Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Tropicalismo: Chicha Libre takes Peruvian Psychedelics To New Heights

Chicha, Experimental, Folk, Folk-rock, Folktronica, Latin, Tropicalismo/Tropicália, World Music No Comments »

By Ernest Barteldes

The latest release from Brooklyn-based Chicha Libre is a feast to the eyes even before it reaches your ears. The words “Canibalismo” shout out in bright yellow, white and red letters with a background of rainforest vegetation–a clear reference to the late 1960s tropicalismo movement that started in Brazil as a response to the psychedelics of America and Europe during that time.

Asked about the cover, French-born Olivier Conan (who also co-owns Barbès, an alternative performance space in Brooklyn, NY) says that the reference was intentional. “We meant to reference Tropicalia,” he says over an e-mail interview. “The album is named ‘Canibalismo’ after Oswald de Andrade’s autophagous manifesto, which was Tropicalias’ manifesto—and while the graphic style wasn’t derivative, it does evoke that era.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Lotus/Congress Theater

Electronic/Dance, Folktronica, Indie Pop, Jam Band, Rock No Comments »


Don’t expect this electronic jam band to just come in and do its thing when it appears onstage. In addition to the elaborate lighting it ordinarily uses, Lotus (Mike Greenfield, drums; Jesse Miller, bass and sampler; Luke Miller, guitar, keys; Mike Rempel, guitar; Chuck Morris, percussion) often thinks expansively when choosing how and what to play. Read the rest of this entry »

Soundcheck: William Fitzsimmons

Folk-rock, Folktronica No Comments »

Photo: Erin Brown

William Fitzsimmons takes brooding folk music to an entirely new, much more self-aware level. Mixing electronic drum beats with the soulful picking of an acoustic guitar, he produces music that can make the listener simultaneously smile and weep.

Fitzsimmons says that as a solo artist, this mixture of distinct styles is really just “a necessity.”

“I grew up with folk music, but I wanted to make songs that were an extension on that, given the new technologies, and wanting to make them the most full and well developed songs that I could,” Fitzsimmons says.

He is the son of two blind parents who taught him to play and shaped his musical background with their classical and folk music roots.

“The unique thing for me, I think, is that [music] was a little more necessary of a thing for us. It was not as much fun and recreation, but it was how we could get along,” Fitzsimmons says. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Caribou with Budos Band/Millennium Park

Downtempo, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Folktronica, Glitch, IDM No Comments »


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.

Preview: Mice Parade, Gregory and the Hawk/Empty Bottle

Experimental, Folk-rock, Folktronica, IDM, Indie Rock, Rock, Space Pop No Comments »


Adam Pierce, the main man behind Mice Parade, has crafted a number of records under the moniker, most recently the self-titled 2007 release, and with each album he increases the vocals and pop construction to thrilling effect. (While the last record is divine, I’ll most likely forever prefer 2005’s “Bem-Vinda Vontade,” as I go back to its first three songs weekly.) His staggering work both as a percussionist and as a master of the nylon-stringed guitar creates heavenly pieces of adventurous post-rock; his whispered vocals give it intimacy. Music you’d hear at 2am at a jazz club in space. Pierce produced Gregory and the Hawk’s “Moenie and Kitchi,” and the band opens for Mice Parade tonight. An elegant match, Gregory and the Hawk’s brain, songwriter Meredith Godreau, plays a sort of folk-pop that’s melancholic with honest sweetness and soul, recalling the better work of Mazzy Star with the youth of a Marissa Nadler. “Moenie and Kitchi” is lovely, tonight should be a angelic affair. Did I mention it was free? Yeah, free. (Tom Lynch)

Mice Parade and Gregory and the Hawk play May 4 at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, (773)276-3600, at 9:30pm. Free.

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Call in the Ringer: Everything’s ecstatic with Four Tet

DJ, Electronic/Dance, Folktronica No Comments »

By Duke Shin8_four_tet_jason_evans_july2006

Like the sound of heaven on a skipping record, bit-crushed through a mid-eighties personal computer, glitching-out as its sixty-four bits of processing might attempt to process the ethereal chimes of another world…this is the sound of 2003’s “Rounds,” which simultaneously broke Four Tet as a critical darling and saddled him with the “folktronica” tag that would seemingly follow him throughout his prolific musical career.

But simply replicating the sounds of the clockwork of heaven’s cuckoo clocks wouldn’t be enough for man-behind-the-moniker Kieran Hebden, the former post-rocking member of Fridge who evolved his Four Tet sound into a darker, stranger beast in 2005’s “Everything Ecstatic,” only to strip it all down to the techno-influenced minimalism of last year’s “Ringer.” Read the rest of this entry »