On their second album, Fear of Fours (Mercury), Louise Rhodes and Andrew Barlow have fleshed out the skeleton of complex breakbeats and smoky vocals they made so much from on their 1997 debut. Rhodes, whose execution, sense of dynamics, and restraint are all improved from the debut, plays up the Billie Holiday in her enunciation, and a full string section on several cuts--along with upright bass and trumpet--reinforces her new torchy thrust. So, unfortunately, does Barlow's rhythm programming: on Lamb, the two dominant elements were often at odds, creating interesting friction; here things run more smoothly and are a little less interesting for it. When Rhodes sits out, Barlow gets more aggressive--on the opening section of the lengthy instrumental "Ear Parcel," for example, blaring trumpet and woody bass patters are offset by his assured beats; then, suddenly, a slide into shimmery exotica, the rhythms sputtering beneath Martin Denny atmospherics. But it just doesn't give me the same rush I got from hearing Barlow's beats battle Rhodes's voice like they did on Lamb's sublime "Cottonwool." The duo will be backed here by a guitarist, an upright bassist, and a drummer. Thursday, September 30, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jeremy Murch.