Sharp Darts: Local Release Roundup | Music Column | Chicago Reader

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Sharp Darts: Local Release Roundup

White Mystery whips the sophomore jinx, Void Pedal bumps with no MC, the Numero Group does Chicago salsa, and more.

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WHITE MYSTERY

Blood & Venom

(self-released)

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If you follow local music media, you already know that critics and bloggers have maintained a pretty much constant state of freaking out over White Mystery for more than a year—the band's ability to instantly turn the most sedate and underattended show into a knock-down garage-rocking brawl has earned Alex and Francis White at least as much press as being a sibling duo with huge, flame-red hairdos. The Whites' songwriting skills have attracted less attention, probably because it's tough to focus your mind on that sort of nuance with Alex's soulful holler right in your face and everybody's hair flying everywhere. Blood & Venom addresses this problem (if you can call it a problem) in part by dialing back the fuzz in a couple spots to let the band's knack for melody shine through—"Pumpkin Creme" in particular has the sweet hook and psychedelic lyrics of a lost single by a one-hit wonder from 1967. ("Dead Inside," on the other hand, is apparently a really ballsy homage to the Who's "I Can't Explain"—it uses the same guitar riff, the same vocal melody, and some of the same lyrics.) That's not to say the album's necessarily less intense than the Whites' live shows—if all you're looking for is some crackling garage stomp to dance to on the odd night the band's not playing, you'll be satisfied too. Those of you reading this on Wednesday, April 20, might still be able to catch White Mystery at one of their two release shows that night at Pancho's, 2200 N. California: the first is at 6 PM and all-ages, the second at 10:30 PM and 21+.

VOID PEDAL

Omni Colour

(Fieldwerk)

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It used to be that listening to rap instrumentals was almost enough to get you branded antisocial—a freakish pastime indulged in only by the kind of vinyl obsessives and hip-hop snobs who can turn almost any conversation to the ongoing crime of how the mainstream doesn't appreciate Prince Paul. But over the past few years, a number of factors—including a few groundbreaking albums by J Dilla and the rap world's growing taste for complex compositions since Kanye's Graduation—has helped erase that stigma. Quite a few producers are getting by just fine bypassing the traditional route of shopping their beat CDs to rappers, instead releasing them straight to the public. It's not hard to imagine an MC finding a lot to love in Omni Colour, the full-length debut by local producer Void Pedal, aka Chad Schneider—his tracks are easygoing but compelling, rolling up stylistic influences as varied as jazz-funk, Krautrock, and dubstep while uncovering new life in the played-out boom-bap beat. What's hard to imagine is that most rappers could do much to improve them.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Cult Cargo: Salsa Boricua de Chicago

(Numero Group)

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Another Numero compilation, another opportunity to experience a musical time and place almost entirely unknown to anyone who wasn't there the first time around. As with the label's 2007 Twinight label comp, the setting is once again Chicago, but instead of another look at the soul scene of the late 60s and early 70s we get a peek inside the city's salsa community of the mid- to late 70s, which was overwhelmingly Puerto Rican. Salsa Boricua de Chicago surveys the output of Ebirac Records, one of Chicago's only salsa-oriented labels. The locally preferred flavors of salsa captured in this collection, while occasionally big and catchy, were often shockingly raw compared with the music that artists like Tito Puente and Willie Colon had popularized in New York—on the four tracks from the band La Solucion, the melodic elements are so subdued they're almost minimalist, and the form's roots in African folk rhythms are played up to the point that a blindfolded listener could be forgiven for thinking the group was from Lagos rather than Division Street (at least during the instrumental passages). The extensive liner notes should be required reading for all residents of Humboldt Park.

ARCHITECTURE

When We Were Young

(self-released)

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Last month an e-mail popped up in my inbox with the subject line, "We hope you like more than 15 seconds this time!" It was from local duo Architecture, and the reference was to a roundup I'd done in September—I'd complained that the band's too-ironic-seeming cover of R. Kelly's "Pregnant" had lost me right after its amazing intro. Included was a link to Architecture's debut EP, a release that puts me in the rare position of telling someone that they're getting what they hoped for. Actually the first two minutes of the record—that is, opening track "The Chant"—might be the weakest, attempting the same witch-pop thing that Warpaint already basically owns. Much more worthy of repeat plays is "I'm With You," with its addictive combo of eerie-yet-twee girl-pop vocals, a one-string garage-guitar lead, and a Speak & Spell.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Busted at Oz

(Permanent)

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Nostalgia is antithetical to punk rock, but now that we're seeing reunion tours from every punk band under 1983's sun—a spectacle that's usually just as sad as watching the classic rockers on the state-fair circuit—the right kind of nostalgia can help dispel the lurking fear that it wasn't all as important as we thought it was when we were young and patch covered. Recorded on March 9-11, 1981, at Oz, a short-lived but notorious venue that ended its neighborhood-hopping run at 3714 N. Broadway, Busted shows the Chicago punk scene at its most vital and dangerous-sounding point. The bands on the comp—Silver Abuse, Da, the Subverts, Strike Under, and early, less melodic incarnations of Naked Raygun and the Effigies—had little use for the pop elements present in the big punk scenes on the coasts. Instead they hurled bursts of concentrated noise and bad feelings that sound legitimately scary even by today's standards. I'm more than happy to overlook the fact that in recent years every single one of these groups has gotten back together in one form or another (with the arguable exception of Steve Bjorklund playing Strike Under songs with an otherwise totally different lineup), considering that there were only like seven people around to see them back in the day.

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