PAPA M, QUIX*0*TIC
On his new and best album, Live From a Shark Cage (Drag City), guitarist David Pajo has changed more than the name of his solo project. On past recordings as M and Aerial M, and to a lesser extent in his work with Slint and Tortoise, he's shown a fondness for circular fingerstyle arpeggios, but this is the first time he's let the technique lead him back to its American folk roots. Pajo, who's from Louisville, decorates meditations like "Pink Holler" and "Knocking the Casket" with brittle banjo figures, balancing the rural flourishes with seemingly incongruous elements (hydroplaning electric guitar lines, tamboura drone) and well-employed electronics. "Crowd of One" is the weak link--layering answering machine messages over a mesmerizing soundscape is a gimmick that should be retired by now--but on "Plastic Energy Man" the spare and repetitive acoustic guitar is clouded by muffled beats that billow like smoke from a coal-burning locomotive, and "I Am Not Lonely With Cricket" is a stunning collection of loosely related guitar miniatures connected by artful digital-delay dissolves. The lineup Pajo's assembled to perform this material live is promising: it includes bassist Todd Cook, formerly of Retsin and the For Carnation, and the flexible New York experimental guitarist Alan Licht....Christina Billotte, who put out two albums on Dischord with the distinctive all-girl trio Slant 6 in the mid-90s, is back with Quix*o*tic, a new band featuring her sister Mira on drums and Brendan Majewski on bass. On their recent debut, Night for Day (Ixor Stix), Billotte's spooky guitar lines and haughty vocal style are instantly recognizable, but her tone sounds almost jazzy next to Slant 6's buzz-saw edge, and Mira plays with a weird, tribal thud. At times the music sounds no-waveish in its robotic starkness, which only makes left turns like the cover of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "What's So Good About Goodbye"--done in a skeletal girl-group style--hit that much harder. Tuesday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Papa M also opens for Stereolab on Monday at Metro; see separate Critic's Choice for details. Quix*o*tic also plays Friday at 10:30 PM at the Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton; 773-486-2700. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Wiley Balls.