Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Darkside/Metro

Ambient, Downtempo, Dubstep, Electronic/Dance, IDM No Comments »


From pilotless killing machines to the surveillance state realized, there is no shortage of topical political source material for artists engaging with technology, making the biggest electronic music trend of 2013 all the more puzzling. With greater possibilities for the radicalization of computer software and synthesizers than ever before, the most successful electronic acts chose instead to retreat into the mundane. Daft Punk released “Random Access Memories” to widespread commercial acclaim, a feel-good disco retread blessed by a resurgent Nile Rodgers; leaving the remaining widespread critical acclaim for Darkside, featuring much-hyped wunderkind Nicolas Jaar’s production and Dave Harrington’s noodling guitar. The duo did their best to invert the trend by altering the mood, but since the yesteryear-leaning technique remained consistent across their complete album remix of “Random Access Memories,” expectations for their debut full-length were tempered. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: North Coast Music Festival/Union Park

DJ, Dubstep, Electro, Festivals, Hip-Hop No Comments »
Purity Ring/Photo: Kate Garner

Purity Ring/Photo: Kate Garner


Rap votaries who have not found themselves yet adequately sated by the glut of performances which comprise Chicago’s festival season need only look to the Green Line to fill their needs. The North Coast Music Festival features a healthy dose of hip-hop, with acts spanning the breadth of the gloriously fracturing rap spectrum. The traditionalists can find comfort and nourishment in New York City stalwarts Nas, producer Just Blaze and The Wu-Tang Clan, who will be performing “36 Chambers.” Younger cats are represented by the vastly improved Mac Miller and the druggy, raw stylings of Detroit emcee Danny Brown and Brooklyn’s Flatbush Zombies, both of which etch tracks like acid with sybaritic bars, and K. Flay and Psalm One provide a taste of the non-drill side of the Chicago scene.

Beyond rap, North Coast boasts a rather multifarious lineup, including electropop acts Passion Pit, AlunaGeorge and Purity Ring, the last of which laces the paroxysmal clicks, lumbering low ends, and funeral-shroud aesthetic of trap music with ethereal poetry. Fans of the other kind of trap music, the accusations-of-cultural-tourism-engendering dance-focused kind, can tick and stomp with A-Trak and label mate RL Grime, while Datsik and Afrojack add dubstep and house to the dance card, respectively.  Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Rephlex Records 20-Year Anniversary/Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Acid, Dubstep, Electronic/Dance, Glitch, House, IDM, Industrial No Comments »


Electric Picnics at Millennium Park have been going swimmingly this summer. Who knew that a little bit of twitch with your ham sandwich could be so enjoyable? Helping to round off the summer series is a celebration for the twentieth anniversary of Rephlex Records. Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin and the founder of the label, has been lying low for the past few years. While he hasn’t released anything personally, his label has been churning out records from other artists, including Squarepusher and Kevin Martin. Rephlex must be feeling extra celebratory, as they’re having a party for each decade that it has been around: one at Pritzker Pavilion and the other at the Empty Bottle. Read the rest of this entry »

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+.

Preview: Black Devil Disco Club and Appleblim/Smart Bar (Sónar)

Disco, DJ, Dubstep, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Festivals, Glitch, IDM, Techno No Comments »

Black Devil Disco Club


Smart Bar and Red Bull Music Academy support the Sónar festival’s inaugural visit to Chicago by presenting quite possibly the show of the weekend. Out of the library and onto the stage bounds Black Devil Disco Club, the reclusive astral traveler whose compositions on early French, Italian and UK experimental labels inspired Richard D. James at Rephlex. Influencing James, aka Aphex Twin, brings a heavy dose of street cred, which explains the fervent anticipation surrounding Bernard Fevre’s visit to this Sonar Club Night. Also on the bill is Skull Disco alum Appleblim, whose work with Shackleton and Tempa Records propelled him into dubstep’s royalty. His nods to techno elements are well-known, his stark, metallic percussion often playing bad cop to Shackleton’s rhythmic, dub-inspired efforts. These two heavyweights are not alone on this special night: Space Dimension Controller offers a live set, Todd Osborn brings his spectral side to bear, and Cosmin TRG drops his signature ‘hitek-house’ dubs. Get there early, folks. At $5 all night, this show is on everyone’s radar. (John Alex Colón)

September 10 at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, (773)549-0203, 10pm. $5 all night.

Preview: Tortoise 2.0/Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Dubstep, Electro, Experimental, Festivals, Indie Rock, Jazz, Post-Rock, Techno, World Music No Comments »


The annual weekly summer jazz series “Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz” makes a welcome return to Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion tonight for six weeks of Thursday night concerts through September 2. Spotlighting Chicago’s leading jazz artists across the spectrum of the genre—from Latin and Big Band to experimental, avant-garde and fusion forms—the series, a collaboration between the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the Jazz Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park, will include world-premiere commissions, international collaborations and major artist centennial and anniversary celebrations.

First up is Tortoise, formed in Chicago in 1990 with roots reaching across the city’s jazz, indie-rock and punk scenes and considered pioneers of the post-rock movement. This twentieth-anniversary-year lineup, dubbed Tortoise 2.0, is made up of Dan Bitney on bass, keyboards, drums, percussion and guitar; John Herndon on drums, synthesizer, percussion and electronics; Douglas McCombs on bass, guitar and keyboards; John McEntire on keyboards, drums and percussion; and Jeff Parker on guitar, bass, keyboards, synthesizer and percussion along with special guests for this special appearance that include Ed Wilkerson on reeds; Greg Ward on saxophone; Nicole Mitchell on flute and piccolo; Jim Baker on piano and vintage ARP synthesizer 2600 and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics. Read the rest of this entry »

A Dubstep Forward: Smart Bar steps up with the breakbeat

DJ, Dubstep No Comments »


“We’re on there with the Kaskades and the Heathers—that certainly wasn’t lost on me,” remarks Vic Holloway, better known as Chicago’s Phaded. Calling it “both exciting and humbling,” Holloway is discussing Smart Bar’s historic addition of two dubstep DJs—he and Chris Widman—to its traditionally house-heavy resident roster, a move that signals the venue’s commitment to underground sensibilities. That the term “underground” is more cliché than defining adjective is beside the point. Gone are the days when rave-goers lamented electronica’s march into nightclubs and properly administrated venues. What remains is the will to foster a range of musical experiences for new generations of club-goers and Smart Bar’s Nate Manic is happy to oblige. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Synergism: Unity II Motion/Kinetic Playground

DJ, Dubstep, Electro, Electronic/Dance, House No Comments »

DJ Nate Manic


If you think spiritual community and musical entertainment are a strange coupling, we probably wouldn’t blame you. But the open collective known as Brilliantly Mad has been trying to do just that over the last twelve years, initially through publishing, but evolving over time to private events. But in partnering up with BodElectric (house veteran Soul Foundation’s more eclectic outfit) to throw Synergism, the two groups are hoping to “find balance between the body, mind and spirit of Chicago,” using the talents and energies of musicians and DJs, along with live art, body painting, acro yoga and belly dancing performances and much, much more, starting with an opening Vinyasa yoga session. While this all sounds enlightening, what if you’re merely along for the ride with your yogi, poi-spinning better half? Well, no worries, there. With DJZ , Puffs Baggswelle x Psy-phi, Nag Mani (live), BTMG (live), BRC & RM and Nate Manic tending to the music, there will be deep, uplifting and techy, quirky house, electro house, and late night dubstep sounds until 5am, no matter whose shakra is retrograding your downward dog. Also featured: live video mixing, healers, love guides, art installations and a fashion show. And gift bags for the first 100 RSVPs. Whew! (Duke Shin)

May 8 at Kinetic Playground, 1113 W. Lawrence, (773)769-5483, 8pm-5am. $5 before 10pm with rsvp to, $10 after.

Spin Control: Montreal meets Chicago with Avant Mutek

DJ, Dubstep, Electro, Electronic/Dance, House, Microhouse, Techno No Comments »


Montreal-based non-profit electronic arts organization MUTEK has enjoyed tremendous growth in its eleven years of operation. What began as a modest and very small-scale performance showcase aimed at a niche market of experimental-music enthusiasts, new-media artists and audiophiles has grown into a globally recognized tour de force. With tremendous contributions to Canada’s sound and visual arts, MUTEK presents the premier cutting-edge electronic-music and arts festival in North America, respected for its avant-garde programming, innovative visual artistry and its many educational panels and workshops. MUTEK now throws several editions of its festival on multiple continents, operates its own record label and promotes its core roster of artists on tours around the world.

A preview of the Montreal festival’s eleventh edition, “Avant Mutek,” is making a tour stop in Chicago for the first time. Headlining are two fantastic artists known for their engaging live performances and their contributions to the evolution of experimental house music. Legendary Montreal producer/DJ Akufen of Perlon fame and Musique Risqueé mainstay Stephen Beaupré will perform at Green Dolphin Street, along with a diverse lineup of local DJs: Leo123 of Dark Party, Meiotic’s Hernan Sanchez and Fear of Music’s Jeff Pietro. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Flying Lotus and Kode9/Double Door

DJ, Downtempo, Dubstep, Electronic/Dance, Glitch No Comments »


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.