Christina Carter & Gown, Lichens | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Christina Carter & Gown, Lichens

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Singer and multi-instrumentalist Christina Carter is best known for the often emotionally harrowing music she plays in Charalambides, but her recent releases without the band sound every bit as haunted. Meditations on the Ascension of Blind Joe Death, Vol. 1 (Ecstatic Yod), recorded with guitarist Loren MazzaCane Connors, is a tribute to John Fahey, but they don't attempt to mimic his lustrous acoustic fingerpicking. Connors's electric leads are so stark and monolithic they could have been carved from stone; Carter's sparse piano notes drizzle over them like cold rain on a grave. Her 2001 album Living Contact, recently rereleased on Kranky, sounds so intimate you feel like an eavesdropper for playing it. Sticking to acoustic guitar, she navigates a series of winding, dissonant melodies as if she's discovering them while she's playing; she delivers the sole vocal on the record, "Alone, Not Alone," in a desolate high vibrato. For this show she plays with Canadian drone musician Andrew McGregor, aka Gown, with whom she recently recorded a split EP with the Italian band My Cat Is an Alien.

Lichens, a solo project of 90 Day Men bassist Rob Lowe, debuted at the Million Tongues festival last summer. Lowe's fingerpicked acoustic guitar sounded like he's also spent time pondering Fahey's legacy, but his looped, wordless vocals were reminiscent of Meredith Monk. He recently finished recording his debut album, which Kranky will release later this year. By Lightning to the Womb opens. Thu 3/24, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $12.

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