Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Ben Frost/Chicago Cultural Center (Sónar)

Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Festivals, Glitch, IDM, Industrial, Metal, Metalcore, Noise No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

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.

Mega Mayhem: Slayer co-headlines the metal fest of the summer

Festivals, Metal, Metalcore, Rock No Comments »

By Jason WalshSLAYER - 2009

Summer is the season when legions of trucks hit the roads bringing dozens and dozens of bands in touring festivals to every major city across the country. This year’s biggest metal smorgasbord is the Rockstar Mayhem Festival, with co-headliner’s Marilyn Manson and Slayer leading the pack with some of the world’s most heavy-hitting outfits in tow. The madness comes to Chicago this summer as the carnival of brutality descends on the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre on July 26.

Undisputed masters of thrash metal, Slayer, who have spent the past quarter century defining the true nature of the genre of which hundreds of bands have followed in their wake, co-headline. Guitarist Kerry King says he’s excited about being on the bill with Manson for a second year in a row. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Bach to Bach 1 & 2

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Emo, Indie Pop, Metalcore, Orchestral, Singer-Songwriter No Comments »

cso1Although widely considered the greatest musical genius who ever lived, Johann Sebastian Bach never wrote for the modern symphony orchestra nor the piano, because neither existed back when he was composing.  But this doesn’t stop pianists and modern orchestras from performing his music, although in the case of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Bach was principally heard in overblown Romantic orchestral transcriptions for the early decades of its existence.  I can still remember CSO conductors routinely performing Bach harpsichord concertos as if they were piano concertos, complete with a pianist.  James Levine was a pioneer here in the early 1970s, presenting all six of the Bach “Brandenburg” Concertos at Ravinia with a small chamber orchestra as Bach scored them, with himself playing the harpsichord.  Sir Georg Solti was a Bach lover and recorded the “St. Matthew Passion” and the “b minor Mass” and even a set of “Brandenburg” Concertos that were never finished nor released, which the orchestra used to fondly refer to as the “Abandonburg” Concertos.  A number of early music specialists have been brought in to conduct Bach and other early music composers with varying success, but it was always a struggle to get the strings to eliminate the wide vibrato that is a performing staple for so much of the nineteenth-century music that is the orchestra’s central repertoire and which end up slowing down the brisk tempos needed for effective  performances of eighteenth-century music.  One solution is to hire conductors who will gladly perform Bach with a small chamber orchestra and harpsichord, but without alternating the orchestra’s playing style and while still keeping the tempos slow.  Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Sleepers/Double Door

Chicago Artists, Electronic/Dance, House, Metalcore, Punk, Rock, Techno No Comments »

The ruffians in Chicago’s stripped-down rock ‘n’ roll quintet The Sleepers act like they studied under Jack Black in his cutesy “School of Rock” movie, playing every rock stereotype card in the deck: sex, big guitars, bluesy riffs, songs referencing smoking cigarettes, screwing the authorities and the claim that Detroit’s “gonna save my soul.” The band’s latest record, “Comeback Special,” tries to evoke hard-rock mainstays like MC5 and New York Dolls, but the band’s tired, contrived performance warrants one undesired comparison: Jet. Harsh, I know (and a better sonic description might be The Donnas with a dude lead singer), but only Jet has abused rhythm and blues quite like this, treating its influences like some sort of nostalgic checklist. No frills hard-rock requires raw, sweaty and spontaneous performances; a bunch of obligatory references to sex can only take you so far. (Andy Seifert)

January 22 at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, (773)489-3160, 9pm. Free.

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Coming Home Again: Rise Against returns to Chicago with a big bill

Chicago Artists, Hardcore, Indie Pop, Metalcore, Punk, Rock No Comments »

By Jason K. Walsh

To say it has been a busy year for Chicago’s Rise Against would be an understatement. With a new record doing well for them on the charts, frontman Tim McIlrath says though the band has had an intense schedule, the journey has been worthwhile.

“This year has been awesome,” McIlrath says. “We got off the road last January, had some babies, wrote the new record in Chicago, recorded it in Colorado, and mixed it in L.A. in the spring. Went to Europe for a few weeks, had some more babies, did two weeks on the Warped Tour, then got back in the saddle for the fall tour we are now on with Alkaline Trio, Thrice and the Gaslight Anthem.”

With all the childbearing aside, the band that rose from the local Chicago scene in 2001 is returning home for a two-night engagement with the aforementioned supporting acts in tow.

“Chicago is where I grew up going to shows,” McIlrath says. “To play on the same stage where I saw my favorite bands is definitely a rewarding experience. It’s also where I get to show my friends just exactly what it is I do all year while I’m gone.”

Rise Against began this tour last month in support of their fifth studio release, “Appeal to Reason,” which hit the racks in October on DGC/Interscope Records. This saw a third teaming with producers Jason Livermore and Bill Stevenson, of Black Flag and Descendents fame, who worked with the band on its previous records “The Sufferer and the Witness” and “Revolutions per Minute.” McIlrath contends that the creation process for the band has been one of not overanalyzing the process.

“We took the same approach to this record as we’ve done to our previous records, which is actually a lack of approach. There’s no approach. It’s just show up and let’s play. There’s no plan, we don’t map it out, we don’t decide on a direction. We just kind of let it happen real naturally. That’s how it happened.”

And apparently, that creative process has worked for them. “Appeal to Reason” debuted at number-three on the Billboard chart, number-one on the Billboard Digital Album chart, and the first single, “Re-Education (Through Labor),” the song that begins the record, number-four on the Modern Rock radio charts.

“It’s a good way to start off the new record, because I think the album has a lot of progression and something different to offer,” says bassist Joe Principe. “I think that song represents us the best.”

The Gaslight Anthem from New Jersey is one of the three bands supporting this tour that wraps at the end of the month. Drummer Benny Horowitz is excited about the progress along the road so far.

“It’s the biggest tour we’ve ever done,” Horowitz says. “We weren’t really acquainted with the other bands before we went, but the shows are going incredibly well and the bands and crew on tour have been really supportive and fun. New friends and good shows. All you can ask for.”

Hailing from New Brunswick, the Gaslight Anthem is also supporting a new record, “The ’59 Sound,” which is its debut on Side One Dummy Records. The band had the opportunity to work with former Flogging Molly guitarist Tedd Hutt, who produced the last two Street Dogs albums.

“Making this record was a completely different recording process than anything we’ve ever done before,” Horowitz says. “It’s the first time we ever worked with a producer and I think we all had to get used to that, but it allowed us to do a ton of stuff that we wouldn’t have tried before.”

Unlike their previous full-length, “Sink or Swim” on XOXO Records, which only took two weeks to record, the Gaslight Anthem spent six weeks in the studio crafting “The 59 Sound.” The result was an homage to the styles that have spoken to the band musically, combining their New Jersey punk roots with rock and soul songwriters that inspired them as well: Bruce Springsteen, Otis Redding, Tom Petty.

“So far the response has been overwhelming,” he says. “It’s doing better than anyone expected. When we walked out of the studio, we knew we thought it was good, but we were totally baffled as to what others would think. Luckily, people seem to dig it. Even people who were into our last record stuck with us. So, so far so good.”

Horowitz says his firsthand experience on this tour is all the reason folks in Chicago need to come out to one of the shows.

“I’ve been seeing this tour every day for a month and it’s well worth the ticket. All the bands put on a great show and we’ll try to warm up the night as best we can. And, in the spirit of the city, maybe I’ll wear my Charles Bronson ‘Youth Attack’ shirt.”

McIlrath echoes the sentiment.

“If you need to be encouraged to come out to a show this awesome, then maybe you don’t belong there in the first place. It speaks for itself.”

November 20-21 at Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, (312)923-2000, at 7pm.

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Preview: Genghis Tron/Beat Kitchen

Indie Rock, Metalcore, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Band names are rarely as apropos as Philadelphia trio Genghis Tron, a well-devised pun that merges two references to encompass the band’s sound and mindset: like the 1980s science-fiction classic “Tron,” the band exists within a tightly structured yet ultimately campy universe, devised with plodding, Moog-like synths; and like the eleventh-century Mongolian Emperor Genghis Khan, the music intends to mercilessly pillage your village (figuratively speaking). The band’s newest effort, “Board up the House,” builds up with ominous interludes of strictly manufactured drumbeats and sweeping electronic effects to its climaxes of mayhem: blazing bass-drum pulsations, piercing powerchord stabs and Mookie Singerman’s unintelligible yelps of terror. “I’ve got no way to fight this on my own, whatever ails me fades a stable soul,” Singerman menacingly intones before screaming something so brutal that the lyric could very well be “Let me bake you a cake” and it would still sound like the band was about to set your townhouse ablaze. (Andy Seifert)

October 18 at Beat Kitchen, 2100 West Belmont, (773)281-4444

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Preview: HORSE the Band/Reggie’s Rock Club

Metalcore, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

When HORSE the Band left a tour back in 2006, the explanation for its unexpected cancellation couldn’t have been more hilarious: it had tried Lou Malnati’s and—upon realization that it was the greatest pizza they would ever have—decided to stay in Chicago, read Nietzsche and record an EP based on their newfound appreciation for the aforementioned pizza. If a “normal” band, say, Aerosmith, decided to pull this kind of stunt, the press would be questioning Joe Perry’s psychological state. But this is par for the course for HORSE the Band, a self-proclaimed “Nintendocore” quintet from California, whose metalcore foundation blends seamlessly with the electronic sounds from an old Game Boy cartridge. The band’s latest album “A Natural Death,” blazes into your headphones with the fury of its supposedly blistering live show without sacrificing its trademark tongue-in-cheek wit. “Don’t feed the bears,” viciously intones vocalist Nathan Winneke. “Or the bears will feed on you.” (Andy Seifert)

September 26 at Reggie’s

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