Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Songs About Gentrification and Euthanasia: Dance Early and Often with The Julie Ruin at Pitchfork

Alt-Rock, Disco, Electro, Festivals, Indie Rock, Post-punk, Rock No Comments »


By Bart Lazar

Music can be fun, danceable and meaningful; this is what The Julie Ruin teaches us. Originally formed as a solo project by Kathleen Hanna, the founder of the riot grrrl movement, The Julie Ruin combines pulsing disco, electro-clash and punk to provide the most danceable band you may find at Pitchfork, or anywhere else, this year—and the only one singing songs about gentrification and euthanasia.

Ken Mellman—keyboardist, vocalist and former member of the Obie-award winning drag cabaret duo Kiki and Herb—took time from recording The Julie Ruin’s second album to let us know a little bit about this veteran, artistic and activistic band, and why you should get to Pitchfork early on Sunday.

Tell me about The Julie Ruin.
Kathleen wanted to start a new band, so she systematically tricked each of us into joining her. She snagged her old bandmate from Bikini Kill, Kathi [Wilcox, bassist], who was just moving to New York from D.C., Sara Landeau [guitarist and proprietor of the Brooklyn Music Studio for Women and Girls], who she met when they both were volunteering for Girls Rock Camp, and Carmine Covelli [drummer], who had been Le Tigre’s tour tech guy. Kathleen had been a fan of my old act and we had been friends for years. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Silverio/Ruido Fest

Electro, Festivals, Latin No Comments »



There’s no concise way to describe the electro antics of Julian Lede, better known as the madcap Mexican artist Silverio. His self-proclaimed simple samples and often cajoling approach to electro dance might seem light years ahead to some fans, just plain odd and off-putting to other, more austere and prissy electro goers. Known for his rampant energy, notorious red bikini, glistening beer belly and sweat-drenched performances, Silverio mixes humor, dissonance and the crassest elements of Mexican popular culture into his music, as well as his persona. Read the rest of this entry »

Live Review: Hundred Waters/Pitchfork Music Festival

Ambient, Electro, Festivals, Indie Pop, Pop No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

Make it through pungent smells of every type, past the army of flat-billed backwards baseball caps, and be welcomed to the 2014 Pitchfork Music Festival by Hundred Waters. Lead singer Nicole Miglis proudly announced her first-time festival presence in a natural voice, full of ease and grace, successfully leading her quartet through an ambient electro-pop hula-hoop; music for a pleasant picnic. No better way to start, and the start is the only place where Hundred Waters belongs, their set perhaps a bit too passive for some. In response to the lackadaisical afternoon, Miglis stretched her voice to the highest heights, melodies melting into shifting samples, until the fearless monster of digitized bass bottomed out a crowd ready to dance. Whether or not they actually did is beside the point, Hundred Waters is the archetype for a new generation of musicians, no longer interested in the strictly acoustic world of their elders. Or perhaps Neneh Cherry will prove that the kids have more to learn than they might think. (Kenneth Preski)

Preview: Icona Pop/Allstate Arena

Dance Pop, DJ, Electro, Electronic/Dance, House, Pop No Comments »
Photo: Fredrik Etoall

Photo: Fredrik Etoall


Electronic DJ duo Icona Pop make tracks that sound exactly the way pop music of today should. Run, leap and tumble beats soar through starry, energetic electro-synth melodies, and land on their feet in the foggy midst of a humid, glitter-coated dance floor. When Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo met at a party in the suburbs of Stockholm in 2009, a connection surged almost instantly as the two discovered they shared nearly identical tastes in music. Within a few days they were writing songs and booking gigs, and in that same year the two moved to London to cut their first studio record with TEN Music Group. There, they met London’s Charli XCX who shared a song written for her by another Swede, Patrik Berger. The three women collaborated and came up with the international hit, “I Love It.” The song was released as the second single from their self-titled album in May 2012 and again as the first single off of their second album, “This Is…Icona Pop” in September 2013. As for the time in-between, the song’s commercial success flourished. 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: Lemonade/Empty Bottle

Electro, Electronic/Dance, Pop No Comments »

photo: John von Pamer


Although originally hailing from San Francisco, Lemonade bears little more than a passing resemblance to fellow Bay Area act The Limousines, avoiding the blood and glitter dirty electropop for a sound that is more indolent. Much ado is made about the band’s eclectic sound, a picking and choosing of numerous subgenres and sub-sub genres that leads to Billy Ocean drums and chillwave vocal lines meshing seamlessly with shoegaze misty drones and luxe synthesizer lines on one track, while another can boast Caribbean rhythms and manic percussion; Lemonade is more chimera than chameleon. The overarching vibe that holds most of the pieces together is that somnambulistic sensibility, the relaxed timbre that even their most manic tracks seem to carry. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Sumud” by Niyaz

Ambient, Electro, Electronic/Dance, Record Reviews, World Music No Comments »


On their new album, the Persian-inspired trio formed by lead singer Azam Ali, multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian and electronic musician Carmen Rizzo sought inspiration from the current turmoil in the Middle East.  Their third album, “Sumud” translates from the Arabic as “Steadfastness.”

The music carries their signature sound—a blend of traditional Middle Eastern instruments with Rizzo’s electronic textures that serve as a canvas for Ali’s heartfelt, often mournful vocals. The music is accessible even to those who have no clue of what the words are saying. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Making, Photo Taking: Absinthe & the Dirty Floors do it Old School

Chicago Artists, Electro, Rock No Comments »

Photo: Lucy Hewett

By Ruthie Kott

Absinthe & the Dirty Floors is kind of on a break. Just from performing live, though—the four-person electro-rock band, headed by Chicago singer-songwriter Jessica Risker, spent an intensive two months last fall recording and mixing an LP they pressed on vinyl. They recorded and mixed the album at Chicago’s Earhole Studios, the family business of Absinthe drummer Adam Wiebe, a studio producer—his “pops,” as Wiebe calls him, founded Earhole about eighteen years ago. It’s a nice capstone on the band’s almost two years together: The studio played an important part in the band’s origin story. In addition to Wiebe, guitarist and bassist Matt Harting works at Earhole as an engineer, and Risker spends several hours a week there as an engineering intern. Absinthe’s fourth member, keyboardist Joshua Wentz, knew Risker (who also performs solo under the name Deadbeat) from doing the RPM Challenge, an annual contest that invites musicians to create an entire album in one month.

Absinthe has inspired a contest of its own as well. A song from their first EP, “Black Ice,” was the inspiration for a contest organized by iPhone photo app Hipstamatic, where people could upload their retro-looking photographs. The band judged the contest winners and used the winning photo as art for their LP’s liner notes. Read the rest of this entry »

Cut Ups: The post-gender Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s Psychic TV lands at Reggies Rock Club

Electro, Experimental, Industrial, Psychedelic, Punk No Comments »

Photo: Perou

By Arvo Zylo

The first thing to know about lead musician Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is that s/he (the preferred non-gender identification) is a combination of two people who address themselves as “we.” Breyer P-Orridge had a longstanding, fruitful and intimate relationship with a woman named Lady Jaye. In search of a way to consummate their love for each other and unsatisfied with simply saying “till death do us part,” they wanted to actually consume one another. And, in essence, they did. They went to plastic surgeons and exchanged each other’s skin, made each other’s cheekbones look alike, got breast implants for the same size cup, and so forth. Since Lady Jaye passed on from stomach cancer in 2007, Breyer P-Orridge considers h/erself an embodiment of both people, and to some extent, a connection to Lady Jaye’s place on the other side. Breyer P-Orridge and Lady Jaye called their project “Pandrogyne,” and part of the intent was to transcend the trappings of the body and to nullify the concept of gender. Some people consider themselves to be a man stuck inside of a woman’s body, or a woman stuck inside of a man’s body, but to Genesis, s/he is simply “stuck in a body.” It’s not transgender as much as it is post-gender. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Rapture/Metro

Electro, Rock No Comments »


The Rapture is coming your way, and you better be ready to dance. The New York indie rockers pioneered dance-punk in the early 2000s under the producer’s eye of a pre-LCD Soundsystem James Murphy, with songs like 2002’s “House of Jealous Lovers.” They were at the forefront of experimenters that melded house and disco influences into rock songs, interspersing vocal hooks and guitar riffs with synth, cowbell and saxophone, looping and mixing them together with a hefty dose of funk. When they sing “People don’t dance no more” on their 2006 single “Whoo! Alright, Yeah… Uh Huh,” they’re throwing down a challenge.  Read the rest of this entry »