Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: The Green/Bottom Lounge

Reggae, World Music No Comments »


Save for balladeer Jack Johnson or the late Iz, few Hawaii-based artists seem to get much attention in the mainland no matter how big they might be on the island. Luckily for Oahu-born The Green, that trend does not hold true. Their mellow, optimistic take on reggae seems to have struck a chord with mainstream fans, and from their self-titled 2010 debut onward they have been able to get the attention of reggae radio stations with reach far beyond Hawaiian locals. Their third release, “Hawai’i ’13,” (out on Easy Star) is proof of that. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Blue Sky Black Death/Bottom Lounge

Hip-Hop No Comments »

10.10 blue sky black death @ bottom loungeRECOMMENDED

Expecting Blue Sky Black Death, comprising Kingston and Young God, to retain sonic gestures referring back to its 2006 “A Heap of Broken Images” is kinda ridiculous. But to hear how far the duo’s moved away from those productions is just as surprising. Beginning its recorded life with a double disc featuring guest spots by everyone from Guru to AWOL One, BSBD immediately demanded respect. Confounding listeners in favor of projects supporting Hell Razah and Warcloud, the group moved effortlessly to more thuggish affairs before skittering off to its “Late Night Cinema,” replete with would-be indie tropes. Just two years into their career, the duo seemed capable of assimilating just about any sound it felt necessary to complete a production. After working with rapper Nacho Picasso, BSBD continued its aural explorations several years on by issuing “Skull and Bones,” which counts a choice, pitched-down Black Flag sample. Nothing is in the vein of Death Grips, but BSBD’s ability to craft what’s necessary track-to-track without consideration of source material simultaneously enables the group to entice and repel listeners. Read the rest of this entry »

Death Grips to Chicago: You Got Gamed

Festivals, Hip-Hop, News and Dish No Comments »

deathgripsBy John Wilmes

Scheduled into one of the headlining sets of Lollapalooza’s second day, and for a sold-out performance at The Bottom Lounge, the night prior, Sacramento-based band Death Grips (described variously as noise rock, noise rap, experimental rap and thrash rap) skipped it all. At The Bottom Lounge there was only a large projection of a fan’s suicide note behind the stage, and the venue’s announcement, moments after they themselves had learned, that the band wouldn’t be coming. In a reaction of incalculable irony, fans then rushed the stage to destroy the band’s equipment, as Death Grips’ angry, caustic tones played over the P.A.—but it later came out that this was not, in fact, their equipment. The next morning, it became clear that they never even got on a plane, and their Lollapalooza set was cancelled. Everyone had been gamed.

The internet exploded with this news. And this wasn’t the first time that Death Grips has scorned their fans, eager to see them—they’ve cancelled large stretches of tours, before, to work on new material instead—or upset the booking and distribution titans of the industry, either. Their most recent album, “No Love Deep Web,” was set to be released by Epic, but the band released it for free instead, on their website, with an erect penis on the cover art. An act of defiance that, after Death Grips refused to undo it, had them dropped from the label. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Wolf Eyes/Bottom Lounge

Experimental, Noise No Comments »


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 »

Preview: Unwritten Law/Bottom Lounge

Punk No Comments »


You’re not likely going to walk into a grocery store and hear Unwritten Law playing over the loudspeakers. While Green Day and similarly minded pop-cum-punk groups turned a corner, producing widely palatable works, this SoCal troupe kept to a more hard-rock territory, subverting some of its punkier inclinations over time. Hearing Unwritten Law’s first two discs—the 1994 “Blue Room” and its 1996 follow-up “Oz Factor”—it’s difficult to hear what made the band attractive enough to garner major label attention. Differentiating between a track like “Suzanne” with its plainly sung vocals, hints of harmony and rudimentary pop construction, and then-contemporary groups on Fat Wreck Chords or Epitaph is virtually impossible. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Archers of Loaf/Bottom Lounge

Indie Rock No Comments »


With the voice of a raspy pop star, Eric Bachmann led the North Carolinian Archers of Loaf for the better part of the nineties alternative rock plague. Getting lumped into a handful of well-meaning noiseniks like Pavement didn’t elevate the ensemble to the same vaunted territory as that better-known group. Archers weren’t ever as wild or focused on distorting rock’s language, but early on, Bachmann and company wrenched out some surprising sounds from a traditional rock setup. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: El-P/Bottom Lounge

Hip-Hop No Comments »


Few artists can claim as distinguished and influential a career as El-P. From his days in Company Flow to the founding of iconoclastic label Definitive Jux to the present day, the former El Producto has never been far from a mic, and his influence has never been far from the industry. El-P took the hard New York City sound and dragged it through the mud, crafting atmospheric cuts for his intellectual and exquisitely designed bars. It’s a style that established an entire sound, one that would later be represented by the Def Jux label. This combination of frightfully dark and grimy production with transcendent lyrical skills made El-P and his label-mates subterranean legends, skipping past the Vanilla Underground emoting of their aughts contemporaries at Rhymesayers and forging a brutal underground scene still plied today. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Negative Approach/Bottom Lounge

Festivals, Hardcore, Punk No Comments »


The entirety of Negative Approach’s recorded legacy can be taken in over the course of a half hour or so, but hardcore’s meant to be fast and to the point. The band’s frontman John Brannon—who also did time at the helm of Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action—has somehow continued screaming over the last several decades as convincingly as when he was eighteen. How his vocal chords hold up is a mystery. NA’s all pretty standard fare at this point. But when the Detroit band first recorded its slew of anthems, there weren’t more than a handful of bands taking such an aggressive approach to punk and shooting it through with a message of individuality. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Black Dahlia Murder/Bottom Lounge

Metal No Comments »


“Everything Went Black” opens The Black Dahlia Murder’s 2007 album “Nocturnal.” The title can be attributed to the Detroit ensemble’s enjoyment of Euro-styled black metal. But just as likely, it’s a reference to a compendium of early Black Flag material, collected and packaged under the same name. Musically, the influence isn’t overtly reflected, but during the Black Dahlia’s career, enough heavy music’s been assimilated into its work that it’d be difficult to fathom the connection being an accident. Just on that 2007 album, everything from grind to death gets referenced—and sometimes during the same composition. Its title track sports unrelenting tempos and tag-teamed vocals now synonymous with the band. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Sage Francis/Bottom Lounge

Hip-Hop No Comments »


Beginning his recorded career in 2000, the music Sage Francis raps over has always been an evolving mass of surprising influences. Even a decade back, though, there were hints at where he’d be in 2010 when his album “Li(f)e” was issued. The MC’s first few releases through his own Strange Famous imprint sported tinny production, warbling high-end and rumbling lows. Eventually he hooked up with Anticon for the “Climb Trees” disc, but there were still varying sonic qualities in play. But supported by the likes of Alias and Jel (two producers who deserve a wider audience all this time later), tracks like “Message Sent,” a rounded-off piano line and hand drums, it towers over the million-dollar beats being rolled out today. Read the rest of this entry »