Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Record Review: “Blank Project” by Neneh Cherry

Dance Pop, Drum 'n' Bass, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Industrial, Pop, R&B, Record Reviews, Soul, Techno, World Music No Comments »


Is “Blank Project” a jazz, soul, art or pop album?  Listening to the disc attentively one could easily say all of the above, as the Swedish-born singer Neneh Cherry (known by mainstream music fans for her collaboration with Senegalese star Youssou N’ Dour) does her thing on her first solo release since 1996. Backed solely by Four Tet’s mix of percussion and electronic sounds, the music grabs you from the beginning with the Afro-inspired “Across The Water” and doesn’t let go until the very last track. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Tales From The Grand Bazaar” by Bombay Dub Orchestra

DJ, Drum 'n' Bass, Electronic/Dance, Indian Classical, Orchestral, Record Reviews, Vocal Music, World Music No Comments »


On their sixth musical foray, the duo formed by Garry Hughes and Andrew T. Mackay emerge with their trademark mix of electronica, orchestra and Indian sounds. During their career they have collaborated with luminaries like percussionist/composer Karsh Kale (who co-produced one of their earlier efforts) and sitarist Anoushka Shankar, all the while maintaining a tendency to focus on a dance-floor-friendly format.

This time around, they lean toward a more diverse direction by incorporating Asian-centric grooves. For instance, “Blue Mosaic” features wordless vocals and the koto, a traditional Japanese instrument, while “City of Amber” contains a fierce drum ‘n’ bass groove, much to the delight of DJs and remixers. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Total Science/Crocodile Lounge

Chicago Artists, Drum 'n' Bass, Electronic/Dance No Comments »


The Natives monthly event at Wicker Park’s Crocodile Lounge plays host to Total Science, the Oxford drum ‘n’ bass duo of Spinback and Q Project. The two exemplary DJs are in town supporting a few new projects, particularly their recent mix for the Fabric Live label. In the early 1990s, Total Science quickly rose to fame through a plethora of well-received drum ‘n’ bass productions for the venerable Metalheadz and Hospital Recordings labels, as well as their own CIA Records outlet. Even on their own, Spinback and Q Project were prolific, and are seeking a return to form in 2011 with the launch of this tour. The Fabric Live mix coincides with a scorching podcast mix for Hospital, using both to spotlight collaborations with Brazil’s S.P.Y. and talented vocalist Riya.

Total Science is also collaborating with Hospital and Loopmasters to release a sample library for producers.

Two prolific Chicago artists join Total Science, each with the capacity to heat up a room using original drum ‘n’ bass productions and powerful chart-toppers. Back from touring, Stunna boasts loads of releases on reputable drum ‘n’ bass labels and pushes the sound regularly with his Greenroom radio show. Submorphics is currently promoting the release of his widely praised “Post Modern” EP. Also planning a busy 2011, he has scheduled projects with Christina Tamayo as Belmont Affair, a neo-soul and hip-hop effort for Armanni Reign’s upcoming album, and releases for Westbay and Influence Records.

Midway and Groo are the Natives, two veteran Chicago DJs and promoters with trained ears for beats and shoes always laced for dancing. (John Alex Colón)

April 7 at Crocodile Lounge [Lower level], 1540 North Milwaukee, (773)252-0880, 10pm. $10.

Preview: Lady Miss Kier/Metro

Acid, Disco, DJ, Downtempo, Drum 'n' Bass, Dubstep, Electro, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, House, Microhouse, Soul, Techno, World Music No Comments »


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 (John Alex Colón)

November 26 at Metro, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-4140. 8pm. Tickets $20-$30. 18+.

Pendulum, MC Verse, and L.A. Riots/Bottom Lounge

DJ, Drum 'n' Bass, Electro, Electronic/Dance, House No Comments »


Pendulum forcefully entered the drum ‘n’ bass scene in 2002 with epic, synth-driven anthems that fused the genre’s darker soundscapes with arena-rock flair. The Australian group channeled its successful sound into live-band efforts and struck gold again as it pushed the genre into festival and concert lineups. This appearance promises sounds from their new album and a return to classic Pendulum DJ sets, with vocal support from MC Verse. L.A. Riots will drop their their oft-lauded approach to club-pop fusion on the Bottom Lounge dance floor and the drum ‘n’ bass deck skills of Chicago’s Stunna and Alfonz de la Mota are sure to keep it filled. (John Alex Colón)

April 3, 8pm, at Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, (312)666-6775. $15.

Preview: Excision, DJ Belly, Academy/Smart Bar

DJ, Drum 'n' Bass, Dubstep, Electronic/Dance No Comments »


Prepare for wobble madness this week at Smart Bar as Excision, in his Chicago debut, drops dubstep science with a heavy twist. His productions and mixes are permeated by elements of drum ‘n’ bass, heavy metal and hip-hop, and this rising star from Canada is set to bring his aggressive and energetic style to the Windy City. Rottun Recordings, Excision’s own label, is tearing up charts and boasts upcoming collaborations with top-shelf names like SPL, Bassnectar, and Pendulum. Excision is bound to drop some favorites, but expect a few exclusive peeks into Rottun’s plans for 2010. Adding fuel to the fire are “Dubstep Massacre” alum, DJ Belly, and Akademy from NYC’s famed Proper Villains crew. (John Alex Colon)

March 11 at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, (773)549-0203, 10pm.

Preview: MIA Four-Year Anniversary/Smart Bar

DJ, Drum 'n' Bass, Electronic/Dance No Comments »


Time flies when you’re tirelessly representing the dark side of drum ‘n’ bass, or so the saying goes. Chicago’s own MIA crew celebrates their four-year anniversary with a free event at Smart Bar this week and the occasion brings a pair of veteran breakbeat champions to the DJ booth. Danny the Wildchild and Phantom 45 join MIA’s Alfonz de la Mota, M1D1, Riverman and Kode X for a night of relentless breaks and wall-shaking bass. Not content with string-driven tunes fueled by vocals and bouncing basslines, MIA drives the speakers with system-shocking productions by the genre’s toughest labels. (John Alex Colon)

March 4 at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, (773)549-0203, 10pm.

Preview: Devlin & Darko, DJ/rupture/Empty Bottle

DJ, Drum 'n' Bass, Dubstep, Electronic/Dance, House No Comments »


DJ/rupture is not misprinted. After all, if anyone would know, it would be the man behind the moniker Jace Clayton, who besides being an incredibly diverse DJ, is also a writer, covering music for the likes of Wire and Fader. Most recently spotted in Chicago dropping a deep set of baile funk, house, dubstep and the kitchen sink at Pitchfork Fest, he incited a full-on dance party which had manifested behind the sound tent. DJ/rupture is in town to promote his latest venture, “Solar Life Raft,” an album-length blend of twenty-five tracks that he assembled, remixed or gene-spliced together with pioneering dubstep producer Matt Shadetek. Matt Shadetek is the founder of Dutty Artz and has produced tracks with Modeselektor, and seen his own releases as Team Shadetek released on perennial beat favorites Warp Records. Tonight’s performance will recapture the dreamy-yet-slightly sinister feel of the dubbed-out rhythms and beats from “Solar Life Raft” with Shadetek on drum machine and laptop, and a separate performance from DJ/rupture on three turntables. Headlining are Baltimore DJ icons Devlin & Darko, best known as part of hip-hop club sensations Spank Rock, who unleashed the fury of Amanda Blank and club bomb “Bump” onto the unsuspecting club world of 2006. And if that weren’t enough, local club staple DJ Trew will spin throughout the evening, with a performance from Dance Fam Chicago, and a video installation from pop-culture/Internet-obsessed artist Jon Rafman, a Quebecois armed with a MFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. (Duke Shin)

November 20 at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 10pm.

Preview: Bonobo/Sonotheque

DJ, Drum 'n' Bass, Electronic/Dance No Comments »


Few DJs can get live-music fans excited. More often than not, the crossfader version is sorely lacking next to the band-assisted version, and in Bonobo’s case, this comparison is often made. Simon Green’s turntable visits, however, are hardly worth skipping, as his influences are a fun combination of funk, soul and jazz, with tangential forays into garage, drum ‘n’ bass and hip hop-fused breaks. He plays favorites from “Dial ‘M’ for Monkey” and “Days to Come,” but it’s the effortless jumps into the varied genres that aren’t to be missed. Sure, the album stuff sounds great loud, but Green’s ear is spot-on, and with support from Chicago staple, Striz, this is sure to be a solid outing. (John Alex Colon)

October 20 at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, 9pm.

Preview: LTJ Bukem/Smart Bar

DJ, Drum 'n' Bass, Electronic/Dance No Comments »


LTJ Bukem is back at the helm of his label, Good Looking Records, after a three-year hiatus. Champion of the drum ‘n’ bass subgenre that fused breaks and bass with lush instrumentation and MC support, he helped the sound flourish for both labelmates and fans. His newest mix made the cut for the legendary Fabriclive mix series—Bukem’s is #46—and he is encouraged by a slate of new artists on Good Looking. Expect to hear some of these tunes when he visits Smart Bar after a long absence. Exceptional behind the decks after nearly two decades of tours and one-offs, Bukem never fails to deliver elaborate and mellow drum ‘n’ bass for the dance floor. (John Alex Colon)

October 9 at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, (773)549-0203, at 10pm.