Gaby Kerpel | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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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