Chicago noise-rock duo Djunah make collective rage feel hopeful | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Chicago noise-rock duo Djunah make collective rage feel hopeful


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If you’re fond of the loud, outre rock bands that have emerged in Chicago over the past decade or so, Djunah have your number. Front woman Donna Diane (aka Donna Polydoros) and drummer Nick Smalkowski previously played in two of the mightier groups on the scene: Beat Drun Juel and Fake Limbs, respectively. As Beat Drun Juel petered out toward the end of 2017, Diane tinkered with solo sets under the name “Naked, Riding a Lion Made of Fire,” playing guitar and adding bass notes with a foot-operated Moog Taurus pedal synthesizer. She’s told the Tribune that after she performed at Ian’s Party in January 2018, she realized she needed a drummer. She reached out to Smalkowski, who’s proved to be a great collaborator, and this headlining show at the Empty Bottle doubles as a celebration of Djunah’s new debut album, Ex Voto (Triple Eye Industries). Diane recently explained to music blog Destroy Exist that progressive politics influenced much of the record: on “Bless Your Money,” for instance, she sings about how the amorality of capitalism renders people soulless. It can be hard to tell exactly what Diane is condemning, especially when her voice climbs into its harshest screams, but Djunah always communicate their emotions loud and clear. They play their aggressive, furious songs like they’re taking their frustrations out on their instruments, though the sharpness of their performances speaks to an impulse more constructive than pure anger. If the rest of us can pull through this hellish state and emerge with something as clear-eyed and focused as Ex Voto, then the future might not be as hopeless as it looks.   v

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