Chicago Underground Duo | Hideout | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Chicago Underground Duo Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Wed., April 16, 9:30 p.m. 2014

For nearly a decade, starting in Mandarin Movie in the mid-aughts and continuing in Starlicker and Pulsar Quartet, cornetist Rob Mazurek has heaped his bands’ palettes with sound, creating motion and phantom overtones through accretion and volume. But he’s never really applied this approach to his longest-running group, the Chicago Underground Duo, even as its timbres have grown thicker and more electronic—not until now. On the new Locus (Northern Spy), recorded by John McEntire, Mazurek and percussionist Chad Taylor push deep into the red, driving out silence and negative space with a processed thicket of sound sources—sometimes the usual cornet, drums, and synthesizers, sometimes balafon, Gameboy, and gnarled acoustic guitar (played Derek Bailey-style by Taylor, who studied the instrument before turning to drums). The title track adds little more than grimy synth smears and whooshing squelches to its huge, funky groove, but a cover of “Boss” (by Chicago jazz pianist and teacher Ken Price) retains the band’s foundational elements—a playful, Don Cherry-esque horn line, a churning synth ostinato, a swirling groove—and amps them up to rock-club volume. The album isn’t all in-your-face, though: “The Human Economy” has a narcotic ambience, and “Borrow and Burry” is a spooky, almost static electronic soundscape threaded by barbed tangles of acoustic guitar. On Locus the Chicago Underground Duo ventures into new terrain without surrendering its identity, an accomplishment all the more impressive because it comes after 17 years of exploration. —Peter Margasak

Price: $15

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