When: Fri., Sept. 16, 8:30 p.m. 2016
On their new self-released album Vigil, Chicago piano trio Rooms take a huge leap forward: their bold experimentation both live and on their earlier releases has paid serious dividends. Pianist Dan Pierson, drummer Matt Carroll, and bassist Charlie Kirchen still explore sound as a sculptural element, but they balance that predilection with gorgeous music. The new record opens with a computer device called a monome that synthesizes the trio’s sounds acoustically in real time, giving them an abstract feel a bit like an ambient backward-tape experiment. But there’s a much greater sense of serenity, with individual components suggesting motion in varied directions. Rooms use the device on a couple of pieces, meshing processed sounds with live performance—on “Monolith” electronic effects interrupt an expansive, loping groove. Otherwise the new album features the group in an acoustic setting, interpreting Anton Webern’s serialist ditty “Children’s Piece for Piano” and crafting their own “Little Martin” with a pop concision that would suit the Bad Plus. Throughout Vigil they move between disruptive rhythmic tactics—Pierson’s lines are punctured with wonderfully rumbling, sprawling gestures—and simpatico performances that deliver a stunning unified sound. In a deep improvised-music scene, Rooms are clearly emerging as a significant new force.