Curator Adia Sykes on a voice that takes you back to the golden age of soul | In Rotation | Chicago Reader

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Curator Adia Sykes on a voice that takes you back to the golden age of soul

Plus: ESS codirector Olivia Junell on a sound she could listen to forever, Reader music editor Philip Montoro on a fusion of apocalyptic synths and ancient rhythms, and more

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A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

Nihiloxica perform in Paris in 2018. - VINCENT DUCARD FOR MILGRAM PRODUCTIONS
  • Vincent Ducard for Milgram Productions
  • Nihiloxica perform in Paris in 2018.

Philip Montoro, Reader music editor

Malignant Altar On the Bandcamp page of this disgusting Houston death-metal band, a satisfied customer calls the 2019 demo Retribution of Jealous Gods "the soundtrack to a movie where an ancient prehistoric god tells a dude to go hog wild and kill cops with a log." Malignant Altar grind out sticky chunks of down-tuned riffage, smeared with foul, guttural growls and powered by startlingly graceful drumming. Their first full-length is imminent.

Nihiloxica Ugandan label Nyege Nyege Tapes documents the fertile underground in Kampala, which includes instrumental six-piece Nihiloxica: four percussionists from traditional troupe the Nilotika Cultural Ensemble plus a kit drummer and synth player, both from the UK. The band's eerie, pulse-quickening "Bugandan techno" combines apocalyptic synths with ancient rhythms—especially the Baksimba groove, which foregrounds simultaneous duple and triple subdivisions of its loping, stampeding beat. Electronics drone, swoop, and sting while itchy, percolating drums thicken the air with irresistible momentum. After two EPs on NNT, Nihiloxica has a full-length coming on Belgian label Crammed Discs, also home to Congolese group Kokoko!

  • A 2018 Nihiloxica performance for French streaming platform Culturebox

Gamelan Çudamani I owe Carlos Tortolero and David Chavez at DCASE a debt of gratitude for booking this group at the 2019 World Music Festival. Gamelan Çudamani's concert at the Harris Theater was one of the greatest musical experiences of my life. If you have another chance to see a Balinese gamelan of that caliber, do whatever it takes to get there.

  • This 2018 concert by Gamelan Çudamani uses staging similar to that employed at their Harris Theater appearance last month.

Philip is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Sara Ludy - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Sara Ludy

Olivia Junell, codirector of Experimental Sound Studio

Sara Ludy, Deeptimesurfacetime I could listen to this piece forever—in fact the first time I listened to it, I accidentally kept it on repeat for several hours, tuning in and out as the sounds integrated seamlessly into my day. Though the work weaves together recordings that Sara collected from two artificial environments—Nan Lian Garden in Hong Kong and a VR aviary she built—it evokes a sort of familiarity and "naturalness" that I don't often experience with more documentary recordings of environments.

Music in South Shore There's great energy in South Shore right now musically, between weekly shows at the Quarry on 75th, the Universal Alley Jazz Jams off 71st (summer months only, unfortunately), and community-level initiatives—this summer I got to see Dee Alexander at one block party and a fantastic youth band, Urban Aspirations, at another.

Fat Tony, "Hood Party" Transitions between seasons always put me in the mood for old favorites, and Fat Tony's 2013 album, Smart Ass Black Boy, is a regular feature in my car right now. I met Anthony when we both lived in Houston in the early 2010s, and this video feels like a time capsule from back then—everyone was at a perpetual house party, at least according to the music videos (think Chief Keef's "Love Sosa"), a trope that "Hood Party" plays with. Always smart and often playful, Fat Tony is a Houston classic. Best listened to while in motion.

Olivia is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

PJ Morton - PHOTO BY KEITH ANTHONY
  • Photo by Keith Anthony
  • PJ Morton

Adia Sykes, independent curator and organizer

Kendrick Lamar, "Alright" Whenever the world feels particularly heavy and every piece of news warrants an infuriated eye roll, this song cuts through it. To Pimp a Butterfly dropped in 2015, at such a tumultuous time in America—and since then the anger, the frustration, the call to action, and the unapologetic Blackness of this album hasn't lost its resonance. This song is a pump-up. It's a conjuring of hope.

PJ Morton, Gumbo Unplugged I really tried to pick just one song off this 2018 live album, but the entire recording is my jam at the moment. PJ Morton has one of those voices that transports you back to the time of phenomenal soul singers, and he really pays homage to them on this record. Guests such as Yebba, BJ the Chicago Kid, and Lecrae are such wonderful presences throughout. There are a lot of groovy tracks on this one, and it's such an enjoyable listen.

Osvaldo Fresedo and Dizzy Gillespie, "Vida Mía" I dance Argentine tango, so there's always something tango related in my daily shuffle. This track in particular is a beautiful meeting of two brilliant musical minds. It was recorded in 1956, not long after what's considered the golden age of tango, and it has a classic Fresedo lullaby or make-you-swoon quality. Then after about a minute Gillespie comes in with the trumpet, which isn't used in traditional tango orchestras, and lends a really sexy quality to the song. You don't hear anything off this record played while out social dancing, but it's just gorgeous.  v

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