Implodes' overdue debut, fingerstyle prodigy Ryley Walker, and a 'moving painting' at Chicago Opera Theater | Three Beats | Chicago Reader

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Implodes' overdue debut, fingerstyle prodigy Ryley Walker, and a 'moving painting' at Chicago Opera Theater

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INDIE | A party for Implodes' overdue debut


It took them three and a half years, but on April 20 local four-piece Implodes finally released their debut album, Black Earth (Kranky).

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The drone-psych group started in late 2007, when guitarists Matt Jencik and Ken Camden (coworkers at Reckless Records) started playing acoustic jam sessions together. Both were into fingerstyle folk guitar and various guitar-based African styles, none of which seems like a logical precursor to the often glacial, feedback­-soaked tunes on Black Earth. But Jencik listened to other music too, and he was working independently on songs informed by a sound he'd envisioned before writing a single note.

"I was really into black metal at the time. A lot of it is atmospheric and almost like shoegaze," he says. "I wanted it to be kind of like the Jesus and Mary Chain, but almost a metal version of that." Written on acoustic guitar and then cloaked in distortion, this material became the basis for Implodes.

Though Black Earth has been available less than a month, most of its songs have been in Implodes' repertoire in one form or another since the first few weeks of the band's existence. Some have been released already too, albeit on cassette and in extremely small editions—in July 2009, for instance, Plustapes issued a self-titled collection of Implodes demos a couple weeks before the group made its live debut at the Whistler.

Implodes celebrates the release of Black Earth with an 8 PM show Sun 5/8 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln; Brain Idea and Alex Barnett open, and cover is $10. —Leor Galil

FOLK | Plustapes introduces fingerstyle prodigy Ryley Walker


Dustin Drase of Plustapes first heard guitarist Ryley Walker a couple of years ago: Drase was selling stuff at the record fair at the Pitchfork Music Festival, and Walker came up to him and gave him a cassette. "We listened to it in the car on the way home, and at first I thought the kid was possibly fucking with me and he just straight-up dubbed a Fahey record," says Drase. "Listening to it again later, I was able to pick up some of the subtle flubs that made me realize this was actually just him doing a home recording."

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On Tuesday Plustapes released Walker's The Evidence of Things Unseen, an impressive album of solo acoustic fingerstyle guitar that owes a clear debt to pioneers like John Fahey, Robbie Basho, and Leo Kottke (at least his early work). Largely improvised around small kernels of melody, the performances are mostly first takes recorded in a friend's kitchen. Each evolves with a graceful flow, moving from thickets of arpeggiated notes to spacious, circular shimmers to visceral bottleneck slides. Even more impressive than Walker's skill is the fact that he's only 21.

Fingerstyle isn't his only talent, either. Earlier this year Plustapes released Tiny Cancer, a double cassette of raw, abstract free improvisation by Wyoming, a duo of Walker and Andrew Scott Young (on upright bass and acoustic guitar). In June the label plans to release another of Walker's duo projects: in Princess Anne he plays with Daniel Bachman, a guitarist from Fredericksburg, Virginia, who performs under the name Sacred Harp. The smartly interactive music they make together incorporates some fingerstyle work, but there are also atmospheric electric-guitar textures and spaced-out drones.

Walker moved to Chicago from Rockford about three years ago, and since then his interests and influences have multiplied exponentially. For the past year, he says, he's been focusing on writing folk songs in the sprit of "big-voiced" greats like Tim Hardin, Fred Neil, and Tim Buckley. He gigs frequently, mostly at underground DIY venues that take some Google skills to find, and this June he leaves on a three-month U.S. tour with Princess Anne.—Peter Margasak

CLASSICAL | A "moving painting" at Chicago Opera Theater


In spring 2009 patrons of Chicago Opera Theater, voting early and often and paying a dollar each time for the privilege, chose an obscure Shostakovich comedy, Moscow, Cheryomushki, for COT's 2011 season. A year later, COT decided it would be prudent to postpone the Shostakovich (it's now scheduled for next April) and substitute something less costly. Hence "He/She," the pair of song cycles about obsessive love on tap this weekend. They are Robert Schumann's mid-19th-century Frauenliebe und Leben ("A Woman's Love and Life") and Leos Janacek's early-20th-century The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Poems set to music, they require no more than three soloists, a few off-stage voices, and a piano.

Ever on guard against the dreary, though, COT has recruited Gerard McBurney, the wiz behind the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Beyond the Score series, as creative adviser for this production. Working with artist Hillary Leben and a trove of photographs, he's cooked up a digital-projection experiment—a sort of "moving painting" that unfolds as the music plays. When the CSO tried something similar with a Rachmaninoff piece, McBurney says, it "caused a huge ruckus with the orchestra, who hate that kind of thing." But it had the opposite effect on COT general director Brian Dickie, who was in the audience and so moved that he immediately began talking collaboration.

Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano is Schumann's self-abrogating wife; tenor Joseph Kaiser is Janacek's tormented farm boy. They'll sing in German and Czech, and the English supertitles will be part of the picture show. COT will perform the program at 7:30 PM on Sat 5/7 and at 3 PM on Sun 5/8 at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph; tickets are $25 to $75.—Deanna Isaacs

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