Chicago band Not Lovely have a ball twisting together jazz, rap, and prog on their debut album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Chicago band Not Lovely have a ball twisting together jazz, rap, and prog on their debut album


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Genre-bending jazz-rap troupe Not Lovely started almost on a dare. In summer 2015, vocalist and producer Jack Clements remixed Wilco’s “EKG,” rapped over it, and uploaded his version to the Soundcloud account of Auburn Hills, his studio hip-hop project with rapper-producer Alex Singleton—aka Why? Records cofounder Joshua Virtue. “EKG” eventually earned Clements and Virtue an invite to the Wilco loft, and when Jeff Tweedy asked the duo if they had a band, they decided to put one together. Not Lovely’s core quintet also includes guitarist Michael Queenan, bassist Hannah Fidler, and drummer and synth-player Taylor Stevenson, but they frequently add to their ranks to fill out their sound—their new debut full-length, Matterlightblooming (Not Labely), includes contributions from keyboardist Alex Murphy, bassist Simon Ciaccio, saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi, and ten other auxiliary musicians mostly playing trumpet, trombone, or saxophone. The result sounds like the kind of album defunct Chicago teen-rock band Kids These Days wanted to make. Not Lovely use jazz as a base for their radical explorations of hip-hop, pop, prog, soul, and metal; on “Ultraviolent Carnation,” they slowly transform a mellow, airy jazz melody into an anxious, throbbing rock rager whose crescendo peaks when Stevenson’s machine-gun double kick drum meshes with Clements’s rapid rapping. The concepts don’t always gel, but Not Lovely work through even their knottiest ideas with enough conviction to charm.   v

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