STEREO TOTAL 11/2, EMPTY BOTTLE On their new fifth album, Musique Automatique (Bobsled), this multinational Berlin-based entity--now just the duo of Francoise Cactus and Brezel Goring--have started using more real instruments in an attempt to sound more electronic. (Yeah, I had to read that twice too.) Their attempts at Kraftwerkian bubblegum are a bit less busy and hyper than previous material, but no less catchy. Whether they're singing in English, French, German, or Turkish, these guys are almost offensively irresistible. GRAM PARSONS 55TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE 11/3, DOUBLE DOOR Gram Parsons is to alt-country what Hank Williams is to the uncut stuff: brilliant, promising, and dead before he had a chance to blow it. Celebrating what would have been his 55th birthday a couple days early--the actual date is the 5th, Guy Fawkes Day--is a parade of local notables, including John Stirratt (Wilco) and Jay Bennett (ex-Wilco), Danny Black (see below), the Chamber Strings, and the terrific, hairy-scary Tijuana Hercules. MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT 11/3, METRO I think these guys think that if they just keep making the same record they made in 1988, sooner or later it'll come back into fashion. And honestly, I'm not sure they're wrong. Their latest, The Reincarnation of Luna (Sleazebox), sounds better to me than their stuff has in a while, in a Burning-Man-theme-camp-based-on-an-early-90s-B-movie-conception-of-Japanese-sex-clubs kind of way. TARA JANE O'NEIL 11/3, SCHUBAS Tara Jane O'Neil, a Louisville scene vet now living in New York, flirts with preciousness in her band Retsin, but lately her solo work couldn't be more direct. Her second solo album, In the Sun Lines (Quarterstick), isn't a radical departure from last year's Peregrine; but it does sound like a refinement. Her delicate songs convey a sense of rural isolation in the heart of hipster city, and the album as a whole seems to be a meditation on the art of maintaining one's private space. But, as on the slightly flirtatious-sounding "Sweet Bargaining," she can also make that space seem pretty inviting. Her live band includes Ida drummer Miggy Littleton, bassist Todd Cook, and guitarist Noel Hawley. K., otherwise known as Karla Schickele from Ida, and Ann Arbor's Flashpapr open. CHIYOKO 11/4, EMPTY BOTTLE Not sure why Chiyoko Yoshida's bands never take off--she's as good a singer as any lady in town and an underrated instrumentalist as well. Regularly compared to Kristin Hersh when she fronted Squash Blossom, she rather remarkably retired from her main ax to learn the drums, which she now plays in Sweeder; she's sung on records by June of 44, the Bells, Modest Mouse, and the Chamber Strings. On her first solo album, Cinematic (Boo-the-Cat), in the works since 1995, she plays acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, and synthetic drums, with able backup by the likes of Poi Dog Pondering's Ted Cho, violinist Julie Liu (Sweeder's bassist), and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm as well as Brian Deck, who produces, arranges, and plays a little percussion as well. The songs are pop with touches of country and electronica--a little bit Moulin Rougey Mary Timony, a little bit bluesy Bjork. Her band here will include Cho, Sweeder's Jeff Carleton, Liu, bassist Ben Taylor, and drummer Stevie Treichel. JUCIFER 11/4, FIRESIDE BOWL Usually the way it works is that those who like pop and those who like the hard stuff don't get along. But in Jucifer, who're touring behind the new The Lambs EP (Velocette), the two types get reconciled in one cozy duo. With her breathy, glisteningly girly voice, front woman G. Amber Valentine could easily do fluffy electro-pop a la April March if she wanted--but on occasion she opts to scream over her slow-as-syrup, heavy-as-Sabbath chords, attained by running her guitar through three separate amps and a distortion pedal. Meanwhile her partner G. Edgar Livengood pounds the drums harder than any guy that skinny should be able to; together they're louder than many much larger bands. DANNY BLACK'S HEALTHY WHITE BABY 11/5, 12, 19 & 26, SCHUBAS With drummers and backup singers coming and going, Danny and Gina Black gave the Blacks their double-barreled charisma, but now the two are going their separate ways, and singer and guitarist Danny Black has been recording demos with a bassist and a drummer, whom he's dubbed the Healthy White Baby. The three songs I've heard so far are low-key and restrained, with a tetch of honky-tonk tension--the sound of a heart being bounced up and down like a squishy yo-yo. There'll be an album next year, but I doubt it'll sound much like this: Black has just begun playing this stuff in front of people, and to hone it, for starters, he'll be playing every Monday this month at Schubas.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Leasha Overturf.