This three-act showcase for new directions in electronic ambient drift suggests that a chill-out room doesn't have to feel like an isolation tank. Pan-American is Labradford cofounder Mark Nelson, whose Kranky debut last year boxed fat, writhing bass lines into a suffocating little cage in the midst of a dubby ether of reverb-laden percussion, airy keyboard figures, and the occasional ping-ponging guitar filigree. On a pair of recent singles recorded for European labels, Nelson pares down the echoey effluvia for a more concise but equally spacious sound. Shuttle358, aka Californian Dan Abrams, makes billowy music that can verge on New Age fluff, but on his beatless brand-new Optimal.lp (12k), his ethereal synth washes and bleeping melodies are shot through with just enough that's jarring--the wind-tunnel flutters in "Swarm," the intermittent bass-heavy gurgling on "Floops," the tangles of overdriven sound on "Tank"--to keep your ears open. But the most interesting act on this bill starts off the show: recording engineer Tom Steinle, who runs the Tom label in Cologne. On Visor, a three-artist tribute to Talk Talk's brilliant 1991 album, Laughing Stock, Steinle's two contributions are built from submerged-sounding bleeps and curving, deeply resonant tones that almost sound like a Fender Rhodes piano recorded from a room away; they don't really go anywhere, but it's a lovely stasis. Even better is his solo ten-inch under the name Summer DSP, where similarly serene, muffled sounds stream along in shifting combinations that are broken up by sudden dropouts, staticky electronic disconnects, and abrupt reversals of flow. Saturday, 9:30 PM, Nervous Center, 4612 N. Lincoln; 773-728-5010. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Annie Feldmeier.