Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Plastic Crimewave Sound/Empty Bottle

Chicago Artists, Jam Band, Psychedelic No Comments »


Celebrating the demise of something seems counterintuitive and anti-climatic, but Plastic Crimewave Sound isn’t just some buncha Chicago jerks; it’s these Chicago jerks, fronted by the ever-mustachioed Plastic Crimewave. Sure, the ridiculous heights of recording with Ya Ho Wah 13’s Djin Aquarian likely aren’t forthcoming, but there are scant dudes who can say they’ve even had the opportunity to perform with that sub-terra legend. Whatever counted as the troupe’s regular lineup apparently disintegrated sometime last spring, the travails of everyday life being cited as the main reason. You know, babies and marriage? All this PCS hoopla, though, surrounds the group’s (probable) final recording, a tape-only affair being issued through an imprint helmed by Running’s bassist. Read the rest of this entry »

Ecstatic Improvisation: “The Source Family” Documents the Strange Days of Father Yod and Ya Ho Wha 13

Jam Band, Psychedelic, Rock No Comments »
Courtesy Djin Aquarian

Courtesy Djin Aquarian

By Dave Cantor

Perched atop one of the highest points in California, Djin Aquarian remains a figure wedged into the country’s history of out-music and social experiments. Neither defines him, but both contribute to the aura surrounding a communal, religious group called the Source Family he was a member of in the seventies. Thirty-six years later, the views and practices espoused by its god-head, Father Yod, make most middle-Americans squeamish. At the time this all went down, the Family must have been at least a little terrifying.

“We worked and lived in [this world],” Djin says. “But on the other hand, we were very different. … We had sex differently, we ate differently. … we sealed ourselves off … didn’t go out of the Family and kept growing through that.”

The Source Family, helmed by a war-vet-turned-restaurateur with the given name Jim Baker, could be lumped into the miasma of 1960s social experiments. But there’s something else going on. Smoking weed was a ritual, but drugs weren’t a focus. They weren’t totally freed from monetary concerns—Baker’s Sunset Strip health-food eatery sustained them. It’s all curious—the reams of music they recorded as Ya Ho Wha 13 are, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Puffy Areolas/Lincoln United Methodist Church

Jam Band, Psychedelic, Punk No Comments »


Who woulda guessed that knife hits would eventually lead to dance hits? Puffy Areolas’ musical trajectory hasn’t moved in a calculable curve so much as it darts erratically from sub-basement loner punk to euphoric tape-deck manipulation and on to primal R&B. After the all-points Ohio band led by herb-scented Damon Sturdivant moved on from collectable tape and vinyl releases to the Siltbreeze-issued “1981,” it would have been easy to write the whole endeavor off, guessing that song after song would simply comprise a repetitive two-note screed. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Acid Mothers Temple/Empty Bottle

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Acid Mothers Temple is Japanese guitarist Kawabata Makoto and whoever he decides comprises his ensemble. The band’s members have come and gone, with Kawabata being the focal point for the better part of the last fifteen years. During that time, the guitarist has explored and expanded upon music ranging from Pink Floyd’s odder moments to Bay Area minimalism and psych-improvisations unhindered by melody and structure. All of that could reduce Acid Mothers to a simple, hippie free-for-all. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Woodsman/Empty Bottle

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If Woodsman was from Chicago, it’d be Mako Sica. But something happened to the Denver band since Mexican Summer released its 2009 “Collages.” Brittle bits of easygoing bohemian psych still surface, but it’s all contextualized differently. Maybe it has something to do with the ensemble splitting time between its hometown and Brooklyn. Or maybe it’s just that the band’s matured and waltzed into another portion of its career. The 2009 disc offered listeners a handful of low-key moments—all that whirring on the album’s closing “Mothershift.” Clever names aside, during the track’s almost twenty-minute run-time, Woodsman nonchalantly stroll through the track’s slower moments and sprint toward its conclusion. The song’s a rare instance of the band developing more than a single idea within a composition. Not much changed for the following year’s “Mystery Tape.” Another extended song (“Smells Like Purple”) closes out the disc, but the penultimate track begins to reveal the band’s newer nervy direction. 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 »

Preview: Disappears/Empty Bottle

Chicago Artists, Jam Band, Psychedelic, Shoegaze No Comments »


In three years Disappears has gone from a random assemblage of dudes who once performed with other bands to a group dispensing its own particular mélange of psych and pop run through garage’s sonic lens. Issuing two singles and a pair of full-lengths, the quartet hasn’t been developing at a rapid pace, but it still turns in concise rock songs, sporadically opting for fifteen-minute explorations of just a few notes. Adding in Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley behind the drum kit hasn’t hurt the band. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Mickey Hart/Lincoln Hall

Jam Band, Rock, World Music No Comments »


There’s no way to extricate Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead’s legacy. He was one of a pair of drummers—the other half was Bill Kreutzmann—making instrumental excess so easy for the ensemble. With Jerry Garcia’s penchant for Americana made evident through countless recordings on albums with folks like mandolin player David Grisman, Hart’s interests outside the Dead focused on roots music of another kind. Exploring a history of percussion reaching back much further than recorded sound, Hart set about not just incorporating those styles into his own work as portions of the 1972 “Rolling Thunder” express, but by performing compositions worked up in association with performers like Zakir Hussain. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Wooden Shjips/Empty Bottle

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Leaving copies of “Shrinking Moon for You” in San Francisco thrift stores seems like an odd way to garner attention for a newly minted band. Wooden Shjips’ first slab of vinyl ostensibly laid the groundwork for what was to follow during the next five years. But the act, conceived of independent from economic interests, served to tie the Shjips into a Bay Area psych history the band doesn’t lean on as heavily as the press has made out. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Cave/Hideout

Chicago Artists, Jam Band, Krautrock, Rock No Comments »


The term motorik gets tossed around with relative abandon in reference to the handful of ensembles that use German psychedelia dating from the mid-sixties through the latter portion of the seventies as a template. For some, the idea’s a succinct way to describe a precise, up-and-down style of drumming used in acts like Can and on the rock-related releases from Kraftwerk. Ralf and Florian aside, Chicago’s Cave can’t escape descriptions of its subtly nuanced percussion style. Issuing “Neverendless,” the title itself a wink and nod to the endless derivations possible on a single theme, isn’t set to distance the Missouri-cum-Chicago group from any expectations. These five songs, the shortest being just this side of four minutes, continue the band’s commitment to spinning out an idea for as long as possible amidst some group improv bolstered by Rex’s drum kit. Read the rest of this entry »