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friday23

cAmiina This all-female Icelandic quartet first attracted attention stateside as a sort of Sigur Ros spin-off--they made up the string section on () and Takk... , and one of their violinists is married to Sigur Ros's keyboardist. But if they keep putting out material like their first EP, AnimaminA (The Worker's Institute, 2005), and the brand-new Kurr (available online and at shows), they'll render that connection superfluous. The string quartet is the perfect vehicle for taking haunting dream-pop journeys, and by adding bowed saws and bells and electronic spurts and stabs, these women create the sort of melodic mindscape that winds up on repeat in your head--even if you can't make much sense of its surrealist logic. Tom Brosseau opens. a 9 PM, Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15, $13 in advance. A --Monica Kendrick

DR. DOG These Philadelphians seem unsure whether to be a fuzzy jam band, a mellow psych-pop outfit, or a dementedly baroque studio machine--which is fine by me, since the lines between those categories ought to get blurred more often. They've abandoned their eight-track on the new full-length We All Belong (Park the Van), recording instead on a 24-track machine, which along with the Moody Bluesiness of the album suggests a movement in one direction--but I'm pretty sure it's just a pendulum swing. They still have an appealingly light touch with their elaborately pretty melodies and the cushy arrangements that swaddle them like bubble wrap, and I figure once they've played a couple more Bonnaroo sets the slightly saccharine slickness of their new sound will end up cut with good old-fashioned hacky-sack stank. Bobby Bare Jr. & the Young Criminals' Starvation League and Jeffrey Lewis open. See also Saturday. a 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $14, $12 in advance, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

safety scissors There was a time not too long ago when Matthew Curry (aka Safety Scissors) was one of the up-and-coming stars of the Bay Area clicks 'n' cuts scene, where the remix was poised to spark a revolution. But after Berlin's laptop scene exploded the whole thing went kaput, and Curry and most of the other big names from SF headed overseas. Curry's musical output has been scant the last couple years; the most recent Safety Scissors album, 2005's Tainted Lunch, was mature and softly propulsive, like Upstairs at Eric's by way of the Magnetic Fields. Hopefully this show is a sign that he's back in swing. Ellen Allien headlines. a 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140 or 312-559-1212, $15, $10 in advance. --Jessica Hopper

saturday24

DR. DOG See Friday. Dr. Dog plays a free all-ages show at 5 PM today in the Reckless Records at 3161 N. Broadway; call 773-404-5080 for more info. At the Schubas show, Bobby Bare Jr. & the Young Criminals' Starvation League headline and Jeffrey Lewis opens. a 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $14, $12 in advance.

the howling hex Though Neil Michael Hagerty seems reluctant to bill himself a solo artist--he spent the 90s in Royal Trux and since 2003 has fronted an ever-changing ensemble called the Howling Hex--he's unmistakably a rock 'n' roll auteur. On some of his records his attention span seems shorter than my cat's--on 1-2-3 (Drag City, 2006), a CD culled from three vinyl releases, Hagerty flits between dubbed-out country rock, Tex-Mex balladry, spoken word, and musique concrete. On others, like the same year's Nightclub Version of the Eternal, he remorselessly pounds one idea into the ground--in this case boogie workouts so single-minded they border on minimalism. This show offers the first glimpse of the Hex's latest incarnation, a five-piece band in which everyone sings and Hagerty, a frequently astounding lead guitarist, holds down the low end on six-string bass. They've been on the road for two weeks, and the day after the show they'll go into Semaphore to record. Dreamweapon opens. a 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $12. --Bill Meyer

c? & the Mysterians In January the home ? shared with his manager and his manager's wife in Clio, Michigan, burned to the ground. Among the casualties were the singer's cockatoo and five of his seven Yorkies--he's a professional dog breeder and trainer--as well as decades of rock 'n' roll memorabilia, including the gold record he and his band earned with "96 Tears," which hit number one in 1966 and has since entered the garage-rock canon alongside "Louie Louie" and "Gloria." As I wrote on the Reader's Crickets blog, the house and its contents were uninsured, so ?'s friends and supporters are organizing benefit concerts all over the country. (The man in shades also plans to raise money with a limited-edition single, available March 30 through 96tears.net, that includes covers of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" and the Stooges' "Loose.") For the Chicago benefit, ? & the Mysterians themselves will play--their first show here since a barn burner (if you'll pardon the expression) at the Empty Bottle more than eight years ago. They may go down in history as one-hit wonders, but as soon as they take the stage it's obvious they're no mere nostalgia act: they play as though their reputation depended on the next 40 minutes instead of the past 40 years. Telenovela and Danny Dollrod open; Todd Killings and Miss Alex White spin between sets. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. --Monica Kendrick

cwho cares how long you sink Bassist and composer Jason Ajemian is one of the most mercurial players on the local improvised-music scene, given to taking wild creative leaps without worrying much about whether he can make it to the other side. In part because he's so hard to pin down, he hasn't earned the reputation he deserves--despite being a pillar of free-jazz combos like Triage, Mandarin Movie, and Dragons 1976, playing with folk weirdo Josephine Foster in Born Heller, and most recently joining the Chicago Underground Trio. Last fall he debuted a killer band called Day Dream Full Lifestyles, which played pieces he'd structured around the rhythms of breathing, but Who Cares How Long You Sink might be his most peculiar project. A large band with a fluid cast, it's been slowly morphing for about five years and now makes music that suggests the implacable processes of the natural world, like the motions of tides and glaciers--harmonically ambiguous sheets of sound coast and collide, rippling with texture and erupting with terse melodic fragments. The group's most recent recording, Folk Forms Evaporate Big Sky (Sundmagi), credits 31 musicians, who gather in soft-focus clusters of brass, reeds, and strings. Their gorgeous renditions of Ajemian's minimal themes would be hypnotizing if not for his disquieting vocal interjections--he sings in an old-timey wail that sounds like Jandek imitating an Appalachian hillbilly. At press time Ajemian had 14 recruits for this gig and expected to find more; Brad Loving, one of his bandmates in Lobisomem, will screen video during the performance. a 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee (second floor), 773-342-4597, $10 suggested donation. A --Peter Margasak

sunday25

cmerle haggard, willie nelson, and ray price If you haven't paid attention to the many, many records put out by Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and (to a lesser extent) Ray Price over the past decade, this show might seem like one of those propped-up oldies extravaganzas you get at Star Plaza, where nostalgic fans gather to watch a group long past its prime dutifully revive its back catalog. These three stars might be playing to the old-timers with their new collaboration, Last of the Breed (Lost Highway), but it's terrific listening to them rip through the country songbook all the same. Backed by a crack band of contemporary studio hotshots and guys back from the dead--Buddy Emmons, the Jordanaires, Boots Randolph--the singers work up classics by the likes of Lefty Frizzell, Floyd Tillman, and Harlan Howard and even drop in a few songs of their own. It's a record full of warhorses, but Haggard, Nelson, and Price still manage to find new wrinkles. For this tour they'll be backed by Asleep at the Wheel, the veteran western-swing group led by Ray Benson.

a 7:30 PM, Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont, 847-671-5100 or 312-559-1212, $39.50-$75. A --Peter Margasak

HOODOO GURUS Australia's Hoodoo Gurus have been playing around back home since making a 2004 reunion album, Mach Schau, but this is the first time they've come to our shores in reconstituted form; their previous U.S. appearance was in '94. As their artistic peak was almost ten years before that, it's hard to know what to expect here, their affable new material notwithstanding. But given just how high that peak was (and the recent one-two punch of a remastered Stoneage Romeos and the retrospective DVD Tunnel Vision is a good reminder), really all they have to do is play their old stuff competently and with a plausible semblance of its original joyousness and they'll be fine. The Goldstars open. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $28, $25 in advance. --Monica Kendrick

cmanhattan string quartet Founded by first violinist Eric Lewis in 1968, the Manhattan String Quartet is best known for its affinity for the music of Shostakovich, which can be traced back to the quartet's pioneering mid-80s tour of the Soviet Union. Here they'll perform his Twelfth Quartet, a work less tinged with the anguish and despair characteristic of the composer's other late quartets and a good match for the Manhattan's lean, propulsive approach. The concert opens with Charles Ives's First String Quartet, a precocious student work that demonstrates the composer's ability to integrate American sounds--in this case, Protestant hymns--with European influences. Over the past year the MSQ has been focusing on the works of Beethoven, and this program will end with String Quartet opus 59, no. 1, in F Major, the first of the composer's middle quartets, where he left behind the restraints of Haydn and Mozart to expand his rhythmic texture, thematic development, and range of expression. Musicologist Stephanie Ettelson will give a preconcert lecture at 2 PM. a 3 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Dr., Evanston, 847-482-1714, $30, $20 for ages 40 and under, $12 for students. --Steve Langendorf

monday26

cTHE DEAD SCIENCE Even knowing that its members have played in Xiu Xiu and Degenerate Art Ensemble, that their professed influences include Prince, Coltrane, and Einsturzende Neubauten, and that the songs are occasionally named after D & D critters, you still won't be prepared for this Seattle trio. Their light-footed, percussive, breathy strain of art pop first really jelled on 2005's Frost Giant (Absolutely Kosher) and reached new heights on "Pinky Ring," from a split single on KDVS late last year: the hilariously arch delivery gives it a sort of androgynous cabaret sexuality, and the abortive surges and playful feints combine melodic instinct with automatic-writing logic in a way that actually does remind me a bit of Neubauten--their recent stuff, at least. Parenthetical Girls and Magical, Beautiful open. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $10, $8 in advance, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

tuesday27

ICP ORCHESTRA This ten-piece Dutch band has visited the States nearly every year for the past decade, but that's no reason to take it for granted. Led for 40 years by founding pianist Misha Mengelberg, the ICP Orchestra has evolved a more or less fixed modus operandi, in which original tunes, standards, and spontaneous improvisations grapple for the upper hand in a chaotic scrum that's as deeply musical as it is prankishly amusing. But the struggle never plays out the same way twice. The rapport among the players--the current lineup ranges from witty and explosive drummer Han Bennink, a member since the beginning, to brawny tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius, who came aboard a few years ago--has strengthened with time, which means they're not only more comfortable challenging one another midtune but more adept at devising instantaneous solutions. Last year's limited-edition Weer Is een Dag Voorbij was recorded live in June 2005, but it's as exciting and essential as any of the band's studio efforts. a 9 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499, $12. --Peter Margasak

vusi mahlasela A musical star and antiapartheid hero in his native South Africa, Vusi Mahlasela is easy to appreciate--on paper, at least. He writes strummy, easygoing songs and can go from a creamy, soulful rasp to a bell-clear falsetto without a hitch, and parts of his new album, Guiding Star (ATO), draw on the infectious Zulu harmonies of mbube. But unfortunately his predilection for bland acoustic pop dominates. Fellow South African Dave Matthews, who's released Mahlasela's last few albums, joins folks like Xavier Rudd, Jem, and Derek Trucks in polishing up the sound for Western listeners who like African music that doesn't sound like African music. a 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. F A --Peter Margasak

obelisk & mc cat genius MC Cat Genius pads and slinks around onstage in white gloves and a cat mask--he dresses up as his beloved pet, Piccolo--and meows and raps in a cartoonish nasal squeak. His partner, Obelisk, throws down on the mike too when shit gets super nutty, but mostly he's in charge of the canned Fancy Feast--loose, messy tracks that scramble hip-hop beats with sunny, rollicking organ and samples from songs you'd rather forget existed (the Fat Boys' "Protect Yourself/My Nuts," Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There"). Typical lyric content: pancakes, Zubaz pants, butts. Typical stage antics: autographing sample-size bags of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and tossing them to the crowd. In other words, this is armpit-fart humor at its finest. The Umbros open; Rotten Milk and Beau Wanzer spin throughout. a 10 PM, Red-I Lounge, 2201 S. Wentworth, 312-927-7334, $3. --Liz Armstrong

wednesday28

cexplosions in the sky, eluvium Were the 9/11 attacks actually perpetrated by an art-rock band from Texas? The artwork on the second album from EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY, released in late August 2001, includes an illustration of a biplane bearing the caption "This plane will crash tomorrow," but the transcendent intensity of their soaring instrumentals would be better suited to levitating the Pentagon than collapsing it. Like the band's previous discs, the new All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (Temporary Residence) exudes the post-rock grandeur of Mogwai, Sigur Ros, or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but the production is more finely wrought this time around--John Congleton of the Paper Chase, who's also produced the Roots and the Mountain Goats, among others, recorded the album at Pachyderm Studios in rural Minnesota, where In Utero was made. The songs average eight minutes or so, and the expansive structures complement their symphonic feel--each piece sounds like it's journeyed a thousand miles by the time it reaches its dramatic resolution. Labelmates ELUVIUM (who contributed to the remix CD that comes with a limited edition of the new EITS album) are touring in support of the recent Copia, an atmospheric effort reminiscent of the work of composer Max Richter. Explosions in the Sky headlines, the Paper Chase plays second, and Eluvium opens. a 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, sold out. A --J. Niimi

thursday29

cARBOURETUM Rites of Uncovering, Arbouretum's second full-length (and Thrill Jockey debut), is a heady, ambitious effort, weaving reverbed alt-folk balladry with muscular, minimalist blues gestures to create a thick, pensive mood. Now touring as a four-piece, the group is loosely constructed around Baltimore singer-songwriter-guitarist Dave Heumann, a veteran of Will Oldham's and Cass McCombs's bands and currently with the Anomoanon (whose producer and occasional member Paul Oldham recorded some tracks here); after original drummer David Bergander, also of Celebration, left midway through recording Rites, Lungfish's Mitchell Feldstein played the remaining sessions. Tracks like "Pale Rider Blues" clearly show the Oldham brothers' influence, as Heumann intones dolefully over a knotty two-note guitar ostinato that opens into an extended, angsty solo. The introspective tension finally breaks on the 11-minute "The Rise," giving way to a psychedelic storm of sinuous guitar leads; in an era when an 80-minute CD is often little more than a repository, it's a pleasure to hear a band take advantage of the medium to such narrative effect. David Karsten Daniels and Shortstack open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --J. Niimi

BESNARD LAKES The falsetto vocal that opens "Disaster," the first track on The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse (Jagjaguwar), sounds enough like the Beach Boys that you could be forgiven for deciding you've been down this indie-pop road before--but soon enough all landmarks have disappeared in swirls of dense fog. Throughout its stunning debut album this Montreal band makes patience a virtue: the serene, gorgeous arrangements slowly accrue layers and depth, each ethereal organ wash and vibrato-rich guitar lick finding its place within the growing din. Such restraint only heightens the drama at the center of the songs, where Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas shape their beautifully elusive melodies--though the band rocks pretty hard at times, the essential delicateness of its alternately roiling and gossamer music never gets trampled. Dirty on Purpose headlines and Paper Airplane Pilots open. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. --Peter Margasak

LUCIA PULIDO & PALENQUE Colombian singer Lucia Pulido has been living in New York since 1994 (soon after ending her long-running duo with Ivan Benavides, later of the rock band Bloque), and the distance from her homeland seems to have freed her up. Latin American folk songs still dominate her repertoire--the 2004 album Dolor de Ausencia (FM) collects ballads about heartbreak--but she's more prone now to pull and push them in new directions. With her band Palenque, Pulido sounds like she's onto something: the presence of jazz players like bassist Stomu Takeishi and clarinetist Adam Kolker sets off the more traditional elements, like the gorgeous acoustic guitar filigree and Latin rhythms of arranger Sebastian Cruz. So far I've heard only snippets from this project, which hasn't released an album yet, but they easily transcend the glib nuevo cancion-plus-lite-jazz stuff I've come to dread from artists attempting such fusions. Cumbia spins at an afterparty. a 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $12, $10 in advance. --Peter Margasak

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