necessarily together; the three singers will perform the Bijelo Dugme tunes they each popularized and share the stage for other songs. DJs Spaz and Urban spin. 9 PM, Hanging Gardens Banquets, 8301 W. Belmont, River Grove, 312-593-7233 (Serbian language only), $60, $50 in advance. Tickets available at Fortuna Market (2706 W. Peterson, 773-381-3354), Kikos Meat Market (5077 N. Lincoln, 773-271-7006), City Fresh Market (3201 W. Devon, 773-681-8600), Beograd Meat Market (2937 W. Irving Park, 773-478-7575), and Bosna Video (2501 W. Lawrence, 773-275-8281), among other locations. —Vera Videnovich

PEEPING TOM See Thursday. The trio of trombonist Nick Broste, reedist Keefe Jackson, and bassist Anton Hatwich opens. 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor, heavengallery.com, donation requested.

POSTER CHILDREN Before geek chic and nerdcore, before the era when guys with dot-com start-ups became their own kind of rock star, Champaign's Poster Children were proud brainiacs. They named records after techie lingo (1997's RTFM takes its title from the acronym for "read the fucking manual"), they established a strong Internet presence before most people even knew what the Internet was (the band's tour blog dates to 1995, years before the word "blog" entered the vernacular), and under the name Salaryman they released electronic music that was basically a mash note to computer sounds. They also made a lot of pretty great jams along the way, and the albums from their heyday, which spanned most of the 90s—my favorites are 1991's Daisychain Reaction and 1993's Tool of the Man—are some of the best crunchy, clever guitar pop of the era. Crunchy, clever guitar pop has fallen out of style since then, but being fashionable has never been high on the Poster Children's list of priorities. Ifihadahifi and Droids Attack open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $14, $12 in advance. —Miles Raymer

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down - TARINA WESTLUND

THAO WITH THE GET DOWN STAY DOWN Thao Nguyen and her band have always made pretty upbeat music, but the new Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars) is even more playful and extroverted—Nguyen pushes her parched, soulful drawl into novel settings, like the ebullient, horn-stoked strut of "Cool Yourself" and the supercatchy Brill Building sass of "When We Swam." The only song that really sounds dark is the brief first track, "The Clap," a sort of mournful field holler ("If this is how you want it / OK, OK") that's just crowd vocals, foot stomps, and hand claps. Throughout the album, though, the lyrics belie the music's sunny tone. On "Body" Nguyen demands "What am I, just a body in your bed?," and on the title track she tangles with the muddled emotions of a relationship that's well past the honeymoon phase: "I disarm you in the morning / But I was up in arms all night." Inventive arrangements by the Get Down Stay Down (aka drummer Willis Thompson and bassist-keyboardist Adam Thompson—no relation) get an extra boost from Tucker Martine's lean, punchy production and the contributions of a slew of guests—nimble whistling from Andrew Bird, backing vocals from Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards—but Nguyen's singing is so confident, flexible, and expressive I think I'd be fine listening to her a cappella. Openers the Portland Cello Project, whose recent The Thao & Justin Power Sessions (Kill Rock Stars) features collaborations with Nguyen, will lend members to the Get Down Stay Down for parts of this set; David Schultz & the Skyline play first. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $13, limited $10 tickets. —Peter Margasak

saturday31

ARRIVER I hate the phrase "thinking man's metal," mostly because it implies that ordinary metal is for mouth breathers. Much if not most metal is dizzyingly complex musically, and thematically it often draws on literary, political, historical, and occult sources that require more than just basic literacy to digest. But even if you grant that metal takes some brains to do right, Chicago's Arriver are pushing the envelope: their debut album was a surreal war epic constructed around the output of a glitchy voice-recognition program, and their brand-new Simon Mann EP focuses on an abortive 2004 coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea engineered by a South African war profiteer. Brothers Dan and Rob Sullivan, who play guitar and eight-string bass (you might remember them from the Butchershop Quartet), are joined by second guitarist Dan MacAdam and a new drummer, Joe Kaplan. I'm always a little anxious when a band I already liked undergoes a lineup change, but the three songs on Simon Mann are terrifyingly focused, even as they shift nonchalantly between robotic Meshuggoid thrash, proggy riffing, stoner-rock swagger, techy death metal, and bursts of nasty grind—they're like floodlights cutting through the fog of war. This is a release party; forthcoming imminently is Arriver's second full-length, which allegedly recounts the decimation of the Russian navy by the Japanese in 1904. Rabid Rabbit and Den of Vipers open. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Monica Kendrick

Warsaw Village Band
  • Warsaw Village Band

WARSAW VILLAGE BAND On their latest and best album, Infinity (Barbes), the Warsaw Village Band bring the energy of modern pop to music that predates rock 'n' roll by centuries. They adapt traditional folk songs from Poland's distant past, material that was once suppressed by the communist leadership, couching them in a vigorous interplay of riffs and counterriffs rendered by rich, slashing strings—cello, viola, violin—and the glassy rat-a-tat of a hammer dulcimer. Cellist and front woman Maja Kleszcz often sings the eerie, magnetic melodies together with dulcimer player Magdalena Sobczak, and in combination their voices can be ethereal or piercing or both at once—Kleszcz counts among her influences the laserlike, vibratoless tones of the bialy glos style. Several songs are predicated on possible historical connections between Polish traditions and instruments and those from Sweden, the Middle East, and even India, and some of the guest players are rooted in equally far-flung contemporary genres—DJ Feel-X, aka Polish MC and producer Sebastian Filiks, drops tasteful turntable scratches into "Skip Funk." But the band are so assured in their grasp of traditional music that no matter what foreign sounds they ask their songs to accommodate, every element feels like part of the same organic whole. Eastern Blok opens. 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $22, $20 members, $18 seniors and kids. —Peter Margasak

sunday1

DEBASHISH BHATTACHARYA Debashish Bhattacharya pioneered the use of the slide guitar in Indian classical music, and on his latest release, O Shakuntala! (Riverboat), he continues to tweak tradition even as he embraces it. The ten tracks on the album are loosely aligned with the narrative of the Abhigyana Shakuntalam, an ancient epic love story by the great Sanskrit poet and playwright Kalidasa, and Bhattacharya sticks to musical approaches several centuries old. But the three guitars he plays—among them the chaturangui, which has 12 sympathetic strings and two drone strings—are of his own design. He also nonchalantly collides Hindustani and Carnatic elements. The opener, "Megha Re," is gorgeously austere, while the ebullient "Priyatameshu" is wide-ranging and richly ornamented; the ensemble features both tabla, a staple of Hindustani music, and traditionally Carnatic drums like mridangam and pakhawaj. For this concert Bhattacharya is joined by his brother Subhasis on tabla. 3:30 PM, International House, University of Chicago, 1414 E. 59th, 708-798-2025, $20, $10 students. —Peter Margasak

PACIFICA QUARTET The Pacifica Quartet plays here so regularly that, were it not for its bold programming and performance style, Chicagoans might be lulled into taking the group for granted. The rest of the country certainly doesn't: this year the quartet won a Grammy, was named ensemble of the year by Musical America, and succeeded the Guarneri Quartet (after a 43-year run) as resident ensemble at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here the Pacificas offer a fantastic program that plays to their strengths while demonstrating their considerable range. First is Mendelssohn's Quartet in E-flat Major, op. 12, an irresistible example of the composer's precocious perfection. Next is George Crumb's eerie 1970 quartet Black Angels (Images I), music that, with its use of amplification, extended techniques, vocal contributions, and additional "instruments" such as water-tuned crystal glasses, demands to be heard live. Finally, cellist Dmitry Kouzov, who's very much at home in chamber music, joins the group for one of the pinnacles of the chamber repertoire: Schubert's String Quintet in C Major, D. 956. Written in the last months of the composer's life, it's a turbulent work of great contrast and power. By adding a cello instead of the traditional viola, Schubert enlarges and darkens the ensemble sound. 3 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th, 773-702-8068, $25, $5 students. —Steve Langendorf

tuesday3

MARBLE SHEEP Ordinary sheep take pretty well to pens, but Marble Sheep turn out to need lots of room to roam. This freewheeling Japanese band began in 1987 playing noisy garage rock, veered into heavy psych a la White Heaven, and more recently developed a taste for sinuous, dreamy space jams. In '86 founder and leader Ken Matsutani briefly played in an early version of White Heaven (he just missed Michio Kurihara, who came aboard right after he left), and both Kurihara and Ghost mastermind Masaki Batoh have passed through Marble Sheep over the years. Matsutani is also a big-time fanboy and has channeled that energy into his Captain Trip label, whose catalog includes stacks of reissues and rarities from Cluster, Circle, Damo Suzuki, Neu!, and many others—among them a box set of live post-Lou Reed Velvet Underground recordings that I'd really like to know where the hell he found. Marble Sheep have prepared a limited-edition DVD, Tokyo Live 2009, specifically for this extremely rare U.S. visit, and it neatly summarizes their current brand of good-natured madness: they might seem to be staring into the void, but they're very alert. They're also finishing work on a pair of self-titled albums that may be ready for the public in time for this show. Their covers are very similar (except for their color), but the music isn't: on the band's MySpace blog Matsutani explains, "Purple album have very rock taste and green have psyche­delic/progressive taste." Plastic Crimewave Sound and the Great Society Mind Destroyers open. 9 PM, the Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-3530. —Monica Kendrick

wednesday4

GHOSTFACE KILLAH High-­profile counterexamples like Jay-Z and Dr. Dre notwithstanding, most people who stay in hip-hop past age 35 become museum pieces or embarrassments to themselves. But Dennis Coles, aka Ghostface Killah, has not only made it to 39 relatively unscathed but actually seems to be thriving in his old age. (The way rap years work, you can be a venerated elder at 40.) He's done that largely by just not giving a fuck about what's hot in the streets and instead doing his own thing. In recent years that thing has been increasingly rooted in the soul music of the 70s and 80s, and his new Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City (Def Jam) sounds less like a rap record and more like a retro-flavored R & B record that just happens to have a rapper on every song. And as befits a grown-ass man, Ghostface has dropped all but a vestigial amount of thug aggression from his lyrics and delivery—for the most part Ghostdini is about domestic bliss with a woman who doesn't mind Pretty Toney's new gut and who still wants to fuck all night. Fashawn opens. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $21-$23, 17+. —Miles Raymer

YASMIN LEVY Since her debut in 2004, Israeli singer Yasmin Levy has been a driving force in the revival of Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish language that spread throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. If that were all you knew about her music, you might expect it to be fussy or stodgy, but instead it's a buoyant hodgepodge of flamenco rhythms, Turkish and Arabic influences, and other Mediterranean sounds. Though her fourth album, Sentir, just came out in Europe, her third and best recording, 2007's Mano Suave, recently became her first American release when Four Quarters issued it stateside. Her powerfully sensual voice, which combines flamenco's fiery passion with the microtonal melisma of Middle Eastern music, ripples across sashaying grooves built from hand percussion, Turkish-Arabic instruments like oud, ney, and qanun, and Western standbys like acoustic guitar and piano. The pop-palatable arrangements can be a tad glossy and florid for my tastes, but Levy's voice can cut through them with little trouble. 8:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $5 suggested donation. —Peter Margasak

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