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 »
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.
Soul Foundation will host a record-release party for Chicago’s own Kate Simko, whose innovative tech-house exploits have garnered both domestic and international acclaim. Philter, the DJ collective’s monthly event at Darkroom, provides an apt setting in which to celebrate Simko’s forthcoming “Lights Out” LP, slated for an April release on the acclaimed Berlin-based Hello? Repeat imprint. The album’s first single, “Mind On You” features Soul Foundation alum Brenda D. on vocals, and will be available March 7.
Despite an already impressive discography, Simko is hardly confined to studio work. Deft programming and impeccable mixing skills have earned her regular appearances at world-renowned music festivals and club venues. Her approach to house and techno employs a hypnotic layering that often results in a distinctive sound still unmistakably Chicago at heart. Simko is joined at this month’s edition of Philter by Brenda D., Brian Gardner and the long-anticipated return of DJ Apocalypse. (John Alex Colón)
March 12 at Darkroom, 2210 West Chicago, (773)276-1411, 9pm, free before 11pm, $5 after, 21+.
Chicago Artists, DJ, Electro, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, House, Industrial, Metal, Noise, Prog-rock, Punk, Techno
Simultaneously garnering props from music industry hotshots and technology aficionados, Moldover’s 2009 debut album was more than an Internet flashpoint, it fostered the growth of a paradigm shift in live electronic stage acts: controllerism. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a dysfunctional MacBook, Moldover’s work catapults the stoic, laptop-based events of years past into a new era of rockstar idolatry, with the software controller in the driver’s seat. An unmistakable rock influence pervades his musical efforts, which deftly run the gamut from rapid, techno-fused breakbeats to glitch-inspired funk. Moldover will be supported by the DJ skills of Chicago favorites Striz, Magpie and Duke Shin. (John Alex Colón)
March 11 at Darkroom, 2210 West Chicago, 9pm, free before 10pm, $6 after.
Techno hyphenate Matthew Dear has been a regular visitor to Chicago over the years, most recently back in October with his full live band at the Metro in support of 2010′s excellent “Black City,” Dear’s third full-length album. While some fans might be less engaged with his recent pompadoured, crooning Morrissey act, and maybe wish he’d just show up with a bag of records and DJ, you have to give Dear credit for constantly evolving his performances. This time around, Dear revisits the Big Hands project he debuted back in 2007 at the Empty Bottle. Opening for Dear is local electro-psyche-rock outfit Loyal Divide, who recently remixed Dear’s “Slowdance.” Following the live performances, DJs will take over, with local favorites Orchard Lounge and former Chicagoan Lee Foss commandeering the decks. Foss has made plenty of waves since leaving Chicago for LA, debuting on Resident Advisor’s vaunted Top DJ poll for 2010 at #38—the highest debut this year. His avalanche of recent productions—both solo and with Jamie Jones as Hot Natured—reflect the same formula he’s been using to construct his sets for years: combining deep house and techno influences with the playfulness of disco and nineties R&B. Foss doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, with his latest collaborative project, Pteradactil Disco (Jones, Foss, Robert James and FB Julian) dropping the “Big Ass Biscuit/Clive’s Alright” EP next week on Hot Creations (Foss & Jones’ label, natch) and his anticipated “Your Turn Girl” EP dropping later in February. A cool customer behind the decks, we wouldn’t expect too many hands-in-the-air freakouts. Set phasers for: tastefully restrained and boogie-tested for a more discerning dance floor. (Duke Shin)
January 28 at The Mid, 306 North Halsted, (312)265-3990. 10pm-4am. $12 presales.
Sometimes settling for a DJ set isn’t so bad. When Mazi Namvar is behind the decks, the soul of his Audio Soul Project certainly shines through. His recently released album, “Hip Shake Heartache” (Fresh Meat), attempts to highlight every facet of Chicago house music and succeeds, thanks to the painstaking selection of Namvar’s recording partners. Stellar vocal work permeates the album, driven home by big-room basslines and unmistakably swinging rhythms.
Namvar confirms the nostalgic inspiration behind the album, the sound of late nineties house music, is still captivating dancefloors, from loft spaces to nightclubs. The vocals and sax may not be live, but Namvar hopes his DJ sets can open the door to a live tour in support of “Heartache.” House music’s past and future collide this weekend at Smart Bar’s monthly Dotbleep event, where Namvar is joined by two more local heroes: Justin Long and Mark Almaria. (John Alex Colon)
January 22 at Smart Bar, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203. 10pm. $10-12.
Launching a new residency at Space in Ibiza and recording a mix with Marco Carola makes for a successful summer by most accounts. Nick Curly visits Chicago on the heels of such news, prepared to bring his tech-house selection to Smart Bar. Tracks on Plastic City, Cocoon and Get Physical brought Curly to the forefront of the German techno scene, particularly his “Cecille” releases. Curly is joined by Savile and Lee Jarvis on the decks. (John Alex Colon)
January 21 at Smart Bar, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203. 10pm. $10-$13.