akron/family When rock bands consider no genre beyond their reach, flitting from psych-folk to hard rock to Beatlesque pop to a cappella freak-outs--sometimes within a single song--trouble usually lies ahead. Not so with New York's Akron/Family: their restlessness sounds more like nonchalant curiosity about how far the combination of natural ability and a potent imagination can be pushed. On their latest, Meek Warrior (Young God), the bulk of which was recorded in Chicago, the quartet sounds more at ease than ever, enlisting locals like Hamid Drake, Nick Broste, and Griff Rodriguez to help fold raucous free jazz and percussive breakdowns into their always expanding din. I've yet to catch the group live, but all reports suggest that that's where they really shine. Robert AA Lowe & Ben Vida open. See also Saturday. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12. --Peter Margasak
cjoe colley, Jason lescalleet Maine-based sound artist JASON LESCALLEET makes music from things that don't work like they're supposed to, using wrinkled, twisted tape, old reel-to-reel recorders, and other audio equipment scavenged from thrift stores. "I enjoy the sound of decay," he told the Wire last fall. His most recent recording, last year's The Pilgrim (Glistening Examples), infuses what might seem like a cold experimental aesthetic with a poignant dose of emotion. The album--an LP plus a CD--is a tribute to his father, who died of cancer in the fall of 2005. Side A of the vinyl is a performance recorded just after Lescalleet learned of the terminal diagnosis; he opens the show by reading an e-mail his father wrote about his music, a hitch audible in his voice. On the flip is a raw recording of his last verbal exchange with his dad, who speaks in an exhausted murmur. The music on the CD is all low-end rumble on the verge of disintegration--at once serene and harsh--and the context provided by the LP makes it thrum with sadness and anger. Like Lescalleet, his collaborator on Annihilate This Week (Brombrom, 2006), Sacramento's JOE COLLEY also makes music from sound in various states of disintegration and distortion. Tonight Lescalleet and Colley play solo sets; on Saturday (which is free if you go Friday) they perform as a duo. a 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago, 312-282-7676, $12. A --Peter Margasak
cdialogues of the carmelites Lyric Opera's production of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites is one of those rare theatrical events where all the elements--music, text, sets, costumes, choreography--combine brilliantly. Composed in 1957, the score is as haunting and poetic as Poulenc's libretto, adapted from a play based on a novella about a (real-life) group of Carmelite nuns during the French Revolution who martyred themselves after the revolutionaries declared communal religious life illegal. Their conversations range from the seemingly simple but profound musings of Sister Constance (sung with crystalline purity by Anna Christy) to the monumental offerings of love and support of the new mother superior (sung with tremendous warmth and depth by Patricia Racette) after the agonizing death of her predecessor (depicted with distressing reality by Felicity Palmer). The fictionalized main character, an anxious young woman who joins the order, is portrayed with sensitivity and fire by soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian. The conclusion, with the music sliced by the sound of a guillotine, is simply stunning. See also Wednesday. a 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $42-$179. --Barbara Yaross
DOLLY VARDEN On the first album from these locals in five years, The Panic Bell (Undertow), the lyrics are darker than ever and the lovely melodies complicate rather than lighten the mood--you can't always be sure what's happening, but it probably isn't good: "While the voice on the teevee jacks off your feelings / One million foreheads / Slow motion and grey / Coming over the ramparts in wave after wave," leader Steve Dawson sings on the opener, "Complete Resistance." The characters in these songs seem all but overcome by feelings of dislocation and disenchantment; it's only simple human connection that salvages things. Alternately Beatlesque and twangy, the numerous hooks are well served by production that reconciles folk-rock detail and pop-rock gloss. The Latebirds open. a 10 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499, $10. --Peter Margasak
akron/family See Friday. The Black Swans open. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12.
cjoe colleY & jason lescalleet See Friday. Tonight Colley and Lescalleet perform as a duo; admission is free if you paid for Friday's performance. a 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago, 312-282-7676, $12. A
cfun Although Fun's current tour is their first ever in the States, they'll probably feel right at home in Chicago. The Helsinki trio are recording their second album, Zu-pa! (due in April on the Finnish indie If Society), with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio, and they might as well have recorded their first there, too: Szklarska Poreba (2004) owes a good 95 percent of its chewed-off textures and floor-shattering rhythms to Albini's work with Rapeman and Shellac, as well as former Albini clients like the Jesus Lizard. In song structures Fun draws more on the Fugazi playbook, but the swarm-of-razors guitar in the WTF-titled "I Know Ned Kennedy" and the classic help-I-fell-down-a-well vocals on "Bagpipe" signify the salad days of midwest pigfuck rock like a fedora on a flattop. Gloria Story opens, followed by Unique Chique, Fun, and Quatre Tete; Oh No! Oh My! headlines. a 8 PM, Ronny's, 2101 N. California, 773-235-6591, $7, 21+. --J. Niimi
GAMINE THIEF These local queer girls sound like their inspiration comes from a single source: Sleater-Kinney. They rock a two-guitar-and-drums setup, complete with back-and-forth single-string runs and dueling vocalists, one bleaty and quivering, one firing back plainly--it's basically Dig Me Out without the insurgent luster. But on their new demo they sometimes sub in a trumpet for one of the guitars or let go of the ghost of Corin Tucker for a verse or two. This show is a benefit for Girls Rock! Chicago, a weeklong summer music camp for girls where all three members of Gamine Thief have been counselors; there's no cover, but Urban Outfitters is donating 10 percent of the day's take to the camp. Bottled Violins, the Cathy Santonies, Mommy Can Wait, and Sebastian open. a 7 PM, Urban Outfitters, 1521 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-8550. F A --Jessica Hopper
SECRET CHIEFS 3 The Secret Chiefs 3 present a challenge to any music writer trying to keep it short, as they're not so much a band as an international web of intrigue: a rotating cast of thousands, all playing every instrument they can carry, keeps this project constantly in flux, with ringleaders Trey Spruance and Eyvind Kang somewhere near the center. Uniting all the disparate elements is a sort of neo-Hermetic philosophy and anarchic sense of orientalist magic realism--it's like a Hakim Bey screed set to music. Decked out in strings and Middle Eastern finery, what they create is, beneath its thin veneer of chicanery, almost universally evocative and beautiful. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum opens. a 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $16, $14 in advance. --Monica Kendrick
czincs I really fell for the Zincs after their second album, 2005's Dimmer (Thrill Jockey), and for the song "Moment Is Now!" in particular. A ringing, persistent bit of car-radio joy, the track turned what's most enjoyable about the Velvet Underground, early Stereolab, and Kraftwerk into shimmery guitar pop without losing any of that underlying tension. On the follow-up, Black Pompadour (Thrill Jockey), the Zincs get darker: Jim Elkington's somber vocals mask the archness of his lyrics, which err on the side of mystery to set a mood rather than spin a tale. Like Lloyd Cole and Tindersticks, Elkington (a UK transplant) has an ability to condense his influences and make a lot of simplicity go a long way. His songs with Edith Frost are possibly the best coed duets since Leonard Cohen--or at least Bonnie "Prince" Billy's last record. The Zincs are one of 16 bands playing the Hideout's "Sending the Four Star City to the Lone Star State" extravaganza, an all-day benefit show by and for bands headed to South by Southwest. Catfish Haven kicks things off, followed by the Narrator, Judson Claiborne, Tijuana Hercules, Josh Caterer, the Redwalls, the Prairie Cartel, the New Duncan Imperials, the Race, Maritime, Velcro Lewis & His 100 Proof Band, the Zincs (at 9 PM), the M's, Office, Sybris, the 1900s, and the Life During Wartime DJs (Mother Hubbard & Bald Eagle). a Noon, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. --Monica Kendrick
AACM GREAT BLACK MUSIC ENSEMBLE This 11-piece band makes good on its name: last Sunday they dished up unfettered horn solos, gospel harmonies, Afro-Cuban rhythms, R & B grooves, African-inspired percussion, and scat singing that bridged the styles of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Art Jenkins (the Sun Ra Arkestra's "space voice"). Amazingly, nearly all of it was improvised, with the ensemble's director, flutist Nicole Mitchell, shaping the music via hand gestures and dance steps--the 90-minute set included just one composition, Vandy Harris's "Blues at Half Moon." There's certainly no shortage of exciting soloists among these players--trumpeter Elmer Brown, singer Dee Alexander, and multi-instrumentalist Mwata Bowden distinguished themselves last weekend--but the real thrill is hearing them develop and sustain complex patterns and call-and-response melodies on the fly. a 6 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $15. --Bill Meyer
blues control The Queens duo Blues Control is keyboardist Lea Cho and guitarist (and sometime WFMU DJ) Russ Waterhouse, who also play together in the self-described "new age" band Watersports. I concur with one blogger that the Blues Control cassette Riverboat Styx (Fuck It Tapes) sounds a bit like Deep Purple's Made in Japan, but only if you're listening to the latter on an AC Delco eight-track player in a Pinto at the bottom of the East River. BC finds woozy psychedelia in unlikely places: "Losing Game," from their cassette on the Palsy imprint, is a loop from an Electric Flag CD purchased at a CVS. They're currently touring in support of their new Puff LP (Woodsist); a self-titled CD will be released by Holy Mountain in May. Number None opens. a 7 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. --J. Niimi
ccostes The last time French performance artist and musician Jean-Louis Costes came through town, a large, hesitantly curious audience dwindled steadily during his 45-minute noise opera till it was down to a couple dozen iron-stomached folks who could handle the sex, violence, piss, vomit, blood, and feces--it's not every day you see a guy stick a needle up his urethra or set his pubic hair on fire. His current piece, Les Petits Oiseaux Chient ("Little Birds Shit"), is less a horror show than a filthy comedy acted out to his spastic, boingy, flickering tracks, which not even the outrageousness onstage can overshadow. Sometimes deliberately facile, sometimes totally inexplicable, Costes and stagemate Lisou Prout play a grotesque parody of a prototypical couple, tearing apart an enormous array of props (a real toilet, several dildos, their own bodies) to hammer home a caveman's message: the world is shit--glorious, horrendous shit--so just chug another beer like a frat boy/noise nerd/miserable alcoholic with sad fantasies of escape. Their infantile simplicity undercuts conventional notions of love, fulfillment, and success, boiling them all down to mindless consumption and expulsion, screwing and shitting: shit out shit, shit out babies, get shit on and shit out by corporations. The show eventually devolves into surrealistic miasma, cartoonish and disgusting, a rabbit hole swimming with a mishmash of iconic imagery that gets you so lost that nothing has meaning anymore. And then, Costes seems to say, you are free. Cock ESP, Panicsville, and Mr. Natural open. a 8 PM, $10 requested donation. Venue information available at nihilistrecords.net. A --Liz Armstrong
fu manchu Fu Manchu started playing proudly cheeseball Camaro rock in the early 90s, when it was still the epitome of uncool, and kept chugging along until the hipsters came around. Their tenth album, We Must Obey (Century Media), is more of the same--raising the question of how rock 'n' roll it really is to be such a comfortable old shoe. Still, Obey is dirtier and fuzzier than their previous effort, which had an unusually domesticated slickness, and it sounds at times like that wah-wah pedal is propelled by sheer nervous energy. And just to keep the righteous on their toes, they throw in a surprisingly straightforward Cars cover. Artemis Pyledriver and Valient Thorr open. a 8 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $15, 21+. --Monica Kendrick
walkmen For most bands, a note-for-note remake of Nilsson's 1974 "lost weekend" classic, Pussy Cats, would be a ballsy way to fall flat on their faces. But for the Walkmen the move seems almost natural--they still sound like themselves, albeit after a fast-forward trip to their AARP years. On the version they released last year on Record Collector, singer Hamilton Leithauser abandons his role as a pissed punk thaumaturge for the repose of a natural showman; loitering behind the band's pouncing piano beat, his burnt rasp free of disgust, he sounds like Tom Jones after a trough of manhattans and a carton of Dorals. But don't let one slow, treacly record fool you: the Walkmen are still an unholy live act, one you shouldn't miss for any reason shy of major surgery. Ferraby Lionheart opens the early show and Broken West opens the late show. a 7 and 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, both shows sold out, 18+. --Jessica Hopper
ctv on the radio On top of all the media accolades they got for releasing one of the best records of 2006, TV on the Radio recently attracted some attention for being hipsters. Black hipsters, specifically--or "blipsters," as the New York Times put it, disingenuously citing urbandictionary.com for backup. Fifty-two years after Chuck Berry's first hit, white people still think of black people in rock bands as a novelty, a phenomenon curious enough to qualify as a pop-cultural trend. Many of indie rock's tastemakers--including Web sites like Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Brooklyn Vegan--apparently consider questions of race to be outside their purview, which is a big part of why the discussion's stuck at such an early stage. Interrogating the underpinnings of your own critical outlook is seen as unfashionable, too purposely PC, the sort of heavy lifting best saved for academic conferences. But the simple fact is that indie rock is so thoroughly white-on-white that the simultaneous existence of a handful of indie bands with black people in them (Jai-Alai Savant, the Dragons of Zynth, the Eternals, Earl Greyhound, This Moment in Black History), including a smattering of really popular ones (Bloc Party, TV on the Radio), was enough to move the paper of record to comment. Sadly and predictably, the ensuing conversation on indiedom's MP3 blogs and Web sites was pretty much all about how "blipster" is a stupid word and the Times was stupid to use it--not about why blackness in the indie scene is still such a rarity, why the issue is so hard to talk about even after all these years, or why it took TVOTR's success for someone to try to put it on the table. Subtle opens; see also Tuesday. a 7:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, sold out. A --Jessica Hopper
UNDER BYEN This Danish band has been slowly, steadily pricking up lots of ears by making music that's accessible to anyone who's ever liked Mogwai or Godspeed You! Black Emperor--comprehension of Danish is helpful but not required. The sound of last fall's Samme Stof Som Stof is that of romantic art-rock building itself out of a thick forest of instruments (less obvious ones like melodica, theremin, violin, and cello are well represented, along with standard rock gear). And Henriette Sennenvaldt's singing, conversational, playful, and occasionally downright spooky, lends the music a crowning otherworldliness to offset the feeling of familiarity that eventually creeps in. Frida Hyvonen and Chris Connelly open. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $12, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
cTV ON THE RADIO See Monday. Subtle opens. a 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, sold out, 18+.
cdialogues of the carmelites See Friday. a 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $31-$169.
cMICHAEL J. SCHUMACHER As part of his long-running work in progress Room Pieces, New York sound artist Michael J. Schumacher creates immersive computer-driven audio installations tailored to the dimensions and contents of the spaces they occupy. Once set in motion, a program of Schumacher's design uses an elaborate set of algorithms to control in real time any number of what he calls "sound modules"--more specifically, "simple sine tones, both sustained and articulated, instrumental sounds, synthesized sounds, field recordings, and sounds culled from various sources like the World Wide Web, films and CDs." As the modules play over a sound system of a dozen or more channels, they accumulate unpredictably at different locations around the room, in ever shifting combinations and densities. A typical piece is many hours long, and though Schumacher doesn't expect everyone to sit through the whole thing he suggests spending at least half an hour listening. All this might seem like a dry intellectual exercise, but the recordings I've heard are beautiful; once I surrender to the sound, the bounty of detail and movement becomes mesmerizing. A Room Pieces installation runs March 16-23 at Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N. Ravenswood, 773-769-1069; for tonight's "longish" laptop performance Schumacher will manipulate the sounds himself. Brian Labycz, Vadim Sprikut, and Jason Roebke play first as a trio. a 8 PM, Enemy, 1550 N. Milwaukee, third floor, 312-493-3657, $7. A --Peter Margasak
GROOVERIDER Drum 'n' bass came out of the DayGlo UK rave scene of the late 80s, but by the time it was recognized as a movement, DJs and producers like London's Grooverider had taken it into darker, meaner territory. His first full-length, Mysteries of Funk (1998), lacks the cerebralness of Aphex Twin and the street-level grit of Metalheadz, but its streak of soul made it a landmark release of the genre. Cutting the icy chill that had come to define drum 'n' bass, Mysteries anticipated the R & B-infused two-step that was about to succeed it as the prevailing sound in London clubs. Although drum 'n' bass has since been overshadowed by offshoots like IDM and grime, Grooverider never abandoned ship, and continues to champion the form on his radio show and in DJ sets for the high-BPM faithful. Pipeline and DJ Stunna open. a 10 PM, Smart
Bar, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140 or 312-559-1212, $10,
21+. --Miles Raymer
cwalter meego The dancey electro-pop of Walter Meego (the alter ego of locals Justin Sconza and Colin Yarck) is slicker than anything you'd expect this dirty city to produce. The hooky "OneFive," a Junior Boys-esque tune from the duo's self-titled 2005 EP, rides a groove so slithery you'd swear it was made with a synthesizer that converts Bryan Ferry's pants into sound. The follow-up single, "Usually," marries Umbrellas of Cherbourg strings to a dub-step beat, and the subsequent "Hollywood" 12-inch is gauzy, glittery disco with moves like a Solid Gold dancer. Last year's Romantic EP (Brilliante), which features a Flosstradamus remix, evokes the kind of love that flourishes in AMG Benzes doing 130 on the autobahn. A UK-only 12-inch comes out next week and there's a full-length debut (with a possible worldwide release) in the works for next fall. Of Montreal headlines and Grand Buffet opens. a 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, sold out. A --J. Niimi