Braaxtaal | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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On this Dutch group's second album, Speechlos (Kontrans), the members abuse and recontextualize their instruments in such strange, fascinating, and funny ways that it's impossible to tell how their work is intended. Is it deadly serious? Is it seriously Dada? Chances are you're not meant to know for sure. Percussionist Theo Bodewes uses standard drums along with electronics and household objects; sometimes he keeps time and sometimes he demolishes it. Rob Daenen's synthesizer produces rude snorts, piercing siren cries, and sly imitations of wind instruments--everything but what you'd expect. And vocalist Jaap Blonk, a talented sound artist, might give a dramatic reading one minute and scream bloody murder, belch, fart, or spit the next. The trio can shift between very different moods and styles in the blink of an eye: the album's title track is a numbing drama about speech loss, "As I Was Saying" is a hilarious send-up of stuffy academics, and "Katalog der Schweren Metalle" gives speed metal a whirl with enough ferocity to pin your ears back. Blonk will also give a free improvised performance next weekend with percussionist Michael Zerang and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm--last year's Improvisors (Kontrans), with Blonk, Zerang, and Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson, captured a gentler side of the vocalist that may reemerge in this intimate setting. Braaxtaal plays Wednesday at 9 PM at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Blonk improvises next Saturday, May 30, at 10 PM at Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln; 773-327-6666. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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