Local producers Tensei create an electronic canvas of astral soul | Gossip Wolf | Chicago Reader

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Local producers Tensei create an electronic canvas of astral soul

Plus: Chicago house producer Derrick “Sleezy D” Harris passes away, and Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire plays two shows behind his new solo album.

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Midas Wells and Chris Kramer of the duo Tensei - DEMETRIUS BARRY
  • Demetrius Barry
  • Midas Wells and Chris Kramer of the duo Tensei

Local production duo Midas Wells and Chris Kramer, aka Tensei, combine frothy spiritual jazz, warm hip-hop beats, and vocals from a far-flung crew of rappers and singers. In January, Tensei dropped the excellent album Constellate, whose buzzy atmosphere recalls the Soulquarian sound of the late 90s—lead track "Liquid Tongues," with singing from former Chicagoan A. Billi Free, casts an astral glow. Free, now based in New Mexico, has scheduled an August release for her album I Luma, which features Tensei's beats and an Angel Bat Dawid guest turn. On Friday, June 21, Tensei perform with Free at Cafe Mustache's Open Beats series; on Sunday, June 23, they back her at Smart Bar.

On Thursday, June 13, Derrick Harris, the beloved Chicago house producer and vocalist better known as Sleezy D, died of kidney failure at age 54. Harris is most famous for the sinister acid-house single "I've Lost Control," coproduced in 1984 with longtime friend Marshall Jefferson and punctuated with Harris's maniacal screams; legendary DJ Ron Hardy frequently played it even before Trax released it as a 12-inch in '86. Jefferson has launched a GoFundMe to raise $20,000 for Harris's funeral expenses—any surplus will go to Harris's family. On Thursday, June 20, Gospel Truth Missionary Baptist Church (10015 S. Halsted) hosts Harris's wake (11 AM) and funeral (noon).

When Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White died in 2016, Reader critic Peter Margasak noted the group's deep roots in Chicago—and for this wolf, that's enough to bestow honorary local citizenship on fellow EWF vocalist Philip Bailey. Who cares if he's from Denver? On Saturday, June 22, the falsetto master performs a free solo set at Dusty Groove to celebrate his new Verve album, Love Will Find a Way—no word yet on whether he'll arrive in a helicopter like in the ridiculously awesome video for "Easy Lover." Bailey also plays City Winery on Sunday, June 23.  v

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