Causal Dots | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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For more than a decade Christina Billotte has been working the same basic MO, pitting her sophisticated melodies against the minimal, often simplistic playing of her various bands. Slant 6 charged along like some prehistoric version of Wire; in Quix*o*tic the inept drumming of her sister Mira gave the group's often gorgeous tunes an unsettling tension. In Casual Dots she's joined by guitarist Kathi Wilcox (Bikini Kill, Frumpies) and drummer Steve Dore (Deep Lust), and on their eponymous debut on Kill Rock Stars, they keep things lean, but pull off Billotte's songs with precision and crispness unmatched by her earlier groups. The amped-up opener, "Derailing," is an exercise in instrumental surf buzz, with Billotte's and Wilcox's guitars meshing in contrapuntal overdrive. On tracks like "Mama's Gonna Make Us a Cake" one guitarist plays basslike parts while the other goes nuts in a scrappy way; for "Evil Operations Classified" Billotte and Wilcox drop into lockstep to exhilarating effect. Billotte's warmest vocals are in her cover of Etta James's "I'll Dry My Tears" (since Quix*o*tic she's developed a repertoire of soul and R & B gems), but she reveals her own subtle pop smarts on songs like "Clocks" and "Hooded," where the primitive guitar parts contrast nicely with those elegant melodies. Volante opens. Saturday, April 17, 8 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton; 773-486-2700.

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