The former child performer (and daughter of late producer and arranger Don Costa) shows on her new EP that she is in constant evolution as a performer. After dabbling in electronic and soul music on her previous efforts, Costa meets halfway by blending all her influences into a very personal musical form. The record opens with the bass-heavy “Head First,” a soul-inflected pop song that sounds ready for remixers and DJs to dabble with. “Never Wanna C U Again” shows her angry-girl side—it’s a female empowerment rocker about not allowing herself another lover’s deceit.
The title track is a bit unimpressive. Costa tries a bit too hard to mix a punk attitude with electronic elements, but the result is at least danceable even if it falls flat musically in comparison with the rest of the material on the disc. On the other hand, the downtempo “Chase the Thrill” has just the right blend of soul and psychedelics without sounding overproduced. The tune shift tempos towards the end, allowing for the instruments to take over and carry on its dreamy state—think of it as a cross between Alanis Morissette and the more trippy sounds of the late sixties in a well-balanced package. (Ernest Barteldes)
(Go Funk Yourself/Giant Step)
MusicNow is touted as “the exploratory arm of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,” and has previously held events featuring engaging new music performed by members of the CSO and guests, most notably German electronic artists Mouse on Mars. Tonight, MusicNow takes over the home of Chicago’s favorite makers of spectacle, the Redmoon Theater, for Mercury Soul, a night combining classical musicians, elaborate lighting and set design, and adventurous DJs. Maestro Benjamin Shwartz of the San Francisco Symphony, set designer Anne Patterson, and MusicNow curator/DJ Mason Bates (aka Masonic) have previously teamed up to successfully bring Mercury Soul to San Francisco DJ-destination Mezzanine. Tonight’s installment adds a splash of Chicago DJ flavor with underground favorites and previous MusicNow guests Justin Reed and Striz from illmeasures on the bill. With Reed’s penchant for both angular techno and soulful house, and Striz’s mastery of rhythms from dub, breaky and broken beats to thumpin’ 4/4, their additions to an evening of fully actualized guest immersion (sound and sight, performance and environment, with no programs or seats and plenty to drink) makes attendance to Mercury Soul mandatory for the adventurous weekender. Bonus points: sound for the evening will be reinforced by a Void Audio system. (Duke Shin)
May 13 at Redmoon Theater, 1463 West Hubbard, (312)850-8440. 9pm. $20.
Following a productive 2010, Guti begins this year with his first album on the Desolat label, “Patio de Juegos.” The record exploits his penchant for driving, percussive creations and signals a continuation of his successful run at producing house music.
The title translates from Spanish to English as “playground,” which is apt in regards to both sound and the number of featured collaborations. DJs will welcome the rhythmic tools offered by most of the tracks, while others foster a balance that qualifies “Patio de Juegos” for a start-to-finish listen on the home stereo.
Guti invites support from tech-house luminaries Guy Gerber and Ryan Crosson, each adding their telltale influence to the album’s driving beats and pervasive, Latin percussion patterns. The high-profile cameo on “Lucio El Anarquista” by renowned tango singer and composer Daniel Melingo certainly stands out. His unmistakably raspy vocals permeate the track’s pounding beats and wandering piano loop. The downtempo departure of “Still Here” is quite memorable, eschewing layers of percussion for a minimal shuffle and melancholy keys.
Proving he can play well with others, Guti’s first full-length effort highlights his diverse musical background as well as his production skills, and establishes him one to watch for the foreseeable future. (John Alex Colon)
“Patio de Juegos”
The “Mayhem at The Mid” event series presents its “Windy City All Stars” edition on Friday night, during which both of the venue’s rooms will be overwhelmed by the sounds of Chicago house music. The artist lineup ranges from classic to cutting-edge, from Mark Farina and Specter, to Justin Long and Tyrel Williams. Farina, the force behind Mushroom Jazz, is celebrating a birthday, which would make for a sold-out show on its own. Audio Soul Project, the brainchild of Fresh Meat Records honcho, Mazi, will deliver a live performance that, following the praise of last year’s “Hip Shake Heartache” album, just might be the event’s defining moment. Farina and Mazi both specialize in the swinging rhythms and chunky beats derived from the collision of funk, deep house and jazz. Justin Long and Tyrel Williams exert some left-field influence on the affair, bringing the tech-inspired sound of their .dotbleep residency (Smart Bar) to the decks. Tetrode co-founder and loft-party veteran, Specter, adds his ambient-fused house style to the lineup, which also includes All About founder Luis Baro and Mid residents Just Joey and John Curley. (John Alex Colón)
March 25 at The Mid, 306 North Halsted, (312)265-3990. 9pm. $10 advance, $20 door.
Following the late-winter release of his impressive “Space Is Only Noise” album (Circus Company), fans of Nicolas Jaar are likely wondering what to expect from his upcoming appearance at SmartBar. Hardly similar to previous adventures in tech-house, Jaar’s latest includes nods to jazz, blues, R&B and ambient breakbeat, resulting in compositions that place him closer to James Blake than Richie Hawtin on the electronic-music continuum. Rest assured that Jaar is also aware of the conundrum this presents, particularly as a touring artist associated with dance music. His slow-burn approach proceeds from the downtempo aesthetic, to which he adds effect-laden layers of bass, instrumentation and vocals. What results could be deep house, jazz-fueled breakbeats or defined by a lack of percussion. Jaar’s body of work is replete with elements often described as organic, ethereal and melancholy, in order to define efforts that defy traditional genre labels. Jaar’s music sits comfortably in that defiant category for his interest in and talent for composing disparate, yet sonically intriguing elements. As such, there is little need to discuss his use of Ray Charles’ samples or what his album says about the state of electronic music. (John Alex Colón)
March 25 at SmartBar, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203. 10pm. $10 advance, $12-$15 door.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series features performances from the CSO collaborating with guest composers, with the last edition featuring avant-jazz, electronic flourishes and dynamic arrangements, highlighted by their talented principal percussionist Cynthia Yeh. But this next edition is definitely one of the more intriguing programs to grace the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, and features none other than Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma—better known to music fans worldwide as German genre-leaping electronic geniuses Mouse on Mars. And from the icy, off-kilter 4/4 beauty of “Send Me Shivers,” to the ambient washes of “Glim,” to the Squarepushing glitch assault of “Milleader,” to the digi-ragga-meets-chimes playfulness of “Scat”—and we could go on and on and on here—Mouse on Mars provide an intriguing amount of sonic possibilities when pairing with CSO musicians. The duo normally incorporate a drummer along with other live instrumentation to augment their electronic brilliance, and with eighteen years and nine LPs of material, this should be an unpredictably unique experience. The evening’s program will also include “A Cat’s Seven Lives” by Martin Matalon, originally written to accompany Luis Buñuel’s 1929 surrealist film masterpiece “Un Chien Andalou.” Local electronic artist Brad Miner of Illmeasures fame will also be on hand to perform two live sets of original electronic music in the lobby before and after the event—stick around for the free food, drinks and an opportunity to mingle with all of the artists. (Duke Shin)
January 31 at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 East Randolph, (312)334-7777. 7pm. $20.
Acid, Disco, DJ, Downtempo, Drum 'n' Bass, Dubstep, Electro, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, House, Microhouse, Soul, Techno, World Music
Freakeasy’s two-year run in the underground loft scene is over but the vibe lives on in a post-Thanksgiving soiree at Metro that features Deee-lite’s former songstress, Lady Miss Kier. The Freakeasy 2nd Anniversary Freakin’ Ball celebrates the continued tenure of the fabled Freakeasy initiative and rumor has it this won’t be the last time it visits Metro. Expect the finest underground sounds from the illmeasures DJs, including Striz and Justin Reed, a live set from Brad Miner, Radiohiro and MC Zulu. Additional highlights include live art installations around the venue to complement the musical performances. Presale tickets are available at http://freakeasy.net. (John Alex Colón)
November 26 at Metro, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-4140. 8pm. Tickets $20-$30. 18+.
Dan Snaith began his musical career as Manitoba, before an unfortunate legal issue forced him to change his name to Caribou. But over time, there’s been a lot more changes at work than merely replacing a maligned moniker. Initially stamped along with friend and sometime collaborator Four Tet with the unfortunate “folktronica” tag, Snaith began building an impressive body of work, with early albums like “Up In Flames” and “Start Breaking My Heart” showcasing his ability to find both beauty in subtle rhythms and childlike innocence (“Crayon”) and energy in wiggy freakouts (“Lemon Yoghurt”). While these extremes were all tempered within the context of their respective albums, as a remixer Snaith was sonically emancipated to retread the widely varying work of others: adding barely perceptible touches to the twangy slide guitar of Mojave 3′s “Bluebird of Happiness,” juxtapositioning skittish caffeinated beats and near-trademarked chimey serenity to Junior Boys’ “Birthday,” and, my personal favorite, a completely unhinged noise-to-rolling breakbeat treatment of Seelenluft’s anthemic 2003 breakout “Manila.” This year saw the release of Caribou’s “Swim,” an epic leap in evolution that showed Snaith’s succesful move to more dance-floor-friendly material. And while his last album “Andorra” began showing Caribou’s shift from instrumentals to tracks with vox, like the swirling, Brian Wilson-tapping “Melody Day,” “Swim” showcases Snaith’s vocal maturation which shines on standouts like the delicate falsetto tenderness of “Odessa”. But old school fans who loved the depth of his instrumental work needn’t worry, with tracks like the trance-inducing, prayer bowl-sampling “Bowls.” Electronic collages of sound built for the lawn and for the dance floor…sounds like a perfect night for (yet another) night out at Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays! (Duke Shin)
July 12 at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Michigan and Randolph, 6:30pm, free.
Flying Lotus is touring in support of his upcoming Cosmogramma album on Warp and early notices cite an impressive array of instrumentation and several high-profile collaborators. Fusing elements of dubstep, hip-hop and soul with breakbeat variations remains the thrust of his sound, but an earnest appreciation for Lil Wayne, Prince and Björk, and heavy inspiration from aunt and Alice Coltrane are pushing FlyLo to new heights. Along for the ride is Hyperdub honcho and London dubstep producer Kode9, whose efforts are best described as “bass-driven electronic music.” His use of dub samples and varied song structures offer listeners a rhythmic journey through glitch-influenced breaks and the layered pads and keys of house music. Catch these innovators at Double Door this weekend, and don’t forget it’s an early show. (John Alex Colón)
April 2 at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, (773)489-3160, at 8pm. $5 advance, $10 at the door.
If you love the nightlife, you’re likely familiar with the talented John Simmons, a local people mover with a sound for every dance floor. Simmons is now the backbone of CHILLED, a weekly Tuesday night series aiming to draw fans of downtempo, deep house and hip-hop grooves into the warm confines of Smart Bar. Special guests assist in providing a relaxed atmosphere of great music for no cover, making CHILLED the choice for a low-key evening or some after-dinner drinks. This week, Simmons welcomes the diverse deck styles of Hiroki, a veteran with deep crates and an impeccable ear for the groove. (John Alex Colon)
February 23 at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, (773)549-0203, 10pm.