Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Vivid Prize: Psalm One Raps with Science as Hologram Kizzie

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop No Comments »
Photo: Nick Bulanda

Photo: Nick Bulanda

By Dave Cantor

It isn’t easy to pinpoint the heart of hip-hop.

With as many perspectives on the movement as there are practitioners, each point of view becomes a way to propel the music forward. And for about a decade, Chicago’s Psalm One has been combining the culture and a desire to better community.

“To some people, it’s really important that I’m college educated,” the MC says. “To some people it’s important that I’m a black woman. And some people don’t think I’m important at all.”

Taking her passion for knowledge to the recording booth and transitioning into the classroom is a move too few performers attempt. Psalm’s worked with America SCORES, a mentoring program, that’s taken her on a nine-city tour and resulted in the 2012 “Child Support” album—a clever play on words and stereotypes. Her newest release doesn’t include contributions from students, but the release party for “Hug Life” is doubling as a way to raise funds for the MC to visit Haiti and introduce the tutoring program to a new place. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Moonrises/Hideout

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Psychedelic No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDMoonrises

Steve Krakow is an impossible figure to miss in the Chicago psych scene. Operating under the alias Plastic Crimewave, Krakow has served as writer, illustrator and radio personality for his explorations into the “Secret History of Chicago Music,” while juggling his time as a prolific musician and booking agent for the Million Tongues Festival and the Chicago Psych Fest. The latter is now in its fifth year, with the three-day affair offering a Friday feature in Moonrises, a group of moonlighting musicians that includes Krakow’s manic guitar playing laid atop the formidable free-jazz drumming of Tiger Hatchery’s Ben Billington, and nuzzled against the throb of Libby Ramer’s organ. Read the rest of this entry »

Alone, Together: Multi-Instrumentalist Dosh Expands his Experiment in a Vacuum

Experimental No Comments »

dosh1By Dave Cantor

There might not be a middle class in a few years. Thomas Friedman said so in the New York Times. So while we’re all waiting for that crushing future, a generation’s gotta figure out how to get over. And Minneapolis’ Martin Dosh seems to have succeeded.

He’s mostly just Dosh now–his last name serving as a tag for all performances he’s inclined to take part in, whether it’s a solo gig or as part of ensemble performance. “Milk Money,” the percussionist’s latest album, he says, is the result of a concerted effort to do something different, and something in a collaborative vacuum. It’s aurally apparent from the disc’s opening four minutes. “We Are the Worst” doesn’t feature any sort of easily recognizable beat—an odd move for a guy so associated with a drum kit.

“It’s always been me and an extension of me–my greater musical family in Minneapolis,” Dosh says of his name’s abstraction. “My longest collaborator is Mike Lewis, who recorded on “Pure Trash,” “Lost Take” and “Tommy”–and he did all the tours I did from 2006 to 2010. … We had a cool telepathic language; we pulled off a full-band sound with two guys.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Peter Brötzmann/Hideout

Chicago Artists, Jazz No Comments »
brotzmann_drake-11

Brötzmann and Drake/Photo: Lisa Chung

RECOMMENDED

Legendary free-jazz saxophonist Peter Brötzmann makes his triumphant return to headline a trio gig on July 24 at The Hideout. German by birth, Chicagoan by adoption, Brötzmann has spent the last decade collaborating with the best the city has to offer. This show is no exception. Joined by Jason Adasiewicz and Hamid Drake on vibes and drums respectively, it’s not hyperbole to say that if there’s only one jazz concert you brave this year, this is the one it should be. Read the rest of this entry »

Shining Path: Guitarist Steve Gunn Chases Creeping Songcraft

Blues, Folk, Minimalism, Psychedelic 1 Comment »

Steve Gunn (credit Constance Mensh) By Dave Cantor

“My first solo guitar performance was in my backyard when I lived in Philadelphia,” Steve Gunn says over the phone from his Brooklyn residence.

The journey from performing in a band to amassing enough confidence to get out in front of a crowd and express musical ideas can be an excruciatingly difficult maneuver. Inspiration helps, and for Gunn, it showed up in the form of departed guitarist Jack Rose.

“I only played a very short set,” Gunn says of that backyard gathering. “Jack played and a few other friends. That was my first attempt at doing it. Then I didn’t do it for years after that.”

A revival of interest in players like Leo Kottke and John Fahey bloomed during the middling-aughts, while Rose’s renown grew beyond Pelt, the band he’d founded while still in Philly. Read the rest of this entry »

Surreal Sounds: Psych Fest returns to the Hideout

Chicago Artists, Psychedelic No Comments »
mako

Mako Sica

By Dave Cantor

Operating under the auspices of psychedelia leaves a yawning gap to fill—anything from hazy electronic explorations to heavy-handed rock workouts might manifest itself on a bill with such a broad purpose as the Hideout-hosted Psych Fest.

Headlining the event’s first evening, Mako Sica skirt most hamfisted attempts to conjure a solid understanding of whatever psych might be. Brent Fuscaldo, one of the band’s guitarists, rattles off a litany of music he and bandmates fawn over—everything from jazz to Afro-pop and back again. But it’s only in the band’s application of its interests does the trio’s inclusion on the bill make sense.

“We never really thought of our band as psychedelic music. … It’s hard to describe what we sound like, so it’s nice to be invited to a festival like this,” Fuscaldo says. “We share something with these bands—our music’s hard to define—but I like bills like that, when [music’s] all over the map. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Tyvek/Hideout

Chicago Artists, Experimental, Psychedelic, Punk, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

What ties this bill together isn’t necessarily going to be audible to casual listeners. Detroit’s spazzy Tyvek, krauty CAVE and the hard-to-palate Running sound remarkably different, while each act attempts to assimilate music from the seventies and early eighties into some sort of contemporary context. Tyvek and Running deal in more punky strains, the latter pulling on hardcore’s yolk more than the other two groups performing. Tyvek turns over the corpse of early Rough Trade acts, adding in a downer Midwest vibe that dour Brits wouldn’t be able to conjure even if it were their goal. With a headful of their hometown’s history, the ever-shifting Tyvek lineup has been able to dash its jangly paranoia with a garage intent, resulting in weirdly satisfying simplicity. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Numero Group/Hideout

Chicago Artists, Soul No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Some stories have to be discovered before they can be told. In most cases, when reaching back forty or fifty years in search of the right pieces that make a story whole, this means getting creative. For nearly ten years, the gents from the Chicago-based archival record label Numero Group  have found success tracking bountiful amounts of long-lost musical antiquity. We can all thank Tom Lunt, Rob Sevier and Ken Shipley (Numero Group founders) for a world with more soul, R&B and gospel that otherwise would’ve most likely remained overlooked. Their desire to find these hidden recordings and the stories that go along with them have led them to an assortment of towns and cities across the United States. In their business, travel tends to be the easy part. Most of us would deem searching for what is no longer there a near-impossible feat. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside/Hideout

Country, Pop, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

City dwellers have been engaged by a stream of rural players dating back to Uncle Dave Macon and the Carter Family. Sallie Ford and her troupe call Portland home but have roots reaching back to the Smokies. Taking trails outta their adopted Northwest enclave, the band’s appropriation of country, swing and pop has garnered enough attention to catalyze the re-release of its 2011 “Dirty Radio.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Phil Cohran/Hideout

Chicago Artists, Jazz No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Hemming up Phil Cohran’s career into a simple linear narrative happens too frequently. His work, spanning the 1940s to the present, can be easily compared to jazz’s trajectory. But just because the trumpeter and tiny-instrument toter worked in big bands, then with Sun Ra and skirted the free jazz thing, doesn’t mean any other performer would have made the same decisions Cohran has. Arriving in Chicago by way of St. Louis after a childhood spent in the South, Cohran got hooked up with the Saturn native and recorded a few of the bandleader’s most intriguing Chicago dates—1967’s “Angels and Demons at Play” being of note. Read the rest of this entry »