Phantom Orchard, Zola Jesus, Subarachnoid Space, Woods | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Phantom Orchard, Zola Jesus, Subarachnoid Space, Woods Recommended Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Sun., Sept. 13, 9 p.m. 2009

Harpist Zeena Parkins and electronicist Ikue Mori are two of New York’s most adventurous musicians. Vanguardists throughout their decades-long careers, both women have been involved in countless projects—mutant rock, beautifully turbulent free improvisation, contemporary classical compositions for string quartet—whose only common denominator is an emphasis on noise and discord. But on their second album as PHANTOM ORCHARD, Orra (Tzadik, 2008), the duo hit upon a surprisingly serene, dreamy sound that’s just as boldly experimental as anything else they’ve done. Playing both acoustic and electric instruments, Parkins unfurls gorgeous sweeps, pattering cascades of discrete notes, sweet-toned tangles, and warm clusters of strummed chords that melt together into rich glissandos; Mori’s distinctive computer manipulations sound almost liquid, whooshing and spilling beneath the strings, as though her usual fractured forms were the ice on a thawing spring stream. The pieces move in an appealingly natural way, like wind-blown leaves—floating, tumbling, and gliding to unpredictable ends. Several guests, including Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, Norwegian sound artist Maja Ratjke, and eccentric Japanese vocalist Makigami Koichi, contribute modestly here and there, but that’s not to say Parkins and Mori need any help. —Peter Margasak

Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere, the core of WOODS, are so adept at conjuring up and sustaining a breezy, stoney mood that even the saddest cut from this spring’s Songs of Shame (on Earl’s superhot Woodsist label), “The Number,” sounds like it was written in a park on a sunny summer afternoon. Woods’ cheapo recording aesthetic often gets them tagged as part of the neo-lo-fi movement, and I suppose the shoe fits, but they’re not just slumming in analog town—their skewed pop songs and Earl’s thin falsetto are a natural match for their hazy sound, and the combination gives their music an edge of real weirdness. —Miles Raymer

This show is part of Adventures in Modern Music. Phantom Orchard headlines; Zola Jesus, the SUBARACHNOID SPACE, and Woods open. The Subarachnoid Space also plays Saturday at Reggie’s Rock Club.

Price: $18 ($50 five-day pass)

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