Staff Pick: Best local label | Best of Chicago 2019 | Music & Nightlife | Chicago Reader

Staff Pick: Best local label

Chicago Research

Critics' Picks

Punk musician and engineer Blake Karlson launched Chicago Research in late 2018, and since then he's used the label to document every scrap and fleck of gunk he can dredge up from the dark underside of local electronic music. In less than a year, he's racked up more than a dozen releases, most on cassette and all available to stream or buy on Bandcamp, and each one provides insight into glorious and sometimes grotesque new sounds. Chicago Research's main concerns are industrial and electronic body music—umbrella terms that Karlson expands to include waterlogged, mutant synth-pop (Death Valley), teeth-baring postpunk (Bruised), and terrifying soundscapes that split the difference between punk and power electronics (Civic Center). Karlson also fronts Product KF, a postpunk three-piece whose second album, Songs of the Groves, arrived via Chicago Research in April; their anxious, frostbitten songs are sure to appeal to fans of the genre's British classics, and Karlson sounds eerily like Ian Curtis. Like the rest of the Chicago Research roster, Product KF find inventive ways to bring a bold, dark style from decades past into the present day—and in this case, they've decided that the task requires liberal use of scrap-metal percussion.

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