Chicago indie rockers Cafe Racer meld psych, shoegaze, and Krautrock to summon hypnotic bliss | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Chicago indie rockers Cafe Racer meld psych, shoegaze, and Krautrock to summon hypnotic bliss


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Psychedelic Chicago indie rockers Cafe Racer emerged from a young north-side scene obsessed with garage; in fact, guitarist-vocalist Michael Santana previously played rugged, bratty garage pop in the three-piece Grosse Pointe. When he burned out on that band’s sound in 2015, he started working with guitarist-vocalist Adam Schubert—a prolific musician with a lo-fi solo project called Ruins—on sketches of what would become sprawling, enchanting songs. By the time they made their live debut as Cafe Racer in 2016, they’d expanded into a five-piece, and since then they’ve tinkered with hypnotic combinations of nimble Krautrock rhythms, melodic shoegaze riffs, and effervescent psychedelic melodies. A subtle touch of new-wave glamour enlivens Cafe Racer’s new third full-length, Shadow Talk (Born Yesterday), and hints of 80s pop glitz sparkle in the dusty western guitars that course through “Breathing.” Santana, Schubert, and third guitarist Andrew Harper shade their colorful psychedelic riffs as a unit, subtly crisscrossing their parts to create deep, expansive soundscapes. Drummer Elise Poirier and bassist Rob McWilliams make sure everything goes where it belongs, invigorating a relaxed melody with a light touch or detonating a crescendo with a bombastic blast. The rhythm section’s incendiary throb on the lean, fierce “Zenith” burns enough rubber that Cafe Racer sound like they could go airborne.   v

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