Maybe it's because Peter Margasak and I are up to our elbows in World Music Festival previews (no veterinary gloves necessary), but my chill-out music of choice at the moment is Red Chamber Brings You the Mao Sound by locals Red Chamber, who celebrate its release tonight at the Hideout.
Outfitted in Chinese opera masks and Mao jackets, these guys play under the guise of being one of those great lost bands that world music geeks cream over the possibility of discovering. (Note to Tribune editorial board: that's one of the reasons people own turntables.) The music is note-perfect faux-exotic Oriental-fantasy pop: think of being really high and focusing on the soundtrack to an incomprehensible and poorly dubbed 60s spy movie with a wildly implausible Bangkok brothel scene and you'll kinda get the idea. It's so pretty and so well done. If anyone asks me to help curate a Bizarro World Music Festival, I'm inviting this band.
The album's liner notes tell a tale of someone's drunken discovery of Red Chamber in a taxi in Taipei. "The pompadoured cabbie gunned the engine, went peeling through the rain-slick, neon-reflecting streets of that mad metropolis and popped a cassette into the deck." Well, I've never been to Taipei, but I did visit a couple of southeast Asian countries last year. When my mom and I got a cab to the hotel from the airport at Kuala Lumpur, our cabbie was playing John Denver. "Country Roads," as it happens. That's how my luck goes, I guess.