When: Sun., July 29, 9 p.m. 2012
It's been 11 years since former Chicagoan (and former Spinanes front woman) Rebecca Gates has released any new music, but the long wait is over. She recorded the superb new The Float (12XU/Parcematone) in fits and starts between 2004 and 2011 in Portland, Chicago, and Montreal with 17 different musicians, but it's remarkably cohesive considering those circumstances. Gates sounds more soulful than ever, and her graceful, sturdy melodies are of a piece with most of what she's done since the early 90s—catchy and unstudied, with a lived-in feel—but also more sophisticated and patient. Gates takes the time to pull subtle variations out of almost every song, adding hooky counterpoint or tweaking an established line, especially with overdubbed harmony vocals; at times I hear shades of Brill Building heroes Carole King and Laura Nyro. The arrangements take her music to new places too. On the instrumental opener, "Van Noten 007," languid cello and sparse glockenspiel dance around leisurely, cleanly articulated guitar, and on the next song, "Tips & Spines" (where she's essentially backed by Califone), Gates sets the tone for the album: fat, measured drums and slow-moving, Stonesy guitar licks carve out a broad space for her hushed, sultry singing. She also leaves her comfort zone with the tropical feel of the shape-shifting "Lease and Meaning," which features moody baritone sax from Steve Berlin of Los Lobos and bubbly quasi-African guitar. At this show Gates performs with three Portland musicians from the record: Joanna Bolme of the Jicks on bass, Rebecca Cole of Wild Flag on keyboards, and Ji Tanzer of Blue Cranes on drums. I wouldn't be surprised if some of her Chicago friends—Douglas McCombs, John McEntire, Mark Greenberg—join in for a song or two. —Peter Margasak Archer Prewitt opens.