Charalambides, Dreamweapon | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Charalambides, Dreamweapon

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After more than 15 years of playing together, core Charalambides members Tom and Christina Carter have bid au revoir to outside collaboration, esoteric instrumentation, and free-form improvisation. That's not to say that the new A Vintage Burden (Kranky) is a complete break with the past: the relatively conventional verse-chorus structures, gorgeous folklike melodies, and guitar-dominated arrangements recall the duo's haunting mid-90s Siltbreeze LPs, and Christina's swooping, multitracked vocals defy gravity as fearlessly as the hair-raising wordless maneuvers she executed with Heather Leigh Murray on more recent efforts like Unknown Spin and Joy Shapes. But the nature imagery of new tunes like "Spring" and "Two Birds" stands in stark contrast to the dystopic bleakness of a record like 1995's Market Square (one track was a frantic call to a suicide hotline that wound up on the Carters' answering machine). Even a song like "Dormant Love," which begins on the coldest day of winter and details the end of a relationship, feels somewhat reassuring and hopeful, as if it's all for the best.

When a heavy touring schedule with Prefuse 73, Sam Prekop, and Sticks and Stones drew multi-instrumentalist Josh Abrams away from Town and Country, his bandmates--Ben Vida, Liz Payne, and Jim Dorling--began rehearsing and playing the odd gig as Dreamweapon. Initially the trio sat around a Dreamachine (a device invented by Brion Gysin to induce an alpha state similar to that achieved by meditation) and played hypnotic harmonium and viola drones interlaced with throat singing and chanting. But over the past couple years the band has tripled in size and plugged in: now psychedelic guitar licks and hammered dulcimer thicken the textures while Middle Eastern hand percussion and trap drums amplify the pulse. (Unfortunately dulcimer player Emmett Kelly won't be joining the band for this performance; see the Meter for more.)

This show is part of the Three Million Tongues Festival; see page 26 for a complete schedule. Charalambides headlines; Michael Yonkers with the Blind Shake, Dreamweapon, and Singleman Affair open. Hands of Hydra, J. Glenn, and Yellow Universe play "sideshow" performances between sets. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12.

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