Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Deejay Earl/Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Artists, DJ, EDM, Electronic/Dance No Comments »


The year 2010 marked when Chicago’s own footwork dance music was dubbed by the media as the music of the future. Competitive and super frenetic at 160 bpm, this juke derivative has evolved to cater specifically to the dance style itself, aiming to ignite a chemical reaction within the foot, faster than a tap dancer with a gun to his head. At the forefront, Chicago’s TEKLIFE crew has forged the way for footwork music to flourish outside the hometown and take hold of the EDM scenes in LA, London and Paris just to name a few. Among the crew them is Deejay Earl, younger in age but with the tenacity and work output of someone you’d expect to be older than twenty-three. Last year he grasped a handful of milestones: headlining LA’s Boiler Room, countless internet releases and TEKLIFE colabs including a thirty-one track album on SoundCloud, two EP releases on an American and European indie label, as well as a hike in demand from nightclubs across Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

House Rules: DJ Rashad Revitalizes Dance on “Double Cup”

Acid, Chicago Artists, DJ, Electronic/Dance, House No Comments »

By Kenneth PreskiDJ Rashad

No genre of music has done more to exploit technology than dance. Practitioners have so radically altered the sonic landscape as to render mid-range frequencies obsolete. This is the region of space traditionally reserved for a guitar. Now the sound is maximized at each end of the spectrum, producers opting for punishing squeals of noises that ratchet and reel, high-end frequencies capable of piercing through devastating low-end bass deep enough to rattle your chest. Even vocal samples are subjected to pitch shifting, as much to match tempo as to fit the mix. The music is meant to be physical, hence the overwhelming emphasis on sounds that manipulate movement. From exciting your eardrums to throbbing your torso, if you ever wanted to feel like a vibrating cell phone, you should head to a DJ Rashad show.

Rashad knows much about the impulse to dance. As a member of the House-o-Matics crew, Rashad spent his youth as a dancer immersed in Chicago’s ghetto-house scene—a faster, more aggressive, often explicit take on the post-disco rhythms preferred by the genre’s forefathers. It wouldn’t take long until he became dissatisfied with his role, “I kinda accomplished everything I wanted to do as far as dancing goes, and people wouldn’t take me seriously for doing both, me doing DJing and dancing, so I kinda just like put the shoes down and picked up the needles and took it from there.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ben Frost/Chicago Cultural Center (Sónar)

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


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.

Preview: Nosaj Thing/Chicago Cultural Center (Sónar)

Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Festivals, Glitch, IDM, Pop No Comments »

Photo: Mikey Tnasuttimonkol


Critics and fans continue to swoon over his debut, “Drift” (Alpha Pup), and for good reason: Nosaj Thing fuses the sounds of ambient electronic music to hip-hop and glitch rhythms and doesn’t disappoint. Comparisons to Four Tet, Boards of Canada and other genre favorites are barely apt, save for some echoing tone or uniquely juxtaposed breakbeats, and the fact that his is a must-see live act. The Nosaj Thing Visual Show is on the bill for the Sónar festival’s inaugural run in Chicago and it promises to drop some jaws. Rhythms trigger an array of visual settings that obscure and highlight the stage, enveloping the silhouette of artist and laptop, while they ultimately control the entire situation. This awesome interaction of music, light, and color can be found at the Claudia Cassidy Theater within the Chicago Cultural Center, dubbed the “SonarComplex” for the duration of the festival. (John Alex Colón)

September 10 at Chicago Cultural Center, 78 East Washington, (312)744-6630. 6pm. Free. Limited capacity.

Preview: World Music Festival 2009/Various venues

Chicago Artists, Classical, Country, Electronic/Dance, Folk, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Reggae, Rock, Soul, World Music No Comments »


The opening day of the 2009 World Music Festival will begin as will each weekday of the weeklong festival, with a two-hour noontime performance and interview in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater that will also be broadcast live on WNUR (89.3 FM).  Slide guitarist and vocalist Markus James will be among those spotlighted opening day, viewed by many as a successor to his Malian mentor, Ali Farka Toure.  Like Toure, James plays and sings blues that combine African rhythms, pedal points, repetitions and antiphons with Mississippi Delta blues-style improvisations and melancholy.  His group the Wassonrai is made up of Malian and Guinean musicians based in the States, including multi-instrumentalists Mamadou Sidibe, Amadou Camara and Karamba Dioubate.  Markus James & the Wassonrai will also headline the Uncommon Ground Outdoor Harvest Party Friday evening (9pm) and will also headline the Saturday night show (8pm) at the Old Town School of Folk Music.  But if you’re not into American meets African roots music, no worries: there are no less than fifty-five performances across twenty-one venues by artists representing thirty-two countries all week long.  New this year are five new venues, including Bottom Lounge, Edgewater GRalley Festival, Green Dolphin Street and Chicago Park District field houses at Kelvyn Park and Washington Park.  Also new are five free noontime concerts (Sept. 21-24) at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion.  This year’s eleventh annual festival will showcase no less than twenty-seven Chicago debut performances and the United States debut of Turkey’s Mehter Ottoman Turkish Military Band, which will headline a Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion performance on Monday evening (6:30pm).  Navy Pier, a festival venue, will be blowing off fireworks tonight and Saturday at 9pm in salute of the festival.  (Dennis Polkow)

Visit for a complete day-by-day schedule and festival updates; most events are free, but most ticketed events are less than $15; (312) 742-1938.

Preview: Zukofsky Quartet: Milton Babbitt String Quartets/Chicago Cultural Center

Classical No Comments »


The works of American composer Milton Babbitt are among the most complex pieces out there, so much so that Babbitt wrote an infamous magazine article years ago “Who Cares if You Listen?” that polarized composers into those writing music for aesthetic fulfillment vs. those attempting merely to “please” audiences with ear candy. At 92 years old, Babbitt remains ever the revolutionary, evidenced by the fact that the young members of the Zukofsky Quartet spent two years training under him to be able to play his notoriously difficult string quartets. The fruit of their labors will be on display in this rare opportunity to hear Babbitt string quartets played live by folks who make it seem like child’s play. (Dennis Polkow)

November 13 at Chicago Cultural Center’s Cassidy Theater, 77 E. Randolph, (312)744-6630. 7:30pm. Free.

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Preview: Pandit Nikhil Banerjee Legacy Tour

World Music No Comments »


The late sitar master Pandit Nikhil Banerjee remains an enormous influence on many Indian classical musicians. Like Ravi Shakhar, Banerjee learned sitar from the great Ustad Allaudin Khan, but unlike Shankar, who went to the West and often cross-fertilized Indian music with music of the West, Banerjee remained true to the strict forms of the Senia Maihar Gharana school of Hindustani music. This rare performance celebrating Banjerjee’s legacy features a four-member ensemble made up of two father and son masters of North Indian sitar and tabla: Parthapratim Chatterjee and son Purbayan Chatterjee, both on sitar, will be accompanied on tabla by Anindo Chatterjee and son Anubrata Chatterjee. Although Purbayan performed a memorable sold-out show at the World Music Festival two years ago, this is a rare convergence of extraordinary Indian musicians sponsored by the India Classical Music Society of Chicago. (Dennis Polkow)
Sunday, May 25. Chicago Cultural Center’s G.A.R. Hall, 78 E. Washington, (312)744-6630. 3pm. Free.

Preview: Zarbang

World Music No Comments »

Founded in Germany in 1996 by Iranian percussionists Behnam Samani, Morteza Ayan and Siavash Yazdanifar with the purpose of introducing Middle Eastern percussion instruments to international audiences as well as combining them with percussive and melodic instruments from other cultures, Zarbang regrouped in 2001 with a new lineup of European and American expatriate musicians into a world percussion ensemble spotlighting some of the finest percussionists from Iran and Afghanistan which in addition to Samani includes Hakim Ludin, the virtuoso Afghan percussionist who also has a mastery over most Latin American, African, Indian and Afghani percussion instruments; Iranian Pejman Hadadi on the Tombak, Daf and other percussion instruments; Iranian percussionist Reza Samani, who performs Iranian wood wind instruments, Ney-Anban and Zorna in addition to Tombak and Daf; Iranian Santur player Javid Afsari and Morshed Mehregan, one of the most well known Morsheds of Iran on Zarb-e-Zoorkhane. (Dennis Polkow)
Thursday, May 8, Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall, 78 E. Washington, (312)744-6630. 7pm. Free.

411 Seven Days in Chicago: Sweet and Sour Smell of Success

News and Dish No Comments »

Believe it or not, not every band can achieve U2-like fame just by penning a catchy tune. This Monday at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, along with the Chicago Music Commission, presents “Building an Audience,” a panel discussion featuring artist Shala Akintunde, singer Anita Chase, En Prise Management co-owner Nelson Colon III and more, moderated by Invisible Records musician and producer Martin Atkins. “I think that most artists, when they look at somebody else’s success, it’s impossible for them to fathom how to get there,” Atkins says. “And I think the problem is artists will look and say, ‘OK, I’m playing The Hideout, how do I go from Hideout to stadium shows?’ You just don’t see it.” Atkins says that the panel plans to discuss the realities of building a fan base. “People like to be told, ‘You’ll be an overnight success,’ and even artists that spend ten years to become overnight successes perpetuate the idea of overnight sensation. Because it’s not sexy for them. When they’re asked how it all happened, it’s not sexy to say, ‘We worked our nuts off, lived in a van for a year and never want to see a microwave burrito again.’ It demystifies their success.”

Preview: 30th Annual Jazz Fair

Jazz No Comments »

This year’s Jazz Fair celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the Jazz Institute of Chicago, an organization, ironically enough, that began as a “watchdog” group to ensure that mainstream, acoustic jazz would not be tarnished by rock and avant-garde influences and electronic instruments but which over the years has become the most powerful presenter of the area, for better or worse. This year’s live music lineup is pretty typical of the Institute’s aesthetic sensibilities, which has certainly evolved light years over the decades, but still has a long way to go in fully embracing the diversity of the contemporary jazz scene: “Jazz Sings the Blues” with Billy Branch and Dee Alexander, the Edwin Sanchez Latin Jazz Project, Chuck Hedges Swingtet, “New Directions” with Nicole Mitchell and Jim Baker, Von Freeman Quintet, Jazz Links Ensemble and an “All-Star Jam Session” finale. (Dennis Polkow)
Friday, January 25 at Chicago Cultural Center