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Spot Check

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ANTIETAM 9/29, METRO There are bound to be kids at this show who don't even know who Antietam are, much less why they're on a bill with Tortoise. Guitarist Tara Key and her husband, bassist Tim Harris, have been collaborating since the late 70s, when they played together in the legendary Louisville party combo called the Babylon Dance Band. Antietam formed in the early 80s, when Key and Harris moved to New York, and put out several albums of art-punk squall on Homestead and Triple X. Since 1990 they've been a trio, with drummer Josh Madell, and as such have grown into world-champion woodshedders--their last release as a band, Rope-a-Dope, came out in 1995, as did Key's last solo album, Ear and Echo. Key's short stint as second guitarist in Eleventh Dream Day in 1997 and a few Chicago appearances by Key and Harris earlier this year--promoting her relatively subdued collaboration with Dream Day's Rick Rizzo, Dark Edson Tiger (Thrill Jockey)--bode well for a wild ride by this dark horse. Key is hands down one of rock's most exciting, visceral, and powerful guitarists, equally able to create nuanced textures and wring every last drop of noise out of a fierce solo. The band has a new record in progress; its set here will comprise mostly new material. MOLJEBKA PULSE, MIKAEL STAVOSTRAND 9/29, DEADTECH These two Swedish sound artists are touring the United States for the first time on a bill with Chicagoan Brent Gutzeit of TV Pow. Moljebka Pulse is Mathias Josefson, who uses acoustic and electric guitars to generate chilly, echoey, slightly sweet drones that morph at the pace of a sunset from daylight to bright haze to dark; fans of Dean Roberts and Kevin Drumm will recognize the terrain of his new album, Koan (Pre-Feed/Eibon), but not its individual features. Mikael Stavostrand, who has also recorded as Inanna and Archon Satani, has a decade of electronic performance, sound installations, dance music, and recordings for numerous European labels under his belt, but lately he mostly samples and restructures sounds via computer. His brand of squeak 'n' scrape is clean, precise, sometimes formal, and untouchably elegant, like brittle sculpture under glass. SAINT ETIENNE 9/29, HOUSE OF BLUES The smooth, mildly pensive Europop of Saint Etienne--think 60s starlet under a streetlight, nibbling at a perfectly manicured fingernail--is more than just raw material for remixes. Possible uses for the new Sound of Water (Sub Pop) include but are not limited to: mood setting for vintage clothing shops and bars with lava lamps, background for rainy-day interludes in independent films about the fleetingness of contemporary relationships, support for arguments about the lasting influence of Berlin or the feasibility of reworking Kraftwerk for "chick appeal," and the temporary conversion of dorm rooms into space-age bachelor pads. Not such a bad investment, really. 7 SECONDS 9/30, FIRESIDE BOWL It's not a reunion tour, and I wouldn't call it a comeback. Fronted by its only original member, singer Kevin Seconds, this southern California band has withstood the crashing of wave after wave of punk rock, faltering most noticeably after being trifled with by Epic in the post-Offspring gold rush. They're now signed to the LA indie Side One Dummy and have finally gotten around to releasing a live album: Scream Real Loud, recorded this spring with authentic grodiness, is both a serviceable career retrospective and a spine-tingling preview of their live show. Nice to know that as long as you keep the faith and stay in shape you don't have to "mature." BOBBY CONN 10/1, HOTHOUSE Bobby Conn is an odd and gutsy choice to close the World Music Festival, and he's probably as surprised about it as anyone: his is a distinctive vision that skewers all pretensions to universality. Since releasing an EP of eviscerated international pop, Llovessonngs (Thrill Jockey), last fall, he's been conceptualizing and composing a new album, The Golden Age, which he describes as a song cycle celebrating "the boundless possibilities for humiliation and despair in the world's wealthiest economy." He'll perform material from it here with violinist Monica BouBou (aka Julie Pomerleau), vocalist Teria Gartelos, bassist Bill Loman, pianist Nick Sula, drummer Colby Starck, and guitarist John Ridenour, all clad as golden robot likenesses of our founding fathers. SPOOZYS 10/2, EMPTY BOTTLE; 10/5, FIRESIDE BOWL If you think the last thing this planet needs is another hyperactive band with a rocket fetish, you haven't heard this Tokyo outfit yet. The Spoozys twist together garage, funk, disco, surf, and Devo-esque twitch on their U.S. debut, the unfortunately titled Astral Astronauts (Jetset), one of the most energizing and original-sounding pop albums of the year. They're touring the west coast with Man or Astro-Man?--who've spent years now trying to stretch the boundaries of their chosen gimmick but don't have half this many good ideas ping-ponging around inside their helmets--but in Chicago they open for Deadbolt and the Forty-Fives at the Empty Bottle and the Dismemberment Plan at the Fireside. DJ? ACUCRACK 10/4, DOUBLE DOOR This accessible but mediocre techno duo is the side project of programmer Jason Novak and producer Jamie Duffy, both members of the more predictable industrial outfit Acumen Nation. With their second album, Sorted (just released on E-Magine, the Internet-savvy indie that also is home to Danzig), Novak claims they were striving for "the electronic equivalent of a Jane's Addiction record," but they've achieved all the emotional range and narrative flow of a Mountain Dew commercial. --Monica Kendrick

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