ANGELS OF LIGHT 4/4, SCHUBAS When Michael Gira swapped the full-body punch of his Swans for sensitive tunecraft at the end of the 80s, some were relieved and some dismayed. I've never fallen into either camp--I just hoped Gira would someday find a way to reconcile the bitter tenderness of his quiet stuff with his capacity for, er, shock and awe. Every Angels of Light album so far has taken a step toward that synthesis. The third, Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home (Young God), puts the pulsing, punishingly repetitive sounds Gira swiped from Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca way back when in the service of ghostly and penitent songs to create a new form of tolerance-testing drone folk. Devendra Banhart opens. BETTIE SERVEERT 4/4, ABBEY PUB The Dutch group's last American release, Private Suit, put out in 2000, didn't exactly burn down the house, and they're probably still best known for their wonderful debut, Palomine, which came out on Matador a full decade ago. (A 1998 disc of Velvet Underground covers that manages to leech all the tension and fear out of the songs is now a cult item.) But while the new album, Log22, won't wow anyone but a few diehards, the band's retro pop crunch still stimulates the sugar-receptor neurons too well for me to remorselessly consign 'em to the dustbin. PETE KREBS & THE WHO NOW 4/4, HIDEOUT; 4/5, SCHUBAS; 4/7, EMPTY BOTTLE; 4/8 FITZGERALD'S After cutting his teeth with noisemongers Thrillhammer and making his name with the indie-pop band Hazel, Pete Krebs was reborn in the mid-90s as a west-coast singer-songwriter of the sort who might conceivably score a big hit if some Sheryl Crow type were to take a shine to one of his tunes. On his solid second album, I Know It by Heart (Cavity Search), Krebs's delivery is confident and true, if a bit straight-lined and straitlaced. For the month of April he's left his usual band, the Gossamer Wings, back in Portland and settled in as an artist in residence in Chicago. The Who Now is essentially whoever shows up at a Krebs gig ready to play, and the list of those planning to do so over the month includes Robbie Fulks, Mark Greenberg, Deanna Varagona, Ryan Hembrey, Kevin O'Donnell, and Chris Mills. Krebs will be holding down Friday nights at the Hideout and miscellaneous nights at Schubas. (At the Empty Bottle on Monday he opens for the Starlight Mints.) Check listings for a rough idea of who's jamming when. AISLERS SET, QUAILS 4/5, FIRESIDE BOWL Countless pop bands cite Phil Spector as an influence, but for all their fetishizing of vintage equipment and recording techniques, today's sound geeks seem to forget that the hysterical old misogynist was in the business of making hits. San Francisco's Aislers Set are one of the few such acts that don't let their craftiness overwhelm their songs. On their third album, How I Learned to Write Backwards (Suicide Squeeze), a curtain of shimmering female harmonies wafts like the veils of Salome around indelible melodies as drums and jangling guitars seem to echo from the depths of a cathedral. Also on the bill are the Quails, in which Circus Lupus veteran Seth Lorinczi joins Jen Smith and Julianna Bright for some righteous exhortational-punk noise, and spazzy instrumentalists Hella. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY 4/5, SUBTERRANEAN Having recently collaborated with the White Stripes and the Greenhornes, London-based garage rocker Holly Golightly hasn't been so potentially trendy since her days with Thee Headcoatees. Not that it sounds like she cares--her husky, offhand singing is marked by the wry detachment of a lounge lizard. The forthcoming Truly She Is Noneother (Damaged Goods) is her first release since 2001's smokin' compilation Singles Roundup. PORTASTATIC 4/9, EMPTY BOTTLE In recent years Superchunk front man and Merge Records co-owner Mac McCaughan has released everything from a lovably fumbling tropicalia tribute to a surprisingly fine record with Ken Vandermark and Tim Mulvenna. He's self-aware but never self-conscious--given that he called his last Portastatic album The Nature of Sap, I wondered if the title of the new one, The Summer of the Shark, meant he was gonna show his teeth. Then I tuned in closer and heard, in the bittersweet piano-driven sing-along "Don't Disappear": "And in this dream we were terribly tall, wobbly and weak / And I was afraid we would fall / Impaled on dull silver mass of antennae / And I wanted to grab you but you were so skinny / Don't disappear on me now." This album seems as much of a commentary on September 11 as The Rising, but personal and rueful, often gentle and nervous, its sentiments colored by McCaughan's distinctive chirp, a little-boy voice at odds with his mature sentiments. No attempts at anthems or mass healing here, just lots of songs about wanting to protect and comfort your friends. Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney and Quasi contributes vocals to one track; Lambchop's Tony Crow adds piano. THE NOTWIST 4/10, METRO Over the course of 13 years and six albums these Munich experimentalists have developed such clarity and precision it's hard to imagine any Radiohead fan not being at least a little smitten. Neon Golden, their latest (and first since '98), was released in Europe last year and recently issued stateside (with three additional tracks) by Domino. Here their gentle machine-music is slowed down and allowed to bask in the sun, and the forced postpunk cleverness and electronica-by-the-numbers of yore is left behind in favor of a restless tenderness.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bernd Bergman.