Spaceheads | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Standing there onstage, Spaceheads look like a shorthanded jazz combo: Andy Diagram plays trumpet and thumb piano, and Richard Harrison uses a standard drum kit. But with the assistance of some surprisingly basic technology, the British duo executes pulsing rhythms that groove more than they swing. Diagram uses a harmonizer to alter the pitch of his horn, feeds the low notes into an echo machine to make fat bass loops, and warps the high ones into flickering electronic fanfares with a whammy pedal. Harrison's exacting attack betrays a varied resume that includes a stint with God Is My Co-Pilot. (Both men played in a punk-jazz outfit called the Honkies, which also featured two saxophonists and a bassist, and in the new-wave outfit Dislocation Dance.) Spaceheads' 1996 debut, Spaceheads, and 1997 live album, Round the Outside, both on sometime Reader contributor Douglas Wolk's label, Dark Beloved Cloud, are a splendid introduction to the duo's infectious blend of bright melodies, spacey textures, and danceable beats, but they don't convey the sheer thrill of seeing two people generate so much sound with such precision. Nor will the records prepare you for the delirious spectacle of Diagram singing into the bell of his trumpet, his heavily effected voice swooping like a computer simulation of an operatic soprano or multiplying into dense, wordless babble. This is Spaceheads' first Chicago date in nearly two years, and the only between-the-coasts show on their current tour. Monday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Bill Meyer

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo by John Broadbent.

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