Him | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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HIM

On his previous recordings as Him, percussionist Doug Scharin has conducted expansive experiments in dub: steady bass lines and his loose-limbed rhythms provided a framework for everything from spaced-out reggae licks to Middle Eastern textures. But compared to the new Sworn Eyes (Perishable), those records were positively rigid. This time out, Scharin's support cast includes two jazz players--cornetist Rob Mazurek and guitarist Jeff Parker--along with bassist Bundy Brown, and their influence is evident. With the exception of "Trace Elements," a brief piece on which Scharin plays drums, bass, and samples, Sworn Eyes is a series of studio jams manipulated into loosely connected rhythmic episodes. On the Spartan title track, gongs, quiet cymbal patter, electronic whooshes, and Mazurek's brittle, Cherry-tart improvisations are occasionally interrupted by choppy bass patterns and percussive explosions, but there's no structure to speak of, and down-tempo breakbeats, spare reggae syncopation, jacked-up soul grooves, and some hyperactive nonelectronic drum 'n' bass are just a few highlights of the rambling, 20-minute-long "A Verdict of Science." Throughout, Brown's bass lines seem to shift intuitively, Parker adds subtle colors, and Mazurek holds the proceedings together like a rubber band called Miles Davis. In fact, although Sworn Eyes is far less dense and energetic, electric Miles is the music's most obvious reference point: as good a job as Scharin did editing the five selections, there are some tedious moments where the jamminess of the source material becomes glaringly apparent. I have no idea how it'll translate live. For this gig Scharin will be joined by Brown, former Repulse Kava and Seam guitarist Craig White (one of the city's most criminally ignored rock musicians), and trombonist Jeb Bishop. Also on the bill are Phil Spirito's project, Orso, and guitarist Curtis Harvey, who'll play solo; both men were in Scharin's former band, Rex. Saturday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

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