GARAGE | Miles Raymer
Back in 2007 Alex White was just starting a 45-day tour in Europe with her band the Red Orchestra when she completely lost her voice. She was desperate enough to call on the big guy. "Basically," she says, "I made this deal with God that if he gave me my voice back on this tour that I would eventually record songs to honor that deal—the way that he pulled through."
"It took me a little while," she adds.
Since then the Red Orchestra has disbanded and Alex and her brother Francis have achieved some renown as the industrious and energetic garage duo White Mystery. In spring 2011 the duo booked a recording session with local garage stalwart and Outer Minds front man Zach Medearis, who'd previously produced a White Mystery single for HoZac Records. But then Alex decided that they wouldn't be tracking White Mystery material—it was time to cut those songs for God.
Alex and Francis recruited Medearis to contribute vocals and 12-string electric guitar, and the new trio, calling itself Righteous Love, recorded three songs that combine the kind of fuzzed-out garage pop that the Whites and Medearis usually play with elements pulled straight from vintage gospel albums. The churchy part of their sound might surprise you, but it's not actually a left turn for the musicians. "Me and Alex used to be in that band Headspacer together a few years ago," says Medearis. "When we first started, me and her would jam out on like Staple Singers—'Wade in the Water,' songs like that. For years we were talking about doing a gospel project together."
On Christmas Alex made the tracks available through Bandcamp for a dollar apiece. "Heart of Gold" is a fairly straightforward stomper, while "Black Jesus" is a flavor of rock a bit more soulful than Outer Minds or White Mystery. The real eye-opener is "Light Shine Through," which connects the dots between church choirs and the youth-gang group vocals of classic garage rock.
As for the songs' religious intent, Righteous Love's members tell me it's complicated—but I'm confident they're at least partly sincere, even though I'd never expect any of these folks to try to tell me the good news. After our interview I get a follow-up message from Alex on Facebook: "make sure god gets a shoutout."
- Roxy de la Torre
EXPERIMENTAL | Peter Margasak
Musicians who play in disparate styles in numerous projects are thick on the ground in Chicago, but even in their company Ben Billington stands out. Over the past couple years he's contributed to six different projects—perhaps most notably, he drums in manic free-jazz trio Tiger Hatchery and psychedelic trio Moonrises. He seems to have saved many of his best ideas for his synth-based solo project, Quicksails, which had three cassette-only releases in 2011, including October's A Fantasy in Seasons for influential Vermont label NNA. Though Quicksails nods to the neo-80s synthesizer music that's common in the cassette underground—you'll hear a few familiar tones and phrases—Billington is hardly just imitating late-period Tangerine Dream. His dark collages are meticulous and multilayered, with thoughtful structures and arcs of development.
A native of the Cleveland area, Billington, 25, moved to Chicago seven years ago to attend DePaul and has become a fixture on the experimental scene. "I've always been a percussionist who heavily relies on others to write music or improvise," he says. "I guess that's what going 'solo' is all about, but after playing music for 13 years I'd never tried. [Quicksails] is also my first attempt at recording my own music." As a producer Billington deftly mixes synths and samplers with voice, flute, and percussion.
He recorded A Fantasy in Seasons last winter during the sessions that produced its predecessor, Bywater Colours (Digitalis). "I purposely created different atmospheres with both records by a long process of sequencing and choosing which songs would go better with certain moods," he says. "Maybe I'm overanalyzing my own music, but I can't help it. Each moment of each record means a lot to me." Quicksails performs Mon 1/9 at the Whistler as part of a benefit for CHIRP. Billington's shows tend to be looser and louder than his recordings—he plays synth and sampler along to a cassette. Quicksails' first LP, a reissue of Silver Balloons in Clusters, comes out this spring on British label Under the Spire.
HIP-HOP | Leor Galil
Last week Clinton Sandifer, aka tongue-in-cheek Chicago rapper ShowYouSuck, released a 16-track mix tape called One Man Pizza Party 2: Mo Slices, Mo Problems, which includes collaborations with Grade A-plus, Flosstradamus, and Netherfriends. It's the follow-up to One Man Pizza Party, which dropped on April 20—not only a date beloved of weed aficionados but also Sandifer's 26th birthday (or so he says). He plans to close out the series with a remix collection titled Rest in Pizza.
The title of the mix reflects Sandifer's ebullient style as well as his sense of humor, and even its backstory is funny. At Wicker Park nightclub Debonair he ran into a woman he'd apparently forgotten he'd met. To jog his memory, she described a phone conversation she'd had with him and the amazing pickup line he'd used in it: "You told me you were a one-man pizza party."
Who knows if Sandifer actually said that, but either way he loved the idea. "There's nothing that speaks to youth and energy like pizza and partying," he says. One Man Pizza Party has gotten nods from outlets like trendy label-slash-clothing company Mishka and Chicago-based hip-hop site Ruby Hornet, which is also hosting One Man Pizza Party 2. And the new mix won't exist only on the Internet: Sandifer will give away CD copies of OMPP 2 at his release show at Reggie's Rock Club on Fri 1/13.