Eccentric Chicago musician Zango the Third warps soul, pop, and lounge into strangely magnetic songs | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Eccentric Chicago musician Zango the Third warps soul, pop, and lounge into strangely magnetic songs


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Chicagoan Frank Zango possesses something like magic: under the name Zango the Third, he’s able to create oddly soothing, stylistically scrambled outsider-soul songs fast enough to fill several full-lengths a year. In early April, he self-released his second album of 2020, Aunt Ida’s Asteroid Mixtape, where he continues to stretch to the outer edges of his pop proclivities; on “They Ain’t Heavy, That’s My Devil” he warps his warmhearted voice into a high-pitched chirp, and on “Woo! Han Solo” he builds an entire melody around a wordless two-syllable vocal loop that sounds like he’s gasping for air after a long, intense workout. Zango punctuates Aunt Ida’s Asteroid Mixtape with absurdist lyrics, audio pranks (a surreal sketch called “Zeitgeist Radio”), and an unexpectedly vulnerable soliloquy (“Dear Aunt Ida. Goodnight Goji”), all of which lend the album an intimate, diaristic quality. Zango frequently builds his songs atop kitschy synth parts reminiscent of 1960s lounge instrumentals, and they bolster his most vivacious pop hooks—the quasi-tropical “My Clothes Will Burn Too,” for instance, uses a fluttering keyboard to shadow the glum, bluesy singing that gives the song its strange gravitas. Had Zango put out Aunt Ida’s Asteroid Mixtape as a limited-run LP in the 1970s, fanatical modern-day collectors of private-press records would surely canonize it; fortunately, it’s just one easily accessible piece in the catalog of a fascinating player who continues to enrich Chicago’s underground.   v

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