Photo: Flint Chaney
By Dave Cantor
ONO’s singer says he doesn’t listen to its recordings. It’d make him too nervous. Sometimes, travis says, it’s hard enough just to record. It could be because what travis has written clearly comes from contemplation of his military experience; a track called “Army” finds inclusion on the band’s “Diegesis,” set to be released by Moniker Records. And while he says performance was a part of his childhood, taking the stage in church and at school, the whole thing’s still a trial.
“There’re all of these people doing sound and noise that are there, and that’s been the case ever since I started playing in Cleveland,” he says of performing music, as opposed to the poetry he started on in that Midwestern city during the late 1960s. “I think there are a lot of facets to my personality—in Mississippi that’s called character…There is some self-hatred that I have and when I’m on stage; there are all these other facets I can overlay.” Read the rest of this entry »
On an album comprised mostly of well-known standards (save for one original composition), Chicago-based singer-songwriter Nhojj celebrates the growing acceptance of same-sex relationships in the United States and abroad. “I am deeply grateful,” he writes in the liners, “to be living in a time when an album celebrating same-gender love could be released and even applauded.”
The album opens with a pared-down version of “Over The Rainbow” done solely with the accompaniment of Marcelo Cardozo’s electric guitar. Nhojj’s vocal range resembles that of the late Michael Jackson–he has the ability to reach low notes but mostly sings using a higher register, approaching each song in a different way. On India.Arie’s “He Heals Me,” he takes more of an R&B approach, taking advantage of the full band behind him, while on tunes like the George & Ira Gershwin classic “Our Love Is Here To Stay” he sings with a quiet bossa-like sensibility. Nhojj also reinvents Beyoncé’s “Love on Top,” going for a playful samba-tinged groove without missing out on any of the title’s double entendre. Read the rest of this entry »
By Keidra Chaney
Extreme metal’s never been a genre known for its appreciation of gentle beauty. But when critics and fans alike consistently describe an album’s listening experience as “ugly” and “torturous”–and it’s meant as a compliment–you can assume you’re in for something special. “From All Purity,” the fourth full-length release from Chicago quartet Indian, has been lauded by many as the band’s most impressive release to date, while at the same time being described as one of the more unpleasant and difficult musical offerings in recent memory. Not a small feat from a band that’s already built a reputation for their particularly snarling sound.
The six tracks on “From All Purity” radiate loathing and paranoia through a wall of feedback and power electronics punctuated by vocalist/guitarist Dylan O’Toole’s rabid screams. The pummeling opening song, “Rape,” immediately gives you an idea of the type of album you’re in for from the title alone. The eardrum-splitting penultimate track “Clarify,” is a four-minute-long rising cacophony of feedback that becomes nearly unbearable. The album is a challenging listen even for extreme music fans, but at only forty minutes long, “From All Purity” is also a lean and well-crafted musical statement.
“Unpleasant is how I describe it [too],” says guitarist Will Lindsay (formerly of Wolves in The Throne Room and Nachtmystium). Lindsay moved from the Pacific Northwest to join O’Toole, drummer Bill Bumgardner, and bassist Ron DeFries during the band’s last album, “Guiltless” (2011) and now splits songwriting and vocalist duties with O’Toole. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Lisa Alvarado
By Kenneth Preski
Joshua Abrams sits at a corner table in a Puerto Rican café. Salsa music from the speaker hanging overhead fills the Chicago restaurant, every song sung in Spanish. On playback, the background music is so good it makes me dance while I transcribe the interview. We discuss sound engineering, which ends with this insight from the musician: “I’m a believer that actual experience can only help things.” Not too many interviews with Abrams exist. He doesn’t seek out notoriety on these grounds. “I prefer when people want to speak about it,” he says. “It’s like, oh, okay, you’ve obviously listened to the music, formed opinions about it, now we can talk about it.” A primer of Abrams’ work, then.
Following a stint on bass for The Roots, Abrams relocated to Chicago from Philadelphia to study at Northwestern University. In the time that followed, he appeared on recordings with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Rob Mazurek, Joan of Arc, Roscoe Mitchell, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Fred Anderson. He was a member of both Town and Country, and Sticks and Stones. He put out an album on Delmark as Josh Abrams, explored hip-hop production under the pseudonym Reminder, and gigged around the city relentlessly, even providing “The Interrupters” film score. For the purposes of our interview, none of this interests me at all. His last three outings as bandleader, two albums with Natural Information Society, one with the Joshua Abrams Quartet, are far and away the most compelling string of local releases in years. Across from me sits an artist at a creative apex, and so I veer our conversation toward capturing insight into the method of expression. Read the rest of this entry »
The year 2010 marked when Chicago’s own footwork dance music was dubbed by the media as the music of the future. Competitive and super frenetic at 160 bpm, this juke derivative has evolved to cater specifically to the dance style itself, aiming to ignite a chemical reaction within the foot, faster than a tap dancer with a gun to his head. At the forefront, Chicago’s TEKLIFE crew has forged the way for footwork music to flourish outside the hometown and take hold of the EDM scenes in LA, London and Paris just to name a few. Among the crew them is Deejay Earl, younger in age but with the tenacity and work output of someone you’d expect to be older than twenty-three. Last year he grasped a handful of milestones: headlining LA’s Boiler Room, countless internet releases and TEKLIFE colabs including a thirty-one track album on SoundCloud, two EP releases on an American and European indie label, as well as a hike in demand from nightclubs across Europe. Read the rest of this entry »
The Chicago-based octet Sidewalk Chalk is far from your ordinary hip-hop group. The band fuses soul and jazz with contemporary beats and insightful lyrics to create original songs and live performances that get even the most conservative of concert-goers on their feet. Their arrangements highlight what each of the band’s members bring to the table. Maggie Vagle (vocals) and Rico Sisney (MC) complement each other on stage as well as they do on tracks, matching energy and emotion note for note. Likewise, while Tyler Berg uses a drum set to keep time, Jumaane Taylor tap dances to add in rhythms and provide a unique flair to the band’s sound. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Nick Bulanda
By Dave Cantor
It isn’t easy to pinpoint the heart of hip-hop.
With as many perspectives on the movement as there are practitioners, each point of view becomes a way to propel the music forward. And for about a decade, Chicago’s Psalm One has been combining the culture and a desire to better community.
“To some people, it’s really important that I’m college educated,” the MC says. “To some people it’s important that I’m a black woman. And some people don’t think I’m important at all.”
Taking her passion for knowledge to the recording booth and transitioning into the classroom is a move too few performers attempt. Psalm’s worked with America SCORES, a mentoring program, that’s taken her on a nine-city tour and resulted in the 2012 “Child Support” album—a clever play on words and stereotypes. Her newest release doesn’t include contributions from students, but the release party for “Hug Life” is doubling as a way to raise funds for the MC to visit Haiti and introduce the tutoring program to a new place. Read the rest of this entry »
eighth blackbird/Photo: Luke Ratray
Chamber music carries its history wherever it goes. It’s right there in the genre tag—the chamber in question belonging to medieval palaces affluent enough to afford commissioned musicians, yet preferring their entertainers in a slimmed-down setting, showcases held in the more private confines of the castle’s smaller quadrant in lieu of a performance in the great hall. The modern audience can sympathize: no doubt many a listener has been subjected to the strenuous demands of great hall upkeep. Forsaking flippantry, the foremost task for contemporary classical musicians is to bridge the gap between their rich musical tradition and the working-man’s modesty. Read the rest of this entry »
This recommendation writes itself. You should go see local punk trio Meat Wave at Subterranean because they are so good the venue booked them for two shows in twenty days. It’s not a residency, and for a punk band to play twice at the same place in so short a time means they are worth the money to the venue. Understanding why is easy—their self-recorded debut tape (soon to be slab of vinyl) offers a near live snapshot of the group as genuinely graceful performers, if such a thing can be said about a punk band. Read the rest of this entry »
Easy tunes at an easy tempo for Chicago’s Clearance draws clear comparisons to Sebadoh and Pavement, a carefree joy spread over the four (and a half) tracks that comprise their debut seven-inch. Equal parts melodic and nostalgic, “Dixie Motel Two-Step” announces the arrival of a band with little regard for overt rockism, guitar solos kept at a minimum, chunky chords slathered atop rumbling rhythms, an effortless effort if there ever was one. Which isn’t to deny the craft of these young men; it takes a certain cool calm demeanor for Mike Bellis to deliver lines like “I heard you been hung up on the wrong advice / but if it don’t work once, make sure you do it twice,” and not cop to the wry sense of self cultivated by an entire generation of lo-fi indie loyalists. Read the rest of this entry »