Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Bridget St. John, Jack Rose, Espers

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The current trend in underground music is cross-pollination, with artists in what have often been considered distinct idioms--free jazz, traditional folk, psychedelia--exploring the primitivist elements common to them all. This weekend in Minneapolis, the second DeStijl/Freedom From Festival of Music will reflect this volatility, bringing together electronic noisemaker Emil Beaulieau, the snarling saxes-and-guitar trio Borbetomagus, free-jazz saxophonist Arthur Doyle, violin minimalist Tony Conrad, Swedish psychedelicists Trad Gras Och Stenar, and neofolk spaz Devendra Banhart, among many others. Some of the folk-oriented performers are stopping off in Chicago en route to the fest, including veteran British singer Bridget St. John, a rarely seen, legendary figure in the folk world. On her 1969 debut, Ask Me No Questions (the first full-length on Dandelion, the short-lived label started by BBC DJ John Peel), her untraditional songwriting and gorgeous voice (imagine a thawed-out Nico with better pitch) sounded strikingly contemporary amid the austerity of the British folk revival. The arrangements on subsequent albums became increasingly slick, and her music lost most of its mysterious beauty. For this gig she'll be revisiting her earliest and best material, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. Jack Rose is a member of the noisy Virginia faux-ethnic/psychedelic improv trio Pelt, but on his own he plays remarkable fingerstyle guitar in the John Fahey/Leo Kottke mold. On his terrific Red Horse, White Mule (Eclipse) he crafts lyrical, hypnotic epics, seamlessly working blues phrasing and old-timey themes into long-form compositions. Rose also appears on the recent compilation Wooden Guitar (Locust Music) with like-minded players Tetuzi Akiyama, Steffen Basho-Junghans, and Sir Richard Bishop (of the Sun City Girls). Also playing are Philadelphia folk-rock trio the Espers (Locust will release their debut in January), whose ethereal vocal harmonies and baroque layers of acoustic and electric guitars and dulcimers serve a precise pop sensibility. All the activity is somehow arranged so that each sound--every pealing bell, echoey murmur, undulating acid-guitar line--remains distinct. The bill is rounded out by Texan Heather Leigh Murray (Charalambides, Scorces), Philadelphia trance-folk act Fursaxa, and Born Heller, a new duo featuring Children's Hour singer Josephine Foster and bassist Jason Ajemian. Friday, October 3, 8:30 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland; 773-862-3616.

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