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At first Seam's lengthy hiatus, which began last spring with the departure of longtime bassist Lexi Mitchell, had an air of permanence. But then singer/guitarist Sooyoung Park took off for Korea and returned by summer's end with a new bassist--William Shin, a Canadian expatriate--and the painful breakup with Mitchell as grist for his song mill. Logically enough, Seam's forthcoming third album, Are You Driving Me Crazy? (Touch & Go), is a bleak statement of emotional strain embodied by guitars that mewl with melancholy, bitterness, and unsure resolve; Park's lyrics, a combination of numbness and bile, are masterfully reinforced by the music. On a basic level the album retains Seam's previous sound, but at the same time it becomes clear that Park and company--Shin, guitarist Reg Schrader, and drummer Chris Manfrin--have discovered the Zen of the forlorn pop tune. San Diego's aMiniature house their broken melodies in a barrage of blitzing yet carefully syncopated guitar architecture. On their new album Murk Time Cruiser (Restless), singer/guitarist John Lee frantically spits out words, presenting the band's inherent tunefulness in choppy, tension-creating fragments. Vocal lines and instrumental attack are so thoroughly enmeshed that Lee's sputtering voice almost qualifies as an instrument. They've come a long way from the new wave-ish loud pop of their debut, Plexiwatt, embarrassingly reissued by Restless last year, and if they can cut through their rhythmic stagnation they'll get even better. This show represents the final date on the Ear of the Dragon tour, a showcase of Asian-American rock bands supporting a brand-new CD compilation by the same name. Venus Cures All and Cub round out the bill. Saturday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 489-3160.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photos/Peter Kim; Ted Drake.

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