Keith Rowe | Renaissance Society | Experimental | Chicago Reader

Keith Rowe All Ages Free Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Sat., Oct. 13, 8 p.m. 2012

I don't know if British tabletop guitarist Keith Rowe intended to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11 or meditate on the meaning of the attacks when he recorded his new album, September (ErstLive), in New York last year. But with its layers of ugly electronic friction, gnatlike static, and washed-out radio broadcasts of classical music (played into the pickups of his heavily modified electric guitar), his performance is pensive and unsettling in a way that feels like an obvious commentary. Rowe cofounded influential collective AMM in 1965 (he remained a member till 2004), and he's a dyed-in-the-wool improviser; he pioneered not only tabletop-guitar technique but also the use of the instrument as an abstract sound generator, divorced from any recognizable signifiers. More important, Rowe has never allowed the aesthetic he's had such a hand in inventing to box him in; his vocabulary evolves, and over the years his tools change. He's deliberate in his choices and has occasionally spelled out in detail the meanings and motives behind each gesture in a performance. Radio sounds dominate September, arriving at random—he can't control what's on the air—but he never plays the results for laughs, even when treacly pop music pops up amid bracing, abrasive electronic tones. Instead he responds to the juxtaposition in a way that invests it with meaningful resonance. This is Rowe's first Chicago concert since 2005. —Peter Margasak

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