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German clarinetist Michael Thieke is in town for the opening of his sound installation in the Fern Room at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, but as Bill Meyer writes, he's much more than an installation artist: "Thieke commands the full range of the instrument, from velvety low tones to ear-jamming highs, and his stylistic reach is even broader: he plays delicate art-pop with the Magic I.D., contrapuntal chamber jazz with the Clarinet Trio, microtonal drones with the Pitch, and exquisitely restrained improvisations with the International Nothing." Tonight he improvises with fellow clarinetist Guillermo Gregorio, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and turntablist Lou Mallozzi; he also plays solo at Experimental Sound Studio on Saturday and with another ad hoc quartet at Hungry Brain on Sunday.
The notoriously heavy Melvins don't go Muzak in this sorta side project, a trio with bassist Trevor Dunn playing an acoustic upright. As Monica Kendrick writes of their new album, Freak Puke (Ipecac), "It's got dirty riff rock, exuberant boogie, and a demented Paul McCartney cover, for starters—and it's all put in harness to serve a dense, deliciously textured psychedelic aesthetic that occasionally sounds like something I imagine a snarky postgrunge 21st-century Pink Floyd could've gotten up to if Syd Barrett had kept most of his sanity and all of his genius. It's beautiful without being the least bit mellow and trippy without lapsing into incoherence."
Bay Area four-piece Deerhoof have changed the surface complexion of their music yet again with the new Breakup Song (Polyvinyl), but it hasn't upset their irresistible marriage of frothy pop melodies and jarring, jagged dissonance. As I write, "The songs often seem to be hanging together by a thread, but it's that instability that gives them much of their power. I never get tired of hearing a tune on the brink of dissolution suddenly drop into a massive groove—Greg Saunier's huge but lilting drums snapping into lockstep with Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich's guitars—or coalesce to reveal a twee vocal melody from bassist Satomi Matsuzaki."
Veteran soul singer, guitarist, and songwriter Bobby Womack has nothing left to prove in popular music. But as Miles Raymer writes, he's still game to try on new clothes, and his new record was coproduced by Damon Albarn and Richard Russell, the pair behind the final, triumphant album by Gil-Scott Heron. "His burred baritone voice is just as commanding as it was at his peak in the 70s, and the increased roughness it's acquired over the years perfectly suits the album's frequently elegiac mood."