Photo: Rikkard Häggbom
By Kenneth Preski
At the forefront of Herculean horn playing stands a sweaty Mats Gustafsson, eternally finishing up his latest saxophone symphony. The prolific Swede performs with enough muscularity to rival Schwarzenegger. He plays with the force of a jet engine, and given his recording schedule, he’s busier than most airports. Just shy of age fifty, this year alone Gustafsson has contributed to fourteen different releases, ranging from playful free jazz collaborations with Chicagoan Ken Vandermark on “Verses,” to noise experiments with Merzbow on “Cuts,” to duo work with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore on “Vi Är Alla Guds Slavar.” His unceasing care for the craft has yielded two outfits in particular, Fire!, and The Thing, which have both garnered worldwide acclaim.
Fresh off remarkable recordings with experimental stalwarts Jim O’Rourke and Oren Ambarchi, Fire! released two full-length records in 2013—one as a thirty-piece orchestra, and another as a slimmed-down trio—both efforts among the finest free jazz releases this year. An upcoming album from The Thing, appropriately titled “BOOT!” sounds like jazz and punk got into a street fight. It’s a surprising set from a band whose last outing was a collaboration with vocalist Neneh Cherry (yes, that Neneh Cherry, of “Buffalo Stance” fame), a collection of unpredictable avant-garde jazz covers from source material as desperate as The Stooges and Madvillain. The Thing, after all, formed to explore the work of Neneh Cherry’s stepfather, legendary trumpeter Don Cherry, whose methodology was firmly embedded in experimental expression. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Matías Corral
Tireless San Francisco rockers Thee Oh Sees took a leisurely approach to touring on their latest album. Released back in April, “Floating Coffin” marks visionary John Dwyer’s twelfth album in ten years. Full of ambition but not hinged on direction, OCS (as the group was originally billed) began as Dwyer’s extracurricular project way back when. Several releases, some name changes, and a few band members later—the current count is five—Thee Oh Sees’ fertility has endured.
Just like on past albums, concept and cadence on “Floating Coffin” have been thrown into the woodchipper and expectorated. Or, imagine a game-show wheel with narrow pegs jutting out along the circumference of its pizza-sliced face, and the labels fuzz rock, psych-folk, psych-pop, garage, punk, noise, children’s songs and Krautrock tapering into the center. The wheel is spun and an excitement of the outcome builds, only there’s no stopping device. The wheel remains perpetually unpredictable. This is how Thee Oh Sees have proven that time, not concept, is all they need to be a truly great band. Read the rest of this entry »
Even if you hate the idea of noise as music—and you have the right to—the sheer breadth of work connected to the Wolf Eyes pack should be impressive enough to wade into the mire. It’s not an easy task and the hundreds of tapes, lathe cuts, LPs and other sundry releases make taking in the Midwesterner’s work even more difficult. But paying attention to any randomly selected song (or screed, if that works better) can reveal a properly pieced together pastiche of music. Read the rest of this entry »
So late in the year, the frequency of quality festivals tapers off. But setting off that autumnal awe is the tenth installment of Adventures in Modern Music, a joint venture between the Empty Bottle and The Wire, to bring together a sizable selection of out-sounds from different genres. One of the better-known acts to be fitted into this sprawling look at contemporary music is R. Stevie Moore, who’s been given credit for presaging the slew of home-recording projects clogging up the internet nowadays. His work’s something like Daniel Johnston’s in that there’re clearly some ghosts being worked out in each affectional composition. He performs Wednesday. To highlight Adventures’ desire to strip genre of meaning, Rob Mazurek’s São Paulo Underground takes a spot on stage during the same evening, raving up experiments that use jazzy frameworks birthed from south of the equator. Read the rest of this entry »
Sun Araw/Photo: Fabian Villa
By Dave Cantor
Electronic experiments in the States and Jamaica’s vocal tradition may be one of the few remaining untapped combinations in the music world. Luckily, Cameron Stallones, who performs and records as Sun Araw, was already privy to the work of a North Carolinian who wouldn’t distinguish between acoustic folk traditions and 1950s minimal compositions. Unwittingly influenced by Henry Flynt’s recombination, Stallones generates at the crossroad of disparate sounds.
“Some of that stuff is the most relentlessly psychedelic music—like the violin strobe stuff,” Stallones says of Henry Flynt’s fiddle improvisations, which are set atop looped drones for 1981’s “You Are My Everlovin’.” Read the rest of this entry »
From track to track, it’d be difficult to deduce which Lightning Bolt long-player one’s listening to. But with the drums-bass setup, that’s unsurprising. What is out of the ordinary is the ruckus drummer Brian Chippendale and basser Brian Gibson are able to summon from their pair of instruments. Beginning as a Rhode Island School of Design project and branching out to international van dwellers, Lightning Bolt’s sub-terra popularity followed the broader emergence of a self-sufficient noise scene, replete with low-rent tape releases and enough DIY venues to support a torrid touring schedule. Read the rest of this entry »
Most folks don’t hear nature sounds amid the sordid fervor of noisy free-improv. But part of the (non-)genre’s intrigue is that listeners are granted the ability to draw any sort of conclusion they wish from a performance or recording. Bill Nace, a Western Massachusetts-based destructo guitarist, has spent the last decade working with a litany of performers who don’t distinguish between melodic perfection and monolithic throwdowns without a script. During his time with Vampire Belt, a duo with drummer Chris Corsano, the pair was able to briefly hint at some sort of understandable melody before flying off the handle into an insular world of successive crashes, bleets and skronks. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
On the heels of their fifth full album, the Brooklyn shoegaze outfit bring their dreamy take on pop hooks over sonic jetwash to the Empty Bottle. “Flourescence,” released earlier this month, has the band moving towards bare-boned electronic post-punk territory, gravitating more towards Curve and My Bloody Valentine than Cocteau Twins on tracks like “Trails” and “Trance Out.” Yuki Chikudate’s soaring vocals still manage to surface above that expected cacophony of drone-noise, feedback and distortion, whether taking a distinctively retro sixties approach on “My Baby” or echoing as sonic texture on the epic “Leave the Drummer Out There.” Also wearing their influences on their cover sleeve, “Flourescence” showcases the distinctive style of classic 4AD Records to boot, with artist Vaughan Oliver supplying the look. And there, somewhere between the future and the past, eyes sometimes closed, keeping time with a finger on the keys and another shaking a maraca, Chikudate and Asobi Seksu don’t reinvent the wheel, but spin it well enough to trample over naysayers and trite, dead-genre revivalists. Hidden melodies, and surfacing beauty, textures upon sonic texture… if you like it, love it, you’re already there, and if you don’t, you already know. It’s why you never could get into the Jesus and Mary Chain or thought the first Raveonettes record sounded weird. But for the rest of us, we’ll see you there! (Duke Shin)
February 28 at The Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western, (773)276-3600, 9:30pm. $12.
Listening to Ben Frost’s “Theory of Machines” (Bedroom Community), it’s difficult to concur with the categorization of “post-minimalism.” His compositions fly in the face of any label, at once gorgeous and terrifying. Certainly electronic music in the experimental vein, Frost’s work seems to interpret the would-be sounds of a blissful void, shockingly interrupted by the overwhelming sounds of pain. Imagine the backdrop of Loscil and Brian Eno pierced by the industrial tendencies of Trent Reznor and you might come close to Ben Frost’s sound. Felt as much as heard, his music elicits the feelings of fear and loneliness reserved for horror-film scores and thunderstorms, amplified by guitar-shredding and haunting vocal samples. Frost appears as part of the internationally acclaimed music and multimedia art festival, Sónar, which visits Chicago from Barcelona for the first time. (John Alex Colón)
September 11 at Chicago Cultural Center, 78 East Washington, (312)744-6630. 6pm. Free. Limited capacity.