When: Mon., Jan. 30, 9 p.m. 2017
It can be hard to keep up with the output of Chicago guitarist Michael Vallera, or at least not to feel confused by it. Over the years he’s relentlessly pushed his work in new directions: acoustic solo fingerstyle playing, punishing art-rock in Luggage, post-This Heat noise in Cleared, and any number of excursions into drone. Last year Maar, his duo with Haptic’s Joseph Clayton Mills, dropped Absolute Delay (Umor Rex), a low-key cassette of richly textured noise and drone meditations that subtly hypnotized me with each new spin. But it seems that these days Vallera’s primary concern is the ambient sound on his impressive new solo album Vivid Flu (Denovali). Playing both heavily treated guitar and reverb-saturated piano—the washed-out “Late” includes electronic pulses that interrupt the reverie with darting tension—Vallera occasionally opts for a meditative vibe where sounds billow and mutate, while beyond the surface there’s quiet turbulence. Elsewhere the air is apprehensive from the outset: on “Pollen Blot” irregular beats and erratic synth tones are slowly subsumed by a dark, enveloping industrial hum, and “Drug” melds moody guitar arpeggios and stuttering drum-machine patterns, summoning a Lynchian aura of dread.