Black Heart Procession, Orso | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Black Heart Procession, Orso

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BLACK HEART PROCESSION, ORSO

Two songs into Three (Touch and Go), the third album by the Black Heart Procession, I was already profoundly bummed out: the group's emotional range extends approximately from the dark torpor of Leonard Cohen to the gothic garishness of Nick Cave. Multi-instrumentalists Tobias Nathaniel and Pall Jenkins--who, ironically, live in sunny San Diego--build their sad songs on gentle acoustic guitar arpeggios and simple, graceful piano melodies, adding layers of shifting instrumental detail. Elements like the tragicomic musical saw on "Till We Have to Say Goodbye" or the spooky, quivering synthesizer on "Waterfront (The Sinking Road)" are more evocative than the lyrics, which are intoned by Jenkins and tend toward vague downer poetry. For this gig Jenkins will stick to piano and Nathaniel to guitar; they'll be joined by a drummer and keyboardist. Also on the bill is Orso, the strange project fronted by former Rex bassist Phil Spirito. On the recently released Long Time By (Perishable), a slippery array of keyboard textures, plucked guitar, banjo, and piano strings, and struck and thrummed nonmusical objects (glass, a 55-gallon oil drum, wood, a typewriter) pile up, collide, undulate, gurgle, and fizzle in a sparse parade of palsied waltzes and gimpy folk rock. While a few pieces, like "Well" and "Circle R," coalesce into weird, beautiful, full-fledged pop ditties, most of the time parts is just parts. The album features a supporting cast of nine players, including Perishable regulars Tim Rutili, Brian Deck, and Julie Liu, but for this show Spirito will be accompanied only by percussionist Ben Massarella and keyboardist-guitarist Gillian Lisee. Tuesday, 8 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Rich Jacobs/Kelly McCracken.

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