Spaceheads | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Drummer Richard Harrison and trumpeter Andy Diagram have played together in many guises since the early 80s: in the new-wave dance band Dislocation Dance, in the squawky jazz-rock band the Honkies, with Pere Ubu front man David Thomas as his 2 Pale Boys. But since 1989 the Mancunians' main gig has been the tuneful drum and trumpet duo Spaceheads. Despite the instrumentation there's nothing minimalist about the sound: both use electronics liberally to expand the range of their instruments. Diagram works a whole table full of gadgets, transforming trumpet toots into foghorn honks, train whistles, steamy sibilance, or simulated guitar riffs, then looping and layering them as needed. On their new album, Low Pressure (Merge), their reliance on digital tricks reaches an all-time high. Three of the tracks are remixes; "Pressure Point" is a reimagining of the title track by another Harrison project, the Bleach Boys, and "Storm Force 8" is a version of "Trance Fig 8," from the group's 1999 album Angel Station, by 808 State founder Graham Massey. These pieces aren't just tacked on at the end; they fit in well with the other material, with Harrison's elastic timekeeping as a constant. On the downside, when the duo gets too loopy, as on "The Hut," they verge on a slick sort of high-BPM smooth jazz, and when Diagram overpolishes a line, as he's occasionally wont to do, you'd swear Herb Alpert just walked in. I prefer last year's collaboration with electronic musician Max Eastley, The Time of the Ancient Astronaut (Bip-Hop), an album more concerned with texture and tension than pumping up the dance floor. Regardless, Spaceheads are a blast to see live. Drums & Tuba open (cute). Saturday, September 7, 10 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln; 773-404-9494.

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

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