Huntsville, On Fillmore with Nels Cline | Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Huntsville, On Fillmore with Nels Cline Free Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Mon., June 28, 7:30 p.m. 2010

Huntsville makes hypnotizing music that can be hard to get a handle on: to engage with its microscopically subtle melodic gestures, you have to listen through a sort of foreground scrim of dense, rapidly cycling percussion. Drummer Ingar Zach combines the percolating output of an electric tabla machine with his elaborate trap-kit playing, which alternates between rhythmic and purely textural, while double bassist Tonny Kluften maintains slowly loping grooves; guitarist and banjo player Ivar Grydeland holds down the center, juggling mesmerizing arpeggios, droning long tones, and brittle, flinty melodic lines. The surface of the music can seem static—its repeating patterns give it a kind of hovering quality—but inside this gorgeous sound world there's a rich vein of nuanced development. Huntsville isn't immune to fits of chaos—the epic "Eco," from their most recent release, the two-CD set Eco, Arches & Eras (Rune Grammofon), erupts in a percussive blowout—but the group's strength is its patience. "Eras," recorded at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in 2007 with percussionist Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline (both of Wilco), takes up the entire second disc of the set, but despite the added firepower the music is actually more ruminative, with Kotche adding exquisite clatter and Cline chiming in with contrapuntal fragments and floating sound clouds. This is Huntsville's Chicago debut, and Cline and Kotche will join in for part of the group's set.

Opening is On Fillmore, Kotche's duo with bassist Darin Gray (Dazzling Killmen, Grand Ulena). On their latest album, 2009's Extended Vacation (Dead Oceans), samples of nature sounds and music from the Amazon give their atmospheric meditations a veneer of exotica. Gray plays elegant lines on upright bass, and Kotche sticks almost entirely to mallet instruments—mainly warm, melodic vibraphone and marimba—but as with Huntsville the music is only superficially serene. "Master Moon" repeatedly interrupts its kaleidoscopic bliss with an angular guitarlike pattern that recalls the experimental samba of Tom Ze, and on "Daydreaming So Early" all the instruments drop out momentarily, leaving only wild animal noises. For this rare On Fillmore performance, Cline will sit in; it's hard to imagine how he'll fit into such a well-defined aesthetic, but he's the rare guitarist with the chops and imagination to pull it off.

Huntsville also plays Tuesday at the Empty Bottle. —Peter Margasak

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