Gaby Kerpel | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Argentinean composer Gaby Kerpel got his professional start in music in the late 80s with multimedia performance groups like De la Guarda, and an acquaintance of mine who saw a recent New York gig where Kerpel performed material from his solo debut, Carnabailito (Nonesuch), says he's brought a theatrical element to his own work as well. He'll pick up an instrument, sample a brief melodic or rhythmic phrase as he plays, and then loop it; an animation of the corresponding instrument appears on a video screen, so that as he adds layers of loops the screen gets busier and busier. For the album Kerpel used a similar approach: he sampled himself playing electric guitar, electronics, and dozens of traditional Latin American instruments, then arranged the terse snippets into a collage of off-kilter grooves and fractured pop songs. Layers routinely drop in and out of his dynamic compositions, so that they'll thin out radically or explode with information in the space of a moment, and just when you expect a song to crank into a more insistent rhythm, Kerpel will dial things down. A number of tracks add a live drummer or string arrangements contributed by Kerpel and a few accomplices, and Kerpel sings as well, in a slightly squeaky, reedy yawp that reminds me of Manu Chao. His lyrics are mostly meditations on estrangement and distance--something that a guy splitting time between New York and Buenos Aires ought to understand. This show, part of the series "Ruido II: Latin Alternative Music on the Edge," is his first in Chicago; opening is a one-off trio of Tortoise's Douglas McCombs and the Eternals' Wayne Montana and Tim Mulvenna. Wednesday 20, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $10.

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