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CRICKET RUMOR MILL 7/21, HIDEOUT A lot of instrumental albums aim to conjure wide-open spaces, but this local trio's second self-released CD, Molto, brings to my mind's eye a cozy room full of recording equipment. The five glistening, melodic tracks, built from layers of percussion, guitar, bass, keyboards, and the occasional trumpet or chimes, unfold gently, carefully, and predictably in an aural equivalent of aromatherapy--sometimes refreshing or relaxing, but sometimes sickly sweet, like the dime-store version of the expensive stuff.

ARRIVALS 7/22, METRO On their debut, Goodbye New World (Thick), these heroes of the local all-ages scene tear through a goodly chunk of the punk rock textbook: you got your puppy-love power pop, your verses underscored by rumbling one-note bass lines and your rousing anthemic choruses, your mean-killing-machine hardcore, your swaggering and staggering and sneering, your throat fulla snot. The Arrivals' publicists boast that the band is "out to prove that contemporary punk has more than three chords," but in fact there are three-chord progressions all over the place here, and some of 'em really get the blood pumping. But none sounds startlingly original. Maybe what the flacks really meant was that ripping off Naked Raygun is currently cooler than ripping off the Ramones. r LEO SIDRAN 7/22, HEARTLAND CAFE The son of jazz musician Ben Sidran, Leo Sidran was born with a silver pen in his hand. Normally I wouldn't be impressed by the fact that Steve Miller recorded four of his songs in 1993--but Leo was only 15 at the time. So he's a prodigy, and though he's traveled the world with his dad, some of the sheltered preciousness of that life still clings to him. His latest record, L. Sid (GoPop), was inspired by a year he spent in Seville: he sings in both English and Spanish, and there's a tiny bit of flamenco in the sound and the rhythm. But his self-conscious, literate, hothouse-flawless love-story pop, caught somewhere between cocktail smoothness and real sophistication, is lacking a bit in the duende department.

FACTIONS & FISSURES DOUBLE TRIO 7/25, EMPTY BOTTLE None of these guys, all of whom are under 26, are as name-droppable as Ken Vandermark, Kent Kessler, or Hamid Drake--but you can hear the "yet" at the end of that sentence hitting the floor like a pin dropped in the midst of a reverent improv crowd. Their band, formed earlier this year, has an interesting lineup: two saxophonists (Matt Bauder and Dave Rempis, who plays in the Vandermark 5), two bassists (Gordon Lewis and the much-in-demand Jason Roebke), and two drummers (Tim Daisy and Eric Roth). And the sample CD-R they sent me, recorded live last month, suggests that they've only just begun to explore its potential. The disc features two longish compositions with lots of room for improvisation, one leaning toward the spare and roomy, with a hint of twitchy alertness, the other taking deep breaths and leaning into the energy.

EINSTŸRZENDE NEUBAUTEN 7/27, METRO Silence Is Sexy--hardly the most promising title for a new EinstŸrzende Neubauten album. I mean, for sure silence is sexier than approaching this sprawling, metaconscious double CD as if Neubauten were the sleek, droll, meticulous, intellectual avant-pop band their old fans don't want them to be. But truth is that's what they are now, and they are very good at what they choose to do: making spare, carefully constructed post-Wall stalk-and-stare music for renovated squats. Not all of the rarefied concepts of the record, with its literary and cinematic takes on history, dread, and desire, survive the translation from intention to result, but even the misfires can be interesting. The music is still essentially sexy (as is Blixa Bargeld), and based on the band's last Chicago show, in late '98 (at which they premiered a transfixing, climactic tune called "Sonnenbarke" from the new album), the live version still accommodates that need for noise and brutal rhythm--they get just rough enough to show their teeth and rattle yours. --Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Factions & Fissures Double Trio uncredited photo.

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