BORIS, MICHIO KURIHARA, PEOPLE | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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BORIS, MICHIO KURIHARA, PEOPLE

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Though BORIS have been hosanna'd loud and long--and rightfully so--for the devastating heaviness of their rocking, I think they still deserve a little more praise for their flexibility. Last year this Japanese trio released Altar, a sprawling, entrancing collaboration with Sunn 0))), and in May the local Drag City label gave a stateside release to Rainbow, their much more song-oriented but still pretty spacey album with Ghost guitarist MICHIO KURIHARA. Rainbow is absolutely gorgeous, moving with fluid confidence from elegiac, grandiose post-Hendrix pyrotechnics to insinuating Amsterdam-dope-cafe lounge folk; its dizzying dynamic range encompasses sky-lifting guitar-shaman psych rock, rattled by thunderous drums and shimmering with sheets of wah-wah, and patient, delicate atmospheric pieces that sound perfect for summoning skittish spirits. Boris and Kurihara are touring with Damon & Naomi, with whom Kurihara has collaborated in the past (Naomi Yang designed Rainbow's Drag City artwork), so this bill could turn into a real swingers' party--Kurihara will definitely be playing with both bands and may do a set of his own, and I'm hoping to see Yang and Boris guitarist Wata onstage together. --Monica Kendrick

It's hard to tell if PEOPLE are trying to put a distinctive spin on pop rock or just slaughter it. On the New York duo's recent debut, Misbegotten Man (I and Ear), guitarist and singer Mary Halvorson, known for her work with Trevor Dunn, Anthony Braxton, and Jessica Pavone, plays with a clean tone and sings in an almost jazzy croon--which she can't quite pull off. But the songs take beguiling twists and turns, plunging into thorny harmonic tangles or making counterintuitive leaps in tempo or mood. Granted it's easy to miss some of the subtleties in her parts, because drummer Kevin Shea (formerly of Storm and Stress) keeps up a chaotic, skittering clatter that obscures the pulse and creates a wonderful tension with her relatively straightforward lines. (The lyrics, which Shea writes, are hard to follow too--they mostly read like the product of an excited tussle with a thesaurus.) The music sounds disjointed and messy at first, but over time it becomes clear that everything is precisely thought-out--I'm not entirely sure what the big idea is, but I'm hooked anyway. --Peter Margasak

This show is part of Adventures in Modern Music (full schedule, page TK); Boris, Michio Kurihara, and Damon & Naomi headline with a collaborative set and People open. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $20, $70 for a festival pass.

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