Diamanda Galas | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Diamanda Galas

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Sometimes your very favorite albums aren't the ones you play the most. I've always loved Diamanda Galas's early work, like Masque of the Red Death and The Litanies of Satan, but those discs were never something I'd slap on just 'cause they were lying around. When Galas pours it on, her phantasmagoric opera-trained voice can generate such an intense spiritual vortex that I only really feel adequate to it during certain cosmic conjunctions--like Albert Ayler, she demands a lot of you. This Greek singer has taken it upon herself to perform mourning rites for all the world's victims; she turned first to the victims of the AIDS epidemic, spurred by the death of her beloved brother from the disease, and is perhaps still most famous for her Plague Mass. Even her 1994 collaboration with John Paul Jones, The Sporting Life--the closest she's ever come to a party album--addresses sexual violence. Last year's La Serpenta Canta (Mute), a collection of standards ("I Put a Spell on You," "At the Dark End of the Street," Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman"), rations out her intensity in manageable doses, but her new long work, Defixiones, Will and Testament (Mute)--which she'll be performing here--is high-church Diamanda, which means you'd do well to make your peace with God before you sit down. A memorial to the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek genocides of the early 20th century, Defixiones sets poems in several languages to her furious, borderline abstract piano playing and avenging angel's voice, which shrieks, swoops, keens, growls, declaims, and hisses. This music is goth the way hurricanes are breezy--anyone looking for a morbid thrill ride ought to be concerned for the health of his soul. Saturday 25, 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $30.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Austin Young.

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