Jaap Blonk | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Dutch vocalist Jaap Blonk has few peers when it comes to raw musical imagination. His bewilderingly huge arsenal of sounds includes only a few even remotely related to conventional singing, and ranges from abstract whispering to mechanical popping, horrific roaring, and grotesque flapping and gurgling. Whether he's improvising, fronting his dadaist noise-prog band, Braaxtaal, or performing sound poetry like Kurt Schwitters's Ursonate, he tempers his bizarre contortions and mischievous sense of humor with the compositional logic of the best jazzers. Since his previous visit four years ago he's also developed an increased capacity for restraint, and on two recent recordings, both released by his own Kontrans label, he sometimes lets his laptop speak for him. On Post-Human Identities, a fabulous duet with Norwegian vocalist Maja Ratkje (best known as half of Fe-mail), the two improvisers electronically warp and manipulate their own laughs, howls, and conversations to create almost psychedelic effects. On Pre-Zoic Cellways Blonk is joined by superb Dutch keyboardist Cor Fuhler, whose sibilant, snorting analog synth and weird seesawing turntable complement the low-end growls and sputters from Blonk's computer. Blonk also contributes some fragmented vocals, imitating the sound of a digitally diced recording, but his electronic efforts are every bit as convincing--his art is about the way he organizes sound, not the way he makes it. On this trip he's presenting a collaboration with local reedist Ken Vandermark and Swedish dancer Lotta Melin called The Beckett Project, built around texts by the playwright but loaded with opportunities for improvisation. The trio will stage The Beckett Project again on Sunday afternoon, and on Saturday Blonk will conduct a workshop at Experimental Sound Studio; all three events are part of the Outer Ear Festival of Sound. Blonk will also perform solo at Intuit on Saturday night; see separate Treatment items for Saturday and Sunday for details. Fri 12/9, 7 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Telemach Wiesinger.

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