Blek Ink | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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In 1989, Boston-bred multi-instrumentalist Paul Lydon abandoned San Francisco for Reykjavik, Iceland--and whether he was looking for it or not, he's found his artistic voice in exile. He wasn't new to music when he made the move: he'd been self-releasing cassettes since the mid-80s, many of them collaborations with Laura Valentino, who went with him to Iceland. But ever since his first solo release abroad, a 1994 tape called Red Nubble Signal, he's been a one-man cottage industry. He records in the apartment he shares with Valentino and their daughter, and all of his music has an intense, almost claustrophobic intimacy. In his solo project Sanndreymi he makes brief, hypnotic instrumentals by layering fuzzy keyboards or quiet, dissonant guitars over simple rhythms on hand drum or recorder--music that seems meant to accompany a solemn ceremony. And on this year's Blek Ink (Ba Da Bing!), his first full-length under that name, he sings Celtic-tinged melodies in an unadorned voice, backed by short, repeated figures on electric guitar, piano, or organ, which are in turn augmented here and there by a hissing violin, an electric bass, or minimal percussion--a single drum, a glockenspiel, even gentle hand claps. Iceland has short summers when the sun never sets and long, dark winters when it doesn't rise for months, and in Lydon's lyrics the same extremes apply to human relationships--in both "Trust" and "Dinner and Dominoes," he invests a fleeting moment of connection between people with a powerful longing that reveals the depth of their loneliness. The closing couplet of "Pappirsflugur" ("Paperflies"), which he sings in Icelandic, translates as "I haven't figured out / That this won't last"--and the way he describes this transience, it seems to govern emotional phenomena as inexorably as natural ones. For this concert, Blek Ink's Chicago debut, Lydon will accompany himself on electric guitar. Monday, November 20, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ben Goldberg.

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