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I made a serious omission when I wrote the guide to music in Chicago in the Reader’s Chicago 101 issue a couple of weeks back. The Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington) is one the city’s real gems as a venue for music--as well as for visual art, dance, film, and just about every other medium. There are free concerts there every day, usually by acclaimed local performers representing a host of genres, and the space also presents higher-profile gigs several times each month that focus on jazz, experimental, and international music. On Thursday, October 5, at 7 PM in the Claudia Cassidy Theater the excellent San Francisco electronic duo Matmos will perform with the New York new-music ensemble So Percussion. Matmos performed earlier this summer at the Pitchfork Music Festival in support of their superb recent album, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast, but this marks the local debut of So Percussion.
The quartet formed several years ago, when its members were in Yale’s graduate program in music and devoting themselves to contemporary works by the likes of Xenakis, Reich, and Cage. Unlike more formal ensembles, the quartet memorized their repertoire rather than reading it off of music stands. Their debut recording featured commissioned performances of two pieces by composers involved in New York’s Bang on a Can collective: Evan Ziporyn’s Melody Competition borrows its language from Balinese gamelan music, while David Lang’s The So-Called Laws of Nature is comprised of constantly morphing micro-patterns played on both traditional and unorthodox instruments, while adhering to set intervals; the group has used everything from flower pots to teacups to achieve that effect.
So Percussion tackled Reich’s classic Drumming on its second album, but they took advantage of the studio by using overdubs. The material on the group’s latest album, Amid the Noise (out October 10 on Cantaloupe Music), was all written by member Jason Treuting; he sounds eager to blur the lines between classical, electronica, and rock, and he does it in a very pleasing way. Keyboards, “Ethernet port,” and harmonicas are used in addition to the group’s sizable percussive arsenal, with various tuned percussion providing serene melodies over the complex beats. Both Matmos and So Percussion will play their own sets and then together join for some collaborations, which they’ve been doing sporadically for the last year or so. The concert is free.