BERTRAND RUSSELL'S CAPITAL T See Saturday. Jonathan Chen and Phillip Schulze will be joined here by Tatsu Aoki and Virgil Moorefield. Julia Miller and the Lucy Davis & Jamie Kempkers Duo open. 9 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-342-4597, $5 suggested donation. All ages.
BLUEPRINT He's produced albums for Illogic and rapped in Soul Position, his duo with Rjd2, and now Ohio MC Blueprint takes on both duties for his solo debut, 1988 (Rhymesayers). (The title refers to the year he considers the heart of hip-hop's golden age.) He's especially good at creating dark, moody atmospheres, like the piano and guitars that drive the title track, and though his lyrics are straightforward almost to the point of being simplistic, his voice is distinguished by its urgency and unmasked emotion. What his rhymes lack in pyrotechnics they gain in lucidity, and he's smart enough not to care what the likes of me think anyway: "Don't let those other people make your life a mess / Way too many artists build their self-esteem around the press," he raps on "Liberated." Mr. Dibbs headlines, Blueprint is second, and Glue opens. 7 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-252-6179, $15. All ages. --Kabir Hamid
COULDRON "Dune," the first track from the self-titled debut full-length from this south-suburban quartet, is a pulsing midsize metal epic with a stalk-and-pounce dynamic; the band's so good at layering and creating tension that there's even room for a stretching, slightly psychedelic guitar solo. The other five tracks aren't letdowns either--on "A Dark Era" and "Stoner" in particular the band riffs mightily. One small quibble, though: if you're going to use samples from movies, avoid blockbusters like, say, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, so your fans can actually feel cool for recognizing them. Couldron opens for Lair of the Minotaur, Superchrist, and Plague Bringer. 9 PM, the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-0011, $5. --Monica Kendrick
C-RAYZ WALZ New Yorker C-Rayz Walz is an off-kilter and explosive rapper with a knack for delivering eccentric punch lines, which pepper his new album, Year of the Beast (Definitive Jux). MTV recently selected Walz to coach an aspiring battle MC for an episode of the reality show Made, and given his harsh disses--"Keep playing the role, get your head bent / 'Cause you're so pussy you could get pregnant"--he should be fun to watch. Sometimes his quirkiness crosses over into outright weirdness, as in this couplet from "Say Werd": "My symmetry is of scientifical slaughter / Attacking your nerve endings in alphabetical order." He sounds best over beats that match his playful ebullience, as on "First Words Worse," where trumpets mingle with his voice to create a compelling head-nodder. The new album's a huge improvement over his 2003 solo debut, Ravipops (The Substance); I imagine he'll bring the same manic energy to the stage that he does to the studio. The order from headliner down: J-Live, Vast Aire, C-Rayz Walz, Vordul Mega, Karneige, 4th Pyramid. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $15 in advance, $18 at the door, 18+. --Kabir Hamid
FEATURES I'm always suspicious of major-label bands that arrive sounding fully formed, as this small-town Tennessee quartet does on Exhibit A (Universal). But under the polish and the hype, there's an unpretentious giddiness in their exuberant, keyboard-moistened Cars-Buzzcocks sound. And when they have a good line like "You turned me on to the idea of growing old," singer-guitarist Matt Pelham pounces on it and doesn't let it go. The 22-20s open. 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $10. --Monica Kendrick
SAUL WILLIAMS New Yorker Saul Williams isn't exactly an MC, but the actor, poet, and spoken-word artist is steeped in hip-hop culture, and on "Telegram," a track from his self-titled album on the Fader label, he feels compelled to comment on the genre's lost conscience: "This shit has gone too far / Stop / Please see that mixer and turntables are returned to Kool Herc / Stop / The ghettos are dancing offbeat / Stop / The master of ceremonies have forgotten that they were once slaves and have neglected the occasion of this ceremony." Modern hip-hop isn't his only bugaboo: on "Act III Scene 2 (Shakespeare)" Williams excoriates U.S. wartime hypocrisy, and "Black Stacey" addresses black self-loathing. Williams's self-produced tracks have an appealing Bomb Squad-style density, and though the hard-rocking beats tend to box him in--his delivery isn't very nuanced--their compact power matches his passionate oratory. a 6 PM, Manifest 05 (see Fairs & Festivals for complete lineup), Grant Park, 11th & Michigan, 312-344-6650, Free. All ages ; and 10:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, with openers Offwhyte and Eulorhythmics, $12. --Peter Margasak
ARCHITECTURE IN HELSINKI If Sebadoh's multipart 1991 single "Gimme Indie Rock" is ever expanded into a Las Vegas-style revue, "Neverevereverdid," the opener on Architecture in Helsinki's In Case We Die (Bar/None), will be the perfect number for the "indie-pop odyssey" portion of the show. The tune's forced amalgam of orch pop, shambly K Records singsong, and motorik rock epitomizes much of the album: too many tracks seem to have been assembled exquisite-corpse style, unified only by a determination to work a few more crazy thrift-store instruments into the mix. But when this Aussie eight-piece does manage to scale things back it achieves some of the coherent eclecticism of comparably ambitious groups like the Decemberists or Stereolab: the tuneful, OMD-flavored "Maybe You Can Owe Me" glides along on slinky hi-hat and sturdy piano, and the funky, chanty Tom Tom Club homage "Do the Whirlwind" wins with hand claps and darting blocks of vintage synth. Catfish Haven and Zelienople open. a 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. --J. Niimi
BANG! BANG! These locals (not to be confused with the other, punctuationless Bang Bang, from Detroit) still don't seem to have the attention span for a full-length album, but I'm not so sure that's a bad thing--they're very much what used to be called a "singles band." And as their second EP, the new Electric Sex (Morphius), also includes two playful videos, you can't say they're slacking. The five songs shimmy and jitter and hop in place aggressively in a Hot Hot Heat-meets-the-B-52's sort of way; the urgent yelp of guitarist and front man Jack Flash, which would definitely be too much of a good thing by itself, is relieved or underlined (or undermined) in spots by mountain-lion-on-helium squealing from bassist Gretta Fine. The Firebird Band and the Countdown open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick
BERTRAND RUSSELL'S CAPITAL T, GREG DAVIS & STEVEB HESS Violinist Jonathan Chen, a valuable player on the local contemporary classical scene and a regular in jazz and experimental circles, left town last fall to study experimental composition with Alvin Lucier and Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan University. Now that school's out he's back with BERTRAND RUSSELL'S CAPITAL T, a promising new electroacoustic project he formed early this year with sound artist Phillip Schulze. Judging from the three tracks Chen sent me, they take a remarkably broad approach to semi-improvisational sound processing. One of the most striking pieces features snatches of violin and electronic tones punctuated by silence, creating a nice sense of dislocation--you're left wondering how the duo got from one point to the next. Another piece serenely layers whistling feedback over a glitchy, pitch-shifting drone.
Chicago percussionist STEVEN HESS, who's played in Pan-American, Bosco & Jorge, and the Dropp Ensemble, has been making some international noise lately. He's working on a new album with German sound artist Bernhard Günter, and under the name On he's released the beautiful Your Naked Ghost Comes Back at Night (DSA), a collection of delicate hovering drones recorded with French guitarist Sylvain Chauveau and mixed by Supersilent's Helge Sten. Tonight he celebrates the release of his latest album, Decisions (Longbox), a duo recording with local computer musician GREG DAVIS, best known for his so-called folktronica work. On his laptop Davis processes Hess's nonrhythmic ringing cymbal tones, resonant isolated tom hits, and rumblings of undecipherable provenance, creating sympathetic rumblings or abrasive atmospheric washes.
Bertrand Russell's Capital T headlines, Davis and Hess play second, and DJ Nick Butcher opens. See also Friday. 9 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland, 773-862-3616, $6 suggested donation. All ages. --Peter Margasak
DEARS Everybody knows Mark E. Smith is psychic, so when the Fall front man drawled "You are entrenched in suede" in the 1993 song "Glam-Racket," maybe it was because Murray Lightburn of the Dears had paid him a visit from the future. The Montreal collective's lush, brooding No Cities Left (SpinArt) is in fact entrenched in Suede--and the Divine Comedy, and a host of other downcast 90s Britpop acts. Lightburn's constant bury-me-though-I'm-not-dead-yet moaning points to Morrissey as an obvious antecedent, but though he's got the maudlin part of Moz's game down cold (and his opium-wispy voice puts a lot less wear and tear on the ear bones) it's only on "Lost in the Plot" that he displays the cheeky irony needed to complete the package. When a straight-faced Lightburn croons, "I promise not to cry anymore / Although reasons beat the crap out of me," it's the most poignant (and mellifluous) use of the word crap I ever hope to hear. The Shout Out Louds and Marjorie Fair open. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $13, 18+. --J. Niimi
MUDTOYS Patrick Hamilton and Mark Briggs, the core of this elusive local band--live shows are rare--work with drum machines and tape loops as well as live instruments, but their music is pleasantly, creakily organic. Their songs, a couple dozen or so of which are available for free on their Web site, are sometimes lazy and mellow, often dolorous and droning, and after a while a bit repetitive. But when the longer tracks get a good head of steam going they wield a fuzzy, noisy wallop, like a Jesus & Mary Chain that's all psycho and no candy. Tough & Lovely and the Singles open. 10 PM, Subterranean Cafe & Cabaret, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600, $8. --Monica Kendrick
SETH P. BRUNDEL Seth P. Guerra, aka Seth P. Brundel--the name comes from Jeff Goldblum's character in The Fly--is a gifted hip-hop producer who's best known for his work in the Miami group Algorithm. But as he proves on his 2004 solo debut, Devil's Pawn (Aesthetics), his verbal skills don't quite match his talents behind the board. When he tries to describe inner conflict it comes out muddled: "If you wish to overstand this / Ascend to my throne / And observe feeble minds annihilating their own," he raps on "Self P." The heavy-handed skits are even more disappointing; I don't know anybody who isn't troubled by the Catholic sex-abuse scandals, but knocking priests with obvious double entendres like "lick my candy, God loves you" and "guzzle my holy water" is both unfunny and unseemly. Luckily, Brundel's production skills haven't fallen off, and his lean beats drive sampladelic layers of dark, taut funk. Earatik Statik headlines, Seth P. Brundel plays third, Single Minded Pros play second, and Cyne opens. See also Monday. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Peter Margasak
MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO Bass virtuoso Meshell Ndegeocello has always spiked her funk-soul records with jazz, but her latest, Dance of the Infidel (Shanachie), is a fusion project through and through: she steps away from the mike and turns the floor over to instrumentalists like Don Byron, Jack DeJohnette, Oliver Lake, and Josh Roseman. Instead of wanking a la Jaco Pastorius--the usual inspiration for bassists on projects like this--Ndegeocello prefers to lay down deep grooves for her distinguished company, an admirable restraint that unfortunately mutes her usually sensual personality. Stylistically the music isn't far removed from the jazz-funk hybrids pioneered in the late 80s by Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, and other members of the M-BASE crew, but the players don't have much harmonic material to work with. The highlights are the vocal numbers--from guests Cassandra Wilson, Lalah Hathaway, and Sabina of the Brazilian Girls, who give the songs definable centers. There are some fine solos, but ultimately the record feels like an anonymous jam session. The touring version of the project features Lake, keyboardist Michael Cain, saxophonist Kebby Williams, drummer Chris Dave, and DJ Jahi Sundance; maybe it'll generate a bit more heat live. 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $27.50. All ages. --Peter Margasak
STEEL TRAIN Twilight Tales From the Prairies of the Sun (Drive Thru) is the first full-length from this New York band, and you're right to detect a little Deadery lurking behind that ambitious, pretentious title. But these jam-band circuit riders have something the Dead could claim but most of their inheritors can't--a little gentle depth, a little aw-shucks, ain't-we-silly foot shuffling that buffs the razzle-dazzle off what are actually fairly impressive feats of legerdemain. Some of it can probably be chalked up to the fact that they worked with a Dead producer, or that they brought ex-Byrds drummer Gene Parsons aboard to guest on lap steel. But I'm guessing they didn't need much help. Rocket Summer headlines, Gatsby's American Dream plays fourth, Steel Train plays third, Receiving End of Sirens plays second, and An Angle opens. 5 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 866-468-3401, $10 in advance, $12 at the door. All ages. --Monica Kendrick
SETH P. BRUNDEL See Sunday. Cyne and DJ Ray_Rod open. 9:45 PM, Danny's, 1951 W. Dickens, 773-489-6457. Free.
SAFETY PIN The curmudgeonly Safety Pin, better known as former English Softhearts front man Marc Arcuri, is all about rhythm--even his voice is a rhythmic device. He wrassles his stripped-down drum kit and sporadically whangs at a guitar in his lap while growling through his blowhole, imitating a death-metal warrior, a garage-rock wino, a drowsy lounge singer, an alterna-rock billy goat, or a whiny screamo kid. His brain goes nuts with his tongue, sometimes completely disconnecting it from language. Arcuri performs as part of a two-night showcase hosted by local stream-of-consciousness zine and experimental record label Terry Plumming. (The second night is Wednesday at Heaven Gallery, where the fascinating and disturbing beats-and-keyboards group Soft Serve headlines; see listings for details.) Carpet of Sexy headlines, and Rotten Milk vs. Bubblegum Shitface and John Polachek open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499. Free. --Liz Armstrong
HAPPY APPLE In recent years New York's the Bad Plus has become the poster child for the idea that a jazz band can have a rock sensibility without pandering. But the Minneapolis trio Happy Apple--whose raucous but skilled drummer, David King, happens to play in the Bad Plus--tried to prove it earlier. They've been playing together since 1996, but not until their new album, The Peace Between Our Companies (Sunnyside), have they convincingly balanced bombastic energy and high-level instrumentation. Though a sax-bass-drums setup is a classic launchpad for daring soloists, Happy Apple functions more like a working band, with no single player getting top billing or the lion's share of the spotlight. King, electric bassist Erik Fratzke, and saxophonist Michael Lewis all compose on the new album as well, which gives it an appealing diversity. The loosey-goosey "Freelance Robotics" shows off their lyrical side as well as their adaptability, while pieces like "Starchild Cranium" and "Dojo Fantastique" run catchy, boppish themes over barreling beats. Happy Apple's jazz background is less obvious when they play live; the members ratchet up the intensity and work the stage like a rock band.
The Mike Keneally Band headlines. 8:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15, 18+. --Peter Margasak
CHANDELIERS Local hush-pop quartet the Chandeliers decorates its lush, meandering instrumentals with arpeggios that drip with twinkling jewels. The cutie-pie pitter-patter they create with electric piano and vintage synths manages to be cartoon-jazz-band hectic--think cats wearing sunglasses--but as aimless as a Sunday bike ride. And it's all sans guitar--that'd ruin the mood. Mobius Band headlines, the Chandeliers play second, and Beau Wanzer opens. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Liz Armstrong