Nightmares on Wax | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Nightmares on Wax




Over the course of eight years and three albums, George Evelyn--aka Nightmares on Wax--has grown from DIY fanboy to sampladelic soul auteur. As interesting and influential as his first album, A Word of Science: The 1st and Final Chapter (Warp), was for its novel fusion of hot-tub funk samples and adeptly programmed breakbeats, it sounds downright quaint next to his new Carboot Soul (Matador). The blueprint for his current sound--electric keyboard motifs, disembodied vocal snippets, fractured horn charts, and cherry-picked string-section swells over seductively danceable beats and bass lines--was laid out on the fine, entirely sampled Smokers Delight (Wax Trax!/TVT) in 1995, and now Evelyn's tossed live bass, keyboards, and some vocals into the mix in an attempt "to prove that we can perform music [without] ignoring the fact that we come from a...technical background," according to his PR. But the improvement I hear on Carboot Soul has less to do with instrumentation than arrangement, and I mean the arrangement of samples--of which there are still plenty--as well as the real instruments. The interaction between the layers of both original and clandestinely nabbed parts is what distinguishes this stuff from generic acid-jazz mouthwash like LTJ Bukem or Guru's Jazzmatazz. Despite the rump-shaking rhythms, it's pretty laid-back stuff; in fact, it wouldn't sound out of place next to electric Les McCann or old-school Roy Ayers. For his Chicago debut, Evelyn will probably spin records by those cats as well as other soul, jazz, and hip-hop inspirations; hell, maybe he'll even play one of his own. Sunday, 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-4140. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Deidre O'Callaghan.

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