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Spot Check

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CASTLE BROADWAY 6/16, 6ODUM For their first Chicago show in more than a year, and to celebrate the release of their second (eponymous) full-length on their own Soutrane label, this Milwaukee-based collective brings their lovely, slow-growing variants on space drone and genuinely warm jazz to the concrete room at 6Odum (which ought to have more of a reputation for its sound-condensing properties). Castle Broadway's CD is the work of no less than nine musicians on more than twice as many instruments, including Pele drummer Jon Mueller (who will also appear on two forthcoming Soutrane releases with Byard Lancaster) and Chicagoan Pete Gianakopoulos, who plays organ, guitar, and "a very grand piano." Though it's not the least bit icy, Castle Broadway's delicacy brings to mind the third stream as much as post-rock, sound-track-era Popol Vuh or anything more au courant. Also on the bill are the Unshown, TV Pow, and Fur Saxa, the solo project of Tara Burke--late of Un--described to me as Azalia Snail/Alastair Galbraith gray-day-mood-type music. DJ KRUSH 6/16, Smart Bar Ever since he saw Wild Style as a kid in Japan, DJ Krush has dedicated himself to all things hip-hop. But after Krush Posse, his Tokyo-based rap group, broke up in 1992, his solo work has ventured further and further into the rest of the world--and sometimes straight out of it. He's remixed both Ronny Jordan and K.D. Lang (whom his bio inexplicably calls a "rock/alternative act"), he's collaborated with trumpeter and electronicist Toshinori Kondo (best known in these parts for his otherworldly fire with Peter Brotzmann's Die Like a Dog Quartet and the Brotzmann Chicago Tentet), and with his latest, Code4109, he's documented what his live sets can be like: an hour of trippy, spacey beat abstraction that takes disparate but familiar sounds from the likes of Eminem or Bulgarian women's choirs out into a realm where the music's still anchored by groove but unlikely to get lost in the dance-floor shuffle. SWINGIN' NECKBREAKERS 6/16, EMPTY BOTTLE Eight years in the jammin', this New Jersey garage trio has continually refined its simple and effective punch. On Hoboken's Telstar label since their first single in 1992, their fourth album, The Return of Rock (from where?), indicates a real flair for melody and hook, hitting some heights so fierce you hope they don't hurt themselves ("Stop, Drop, Wiggle") and some asides so wicked you'll never look at your friends the same way again ("I'm in a Band"). Of course you've heard it all before, but rarely done so well. CHRIS WHITLEY 6/20, SCHUBAS Houston-born, well-traveled New York resident Chris Whitley is a man of many talents. His career has tripped along from synth pop to noise rock, but the comfortable groove he's settled into as a thinking man's Bruce Springsteen (and, yes, the world needed one) has served him best, giving him his most stable fan base. His latest release, the imaginatively titled Chris Whitley Live (Messenger)--which documents a three-night stand here at Martyrs' last August--reveals that his songwriting has held the line through the four full-lengths he's generated since the early 90s. Even though there are numbers that date back to his first, 1991's Living With the Law (like the always haunting "Big Sky Country"), if you don't already know it's impossible to tell which are the chestnuts and which the exciting new faves. Whitley also appears June 21 at Metro, as part of the "Second Waltz" benefit lineup, along with David Amram and Cin Salach, Diane Izzo, Bob Mould, Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett, and others. ELIZABETH ELMORE 6/22, SCHUBAS Sarge--the Champaign-born band beloved of Robert Christgau and hundreds of midwest indie kids--shuffled through five years and several lineup changes behind singer-songwriter Elizabeth Elmore's mildly infectious kitten-with-claws croon, and then broke up earlier this year without much fanfare. Their final statement is Distant (Mud), an odds-and-sods collection that includes three unreleased demos, a handful of live tracks, and three pop covers. ("These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" oozes postadolescent malice, Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" doesn't benefit from the treatment but isn't destroyed either, and Wham's "Lost Christmas" is still the kind of pap we turned to indie rock in the first place to get away from.) Two Elmore solo tracks (one a revamping of a demo tune) might point to the NU law student's new direction--painstaking and literary. On this Parasol showcase for MOBfest, she shares the bill with Autoliner, June & the Exit Wounds, and the Doleful Lions. YBO2, lARVAL, DIRTY OLD MAN RIVER 6/22, EMPTY BOTTLE There are reunion tours and then there are reunion tours. Since so few people in the States got to experience the hurricane brilliance of Japanese experimental legends YBO2--and since founding drummer Tatsuya Yoshida has now won well-deserved devotion with the blinding, white-hot Ruins and since guitarist K.K. Null (Zeni Geva) is no slouch either--this one's more than justified. Also on the bill are Larval, the brainchild of Detroit composer and multimedia artist Bill Brovold. On their two albums for Knitting Factory Records, Larval aim to "combine strains of the MC5, Rhys Chatham, Mahler's Fourth, and surf punk"; mostly they hit it with soaring, grinding, unresolved upheavals of sound. Dirty Old Man River--the "pop" band on the bill--just released a short album, Ageless, on Radial Records, and it's been a long time since anyone has done true Wisconsin Death Trip gothic on this level. While the Bad Seeds at their most tooth gritting and Tom Waits at his most sinister are obvious reference points, Julian Mills's clenched, near-death-metal growl and Ben Miller's (late of Destroy All Monsters) bloodcurdling prepared-guitar breaks and squeals make the nightmare stick. K.K. Null opens with a solo set; he also performs with video artist Christian Matts June 21 at Deadtech, the Logan Square multimedia gallery he helped to christen a year ago.

--Monica Kendrick

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

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