The improvisational Boxhead Ensemble return to the scene of their first soundtrack triumph | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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The improvisational Boxhead Ensemble return to the scene of their first soundtrack triumph

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It’s been 20 years since Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back first screened in Chicago. A black-and-white documentary about the encroachment of modernization on America’s last frontier, it was shot in the Aleutian Islands by directors Braden King and Laura Moya, but its gray-shaded score was tracked at the South Loop’s Truckstop Audio by the Boxhead Ensemble. Guitarist Michael Krassner selected the ensemble’s members like he was casting his own film, directing different combinations of musicians from Gastr Del Sol, Tortoise, and Eleventh Dream Day to improvise along with scenes from the movie. Over the next year Dutch Harbor and Boxhead Ensemble toured the U.S. and Europe like a rock band, the continually morphing group (which included still more Chicagoans as well as members of the Australian band Dirty Three) improvising new accompaniment every night. Krassner eventually left Chicago in 2001 and ultimately settled in Tucson, but he’s maintained his connections here. He’ll observe the 20th anniversary of Dutch Harbor by convening a Boxhead Ensemble that includes Rick Rizzo, who was part of the first Truckstop Session; Jim Becker and Tim Rutili, former partners in Califone who both once toured with Boxhead; singer-songwriter Adam Busch, who plays on the 2015 Boxhead cassette La Hora Magica (Astral Spirits); and cellist Teddy Rankin-Parker. Over the course of the two sets Rizzo, Becker, Rutili, and Busch will play their own material, and the full group will gather for the finale. There will also be two new Boxhead records available: The Chicago Sessions, a double LP of material recorded for but not used in Braden King’s film Here, and Krassner’s first-ever solo guitar album, Electric Guitar, pressed for the show in a special edition of 33.   v

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