Handwriting (Quarterstick), the debut recording of the ensemble known as Rachel's, is one of the more interesting experiments carried out by indie rockers looking to go beyond their typical musical milieu. Eschewing most rock references, Rachel's cross-pollinate quasi-jazz musings with original classical pieces, creating evocative textural explorations of a surprising succinctness, restraint, and skill. Violist Christian Frederickson and electric bassist/guitarist Jason Noble, formerly of oblique Louisville rockers Rodan, formed the band in 1991 and were later abetted by serendipitously named pianist Rachel Grimes; the band's current, fleshed-out configuration brings together ambitious indie-rock types--members of the Coctails and Shellac's Bob Weston--and several professional classical musicians. The results are neither dryly academic nor slapdash. Rather than foolishly seeking to contribute to the lofty canon of classical music, the ensemble mixes a variety of styles with considerable grace. A piece like "Southbound to Marion" offers somewhat minimal string and piano lyricism; a more ambitious work like "M. Daguerre" fuses noirish nightcrawler jazz with languid waves of undulating strings; and the lengthy "Full on Night" seamlessly combines found ambient sounds into a skeletal 'scape. It's not all flawless, but they've mapped out the chances they're willing to take and manage to pull them off with considerable verve and without too much rarefied 'tude. This is their first and only Chicago gig this year. Thursday, July 27, 9:30 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Scott Ritcher.