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The Fourth Format

Is Plustapes Chicago's most prolific record label? Plus: Califone's new callings, another project from Pelican's Trevor de Brauw, rocking in the name of Red Bull, and more

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Coins, aka Angela Mullenhour (Sybris) and Ellen Bunch (Reds and Blue), are dropping their debut full-length, Recital Pressures, this week on local cassette label Plustapes; the release show is December 17 at the Hideout. This kicks off a busy season for Plustapes—possibly the most prolific label Chicago has seen in years—with the debut of Grey Ghost (Brian Griffith from Very Truly Yours) in January and another live cassette from Disappears (with Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley on drums) in February.

Califone have scored a new PBS documentary, The Calling, about clergy of various faiths in training. The four-hour, two-part project airs December 20 and 21 at 9 PM on WTTW. Chicago-based band members Jim Becker, Ben Massarella, and Joe Adamik have answered a different kind of call, accepting an offer to join Iron & Wine for the next two years, touring with Sam Beam behind his major-label debut, due in January on Warner Brothers. Califone will remain active between their Iron & Wine obligations.

While Pelican lays low for a bit, Bee Control, a side project of guitarist Trevor de Brauw, is finally seeing the light of day. The band, which also features Milemarker front man/guitarist Dave Laney and drummer Theo Katsaounis (Joan of Arc, D. Rider), got started two years ago, before Laney expatriated to Germany. Their debut seven-inch, recorded shortly after the band formed, is due in February, a four-way split between two German labels, Bis Aufs Messer and Dingleberry Records, the Czech label Revolution Summer, and Chicago's Past/Futures Records. De Brauw told Gossip Wolf that it's "pretty extravagant considering it will be limited to 300 copies." There are no plans for a U.S. tour or Chicago shows any time soon, but a possible 2011 tour of Germany is in the works.

Speaking of expatriate Milemarker front men, Al Burian, the band's singer/bassist and a current resident of Berlin, has a book out: a new edition of the first nine issues of Burn Collector, his long-running and influential autobiographical fanzine. For those who are still anticipating issue 15, which covers Burian's final years in Chicago (and Milemarker)—it comes out February 15. It was delayed because Burian had to remake it after leaving his only copy on an airplane in 2008.

The Handcuffs are back in the studio, knocking out album number three with Mike Hagler at King Size Sound Labs in Humboldt Park. The band will release the results in early 2011, on vinyl, CD, and as a download. Singer Chloe F. Orwell says they've been listening to a lot of glam, which explains the boas-to-band-members ratio in their publicity photo.

Local dudes Brian "Hank" Henry and Jared Sheldon started making music as part of local psych/pop act Tirra Lirra in 2006—but Henry tells Gossip Wolf the band is no more. The duo has started a new project called Presssures that debuts at the Empty Bottle on December 18, supporting MNDR and Austra. They're also recording an EP that they hope to release in February.

Young Jesus and Brighton MA are on the niche-advertising road to riches, or at least studio time in Los Angeles: these two local alt acts appear on Red Bull Rock the Route, a new Web-only show set along historic Route 66, the famed highway that once stretched from Chicago to LA. The premise will sound eerily familiar to anyone who ever saw VH1's Bands on the Run. The bands earn points based on criteria like "overall 'rock' factor" and feats of strength like steak eating and paintball on their way to a final showdown November 4 at LA's Viper Room.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository helps feed 678,000 people every year. That's about 679,000 too many. If you head to the Abbey Pub on December 16, you will catch some sweet local pop music (Tiny Bones, Magic Gloves, the Sentinels, HiFi Superstar) and can donate to this excellent cause. If you bring a packaged food donation, tickets are just $10.   

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