Angel Olsen, Cairo Gang, Scott Tuma | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Angel Olsen, Cairo Gang, Scott Tuma Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Sun., Jan. 16, 7 p.m. 2011

Just after Thanksgiving, indie luminary Will Oldham debuted a new band called the Babblers without promoting it in advance or sharing a lick of information about the other musicians involved. In videos from the group's debut, though, many Chicagoans recognized local singer-songwriter ANGEL OLSEN, who fronts the Babblers with Oldham. She's since hit the road with his Bonnie "Prince" Billy band, but she's back in Chicago to play solo material for her first headlining set at the Empty Bottle. In 2010 Olsen released two cassettes of warm, stripped-down, hypnotic folk, Strange Cacti (Bathetic) and Lady of the Waterpark (Love Lion), whose melancholy, heartsick tunes float heavenward with her arresting voice. Onstage her approach is just as minimal and no less disarming: against a backdrop of sparse, nimble fingerpicking, the vibrato in her singing is downright haunting. She can be something of an introverted performer, but you don't need flash to put on a mesmerizing show—sometimes a voice and a guitar do just fine.
—Leor Galil

The notes on the back cover of SCOTT TUMA's latest, Dandelion (Digitalis), include the phrase "Made by Nature," and the album does sound like you're overhearing a musician blending in with his habitat. Tuma records at home with the windows open, and household and neighborhood noises mix with his leisurely, rustic melodies, which he sings in his cracked, expressive voice and plays on various guitars, pump organ, music box, and harmonica. But though the music can give the impression that it's the result of serendipity or chance, that's an illusion. Tuma spends years getting just the right performance of each piece—the oldest material on Dandelion dates from 1991—and tinkers with the tape speed to obtain timbres and pitches you'll never find in nature. In concert he creates a similar vibe, though he usually restricts himself to electric guitar, harmonica, and lots of reverb. Vocal fragments and long instrumental passages flow together, paced so gradually that they ease you into a trance. He'll be accompanied by Califone multi-instrumentalist Jim Becker, whose fiddling brings out the ancient in Tuma's melodies, and Zelienople percussionist Mike Weis, whose pure-sound approach can be as atmospheric as anything that floats in through an open window. —Bill Meyer

Olsen headlines; the Cairo Gang and Scott Tuma open.

Price: $3

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