JEAN-MICHEL PILC Follow Me (Dreyfus) is the first solo piano outing by Paris native (and current New Yorker) Jean-Michel Pilc, and it has a sense of space that's usually lacking when his trio revamps standards. He still freely reharmonizes, reconfigures, and revitalizes warhorses, but there's no mad dash to the finish line on "Saint Louis Blues" or "Autumn Leaves." He brings an introspective Bill Evans-style lyricism to a number of his originals, whistles offhandedly on "One for My Baby," and chops "Ain't Misbehavin'" into blocks of disfigured melody. It's a terrific work, but for this weekend's dates Pilc brings his usual compatriots, bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Ari Hoenig, who should have no trouble silencing the Green Mill gabbers. 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $15. See also Saturday. --Peter Margasak
TYPICAL CATS On the opening track of the Typical Cats' new Civil Service, Qwazaar raps, "OK, I'll admit it, it's wrong / It's been quite a long minute since we left you with a song." He's referring to the fact that nearly four years have passed since Galapagos4's flagship act released its debut--but this record's so much better that it's easy to forgive the protracted silence. Denizen Kane, Qwel, and Qwazaar have varied rhyming styles, and their games of hot potato with the mike keep the tracks exciting; what's new this time is that the quality of the production matches the quality of the rapping. The funky, soulful jams are spun from a stack of great samples, and half the songs are further enhanced by live keyboards, bass, and guitar. Civil Service could be the album that boosts the Cats out of Chicago's underground. Outerlimitz, Offwhyte, and Mestizo & Robust open. 10 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-252-6179, $10, 18+. --Peter Margasak
VHS OR BETA On the new Night on Fire (Astralwerks), these Louisville-born, English-accented trendhounds have dropped their previous shtick (stiff Eurofunk) to focus on a skillful re-creation of--get this--80s postpunk dance music. Wicked, hopping beats and echoey yet robust guitar stomp around like the ghosts of New Order and Depeche Mode on steroids. The Fever, Assassins, and Disc Jockey CB open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $10 in advance, $12 at the door. --Monica Kendrick
JOHN BISCHOFF Today, software programs like Max/MSP make it relatively easy for musicians to tweak, cut up, and recombine synthetic sounds in real time, but Bay Area composer John Bischoff was working in computer music well before the age of the laptop. In 1978 he cofounded the League of Automatic Music Composers, the first "computer network band," and in the 90s worked with the Hub, a similar collective. In his Chicago debut, however, he'll perform solo. The music on last year's Aperture (23five) ranges from the elegant, slow-moving "Piano 7hz," which transforms a single piano chord into long humming tones, ascending whirs, and spare clicks, to "Sealed Cantus," a blast of lacerating white noise. For this show, Bischoff will present work combining electronically triggered bells and synthetic sounds; the bells will be situated around the space to offer a sense of dislocation from the computer sounds emanating from the loudspeakers. 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago, 312-666-0795, $12. All ages. --Peter Margasak
DWARVES Trash is timeless: like a broke-down old drag queen in a John Waters flick, the Dwarves have only acquired a richer patina with age. Their seventh album, The Dwarves Must Die, announces its intentions up front as usual, on the sleeve art (nudity, crucified dwarf), then makes a beeline for the sewer. Besides loud-fast-rules hardcore, slutty surf punk, and Revolting Cocks-ish camp industrial, the Dwarves indulge in the hip-hop takedown "Massacre" (with Nick Olivieri of "Queens of the Trust Fund," as they're referred to here), which features some of the worst rapping ever. I suspect it's intentional. The Bars and the Dutchmen open. 9 PM, the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-0011, $12. --Monica Kendrick
TELENOVELA This Chicago trio (featuring Shelly Kurzynski Villasenor, late of the Puta-Pons, along with Amy Malick and Geoff Atkinson) will officially release its full-length debut album soon, but a few advance copies will be for sale at this show. The songs on a sampler they sent me have a girl-group sensibility, the jagged-edged hard stuff meeting up with gently psychedelic call-and-response vocals and a tightly focused riff machine. The music sounds the way an industrial park looks: well-manicured on the outside, but gritty and noisy once you get past the pretty lawns and hedges. The Brian Jonestown Massacre headlines (see the Critic's Choice for the movie Dig! in Section 2) and New Constitution plays second. 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $10. --Monica Kendrick
CHANGES These locals have just returned from New York, where they snagged a slot on the same crowded CMJ showcase as the M's on the strength of a self-released EP, First of May--and its lilting, invitingly simple pop rock also has a label or two sniffing at their pant legs. (A new song, "When I Wake," made the rounds on a monthly trade compilation in September--it's available as an MP3 at www.the-changes.com.) They don't reinvent or even retrofit jangly guitar pop--think the Byrds in the 60s or R.E.M. in the 80s--but simply play the stuff with endearing dedication, cutting not a single corner, so that even the inside seams look clean. The Joggers, Walter Meego, and the Life During Wartime DJs open. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
JOHN CALE Longtime fans of the other consistently active Velvet Underground vet have always maintained he's a severely underrated songwriter. We're always hoping he's going to release the album that'll open the world's eyes--but then, if 1992's gorgeous Fragments of a Rainy Season didn't do it, what could? Cale's latest, HoboSapiens (released last year in Europe, in the U.S. only now), is one of the frustrating ones: that unmistakable Old World diction wending its way down deeply weird electronic garden paths, exuding a sense that the narrator doesn't give a damn if you keep up or not. But it's always interesting to see what you run into in the labyrinth. Cale headlines, Bruce Lamont and Fred Lonberg-Holm play second, and Amos Lee opens. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $25. --Monica Kendrick
LACO$TE DJ Felldown and Miss X of Laco$te are based in LA, but get this--they rap in French. Isn't that preposterous? OK, no, it isn't--but they really, really wish it was, at least if their over-the-top shows are any indication of their mind-set. They change their sleazy Eurotrash outfits several times in a 20-minute set, all the while spitting out haughty rhymes over chopped-up hip-hop beats, noisy little orchestral samples, and bum-rumbling bass. (They set up a video-projection system too, and sometimes they end up spending almost as much time screwing with it as they do actually performing.) Also on the bill are Femme Fatality and Gemini, the rock incarnation of local art collective Total Gym, who'll play inside an enormous green inflatable pod they made themselves. 9 PM, Buddy, 1542 N. Milwaukee, 773-342-7332, $5. All ages. --Liz Armstrong
MOVING UNITS This LA band has been generating buzz since 2001--high-profile opening slots with Blur and the Pixies upped it considerably--but the new Dangerous Dreams (Rx/Palm) is only their first actual full-length. It's impressive: a finely honed bit of no-wave-inflected dance punk that takes the jarring, disaffected sound used as mere ornament by countless others and wields it like a deadly weapon. There's more than a little of the Gang of Four feint-and-parry and some of the old Joy Division bass-carries-the-melody trick, and "Unpersuaded" sounds a little like "Marquee Moon" rejiggered for the dance floor. Chinese Stars and Kill Me Tomorrow open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $10, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
BITTER BITTER WEEKS There's a leisurely pace to Revenge (My Pal God), the new release from singer-songwriter Brian McTear (aka Bitter Bitter Weeks), but don't let it fool you. In part an homage to his late collaborator Sara Weaver, in part an indictment of American recklessness and malaise, the album is propelled by the fiery intensity lurking below its surface; you can hear it in McTear's aching, Jeff Buckley-like wail on "A Deer in the Headlights." The Poison Arrows (Atombombpocketknife's Justin Sinkovich) headline, N. Lannon plays second. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $7. McTear also opens for N. Lannon at a free, all-ages performance at 6 PM: Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway, 773-404-5080. --Monica Kendrick
BEANS See Wednesday. 5:30 PM, Reckless Records, 1532 N. Milwaukee, 773-235-3727.
ENSEMBLE N_JP and XASAX In his piece "Yago (Insects and Architecture #1)" former Chicagoan Gene Coleman creates a vocabulary of abstract sounds by finding compatibilities in three distinct types of instrumentation: saxophones, contemporary electronics, and the wind instruments used to perform the ancient Japanese court music called gagaku. Aspirated puffs, squiggles, snorts, and flutters, pitched and unpitched, slowly develop into jagged patterns crisscrossed with long tones and punctuated with eruptions of richly layered electronic sound. Coleman has written that the composition is based on natural and architectural forms (it's named after the Spanish architect Yago Conde), but even if you can't pick out the shapes, the music's intense dynamics and sumptuous color palette are compelling enough. Rei Hotoda conducts Ensemble N_JP--which includes Ko Ishikawa on sho (a bamboo mouth organ), Kazuhisa Uchihashi on guitar, and Toshimaru Nakamura on no-input mixing board (with which he generates and manipulates feedback)--and the French-Swiss sax quartet Xasax in this performance of the piece, which will incorporate video by Coleman and Tom Denlinger. Gagaku pieces and works by Iannis Xenakis will also be performed. 8 PM, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago, 5850 S. Woodlawn, 773-702-8670. Free. All ages. See also Wednesday. --Peter Margasak
LAURIE ANDERSON Though multimedia artist Laurie Anderson has had surprising success within mass culture for more than 20 years, she herself has been breathing ever more rarefied air: in July, she was named NASA's first artist in residence. It sounds like a ready-made joke (hope they shoot Lou Reed into space with her, etc) but if you're a fan you can see it's perfect: Anderson's all but impossible to beat when it comes to navigating the place where introspection meets the cosmos--she produces psychedelia for those so cerebrally busy they've never needed drugs. Her latest performance work, The End of the Moon (which she calls a dreamier and more musical follow-up to her 2002 piece Happiness), addresses the question "Who taught you what beauty is?" 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $36. All ages. --Monica Kendrick
BEANS Beans hasn't changed course on the new Shock City Maverick (Warp)--instead the former Anti-Pop Consortium wacko burrows further into his alien electro-funk grind and cranks up the braggadocio. On "Shards of Glass" he insists that other MCs dis his style because they can't pull it off themselves, rapping, "You look the part / But not built for this, pedal to the floor straight past you / Blurs in my windshield, evaporate in my rearview / Castrate your calligraphy / As if I cleaned your brain with a bullet." His stuttering, syllable-crammed flow expands and contracts like stop-and-go traffic. Really, his delivery and lyrics are both so singularly otherworldly that it doesn't sound like he's trying to outdo anybody but himself. John Herndon and Joel Kriske open with DJ sets. 10 PM, Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. Beans also plays a free in-store at the Wicker Park Reckless on Tuesday (see separate entry). --Peter Margasak
ENSEMBLE N_JP and XASAX (see also Tuesday) perform Gene Coleman's "Yago (Insects and Architecture #1)" and traditional Japanese gagaku music. Calling ahead to reserve seats is suggested. a 6 PM, International Currents Gallery, John David Mooney Foundation, 114 W. Kinzie, 312-822-0483. Free. All ages.
THE RUBY LEE Boyfriend-girlfriend team Richard Minardi and Leah Winders, who recently moved to Chicago from Arizona, specialize in confectionary pop. Minardi, formerly of desert noiseniks Half Visconte, has traded his earlier muse for a sweeter, gentler one, and it seems she's from Scotland: the Ruby Lee's sound touches on Teenage Fanclub's twee side and the Vaselines' more conventional moments. The group's debut EP They're Blue ('Cuda Disc), released last spring, is a breezy 15-minute set of sun-dappled delights with wry lyrics and euphoric harmonies. The band plays third on a bill with the Saturday Nights and A-Set. Ammi and S.T. Monroe open. a 8 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-252-6179, $5. All ages.