When: Thu., April 14, 8 p.m. 2016
It’s not fair to her, but for me Eszter Balint will forever be the visiting Hungarian cousin in the 1984 Jim Jarmusch film Stranger Than Paradise—the one whose main main is Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Last year she played another visiting Hungarian, appearing as a fleeting love interest on Louis CK’s series Louie. But ever since South by Southwest in 1998, where I saw her perform a set of beguiling originals, I’ve known that she’s just as distinctive and appealing as a musician as she is as an actor. Balint’s discography is patchy at best—the recent Airless Midnight (Red Herring) is just her third album in nearly two decades, though in that time her voice and violin have also turned up on records by Marc Ribot and Michael Gira. She made Airless Midnight with regular collaborator JD Foster, whose arrangements and production help tease out a sparse, delicate, slightly parched sound that’s well suited to her gentle, conversational singing—he adds little but guitar, keyboards, and drums. The new material revolves around various kinds of emotional distance: she dumps a lover on “Departure Song,” voices indifference to the relationship she’s in on “Calls at 3 AM,” and fights the harsh reality of loneliness on “Silence (After the Phonecall).” The songs are modest, but many of their details sneak up on you with their profundity. For this rare Chicago performance, Balint is accompanied by guitarist Chris Cochrane, a member of many 90s downtown bands in New York, including No Safety.