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DON CABALLERO 11/27, LOUNGE AX Reports of this high-density band's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Perhaps it was roused from its short but much-boohooed slumber by the tedious din of all the god-awfully serious instrumental lurch-wank bands that seethed up in its absence. At any rate, this year's What Burns Never Returns (Touch and Go) takes all the little boys by the hand and shows 'em how it's done: move in fast and fearless, state your (instrumental) case with violent highs and inaudible lows, and get the fuck out.

MARKY RAMONE & THE INTRUDERS 11/27, EMPTY Bottle This quartet, stripped to essentials even by Ramones standards, is led by drummer Marky Ramone (ne Marc Bell) and fronted by a Joey soundalike who goes by the name of "Skinny Bones." The leather-jacket poses and song titles ("I Wants My Beer," "Anxiety," "Telephone Love") on its eponymously titled album (from Thirsty Ear) don't lie--the Intruders have that more or less classic sound down pat. But even direct bloodlines can't make it seem special again.

FRED LONBERG-HOLM'S LIGHT BOX ORCHESTRA 11/30, THE NOTE The club's ad describes what Lonberg-Holm and his troupe of gung-ho improvisers do as "experimental jazz," but even that's too restrictive. The Light Box Orchestra, according to the cellist himself, is a rotating cast of about 25 players--8 or 10 of whom might show up on a given night--who come not just from free jazz but also contemporary classical and avant rock. "Some weeks the jazz contingency exerts itself and on others, the balance is more decidedly towards the skronk-noise end," Lonberg-Holm says. "My role as a sort of conductor-live dubber-improvising orchestrator is to find ways for players of fairly diverse styles to play music together." He does this in part by means of cue cards that might include cryptic phrases or "stage directions" that point straight down the garden path. Cheerfully he warns, "Generally one can expect some amount of action, a little slag, some posturing, a degree of chaos, and a few moments of panic."

HAL RAMMEL & LOU MALLOZZI 12/2, EMPTY BOTTLE It took Wisconsin-based instrument inventor and improviser Hal Rammel and Chicago-based sound artist Lou Mallozzi from 1995 to 1997 to assemble their new Whole or by the Slice (Penumbra), and their meticulousness manifests itself in the record's careful cussedness: the low electronic boil that underlines some of its tracks raises the level of uneasiness in proportion to the volume, and sharp metallic interruptions and playful vocal sounds from Mallozzi (whose previous CD, Radiophagy, gave new meaning to the concept of the "unreliable narrator") set the record apart from its cousins in the "soothing" school of experimental soundscape music. I'm curious how Rammel and Mallozzi will adapt their two-year process to real time. Violinist Terri Kapsalis, a guest on the album, will join them at this CD-release party.

NUMBER ONE CUP 12/3, Empty Bottle When Number One Cup guitarist and vocalist Seth Cohen broke his neck just after the band's new People People Why Are We Fighting? (Flydaddy) came out in October, friends and acquaintances pitched in to make sure the band got its CD-release party anyway: in front of an elaborate boxing backdrop, each of a dozen local acts set forth an enthusiastic, if underrehearsed or overlubricated, cover of one of the album's songs. In one way, it'll almost be anticlimactic to hear the band play its own tunes; in another, it'll be a relief--and not just for Cohen, who has been in an unwieldy brace for weeks. The album exhibits a nice inescapable density that many of the tributeers couldn't put over--some cuts sound like they might've been recorded by Steve Albini in a freight elevator.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Don Caballero photo by Ewolf.

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