In 2010 French label Because—also the French home to Amadou & Mariam—released SMOD's self-titled debut album, and Nacional issued it in the U.S. last year. Franco-Iberian superstar Manu Chao produced (he did the same for Amadou & Mariam's 2005 breakthrough album, Dimanche a Bamako), and his stylistic fingerprints are all over it: hijacked hip-hop grooves, tiny-sounding beats, looped acoustic-guitar figures, and chintzy toylike synths. The group alternates between rapping and harmonizing, and most of the songs don't suggest much in the way of place or time—they mostly feel like a product of Chao's vision, which is too sui generis to sound like it belongs anywhere. Still, the record is pretty fun, and I imagine it's even more entertaining to see this stuff performed live. On Monday evening SMOD play the final Downtown Sound show of 2012 at Pritzker Pavilion, on a double bill with M.A.K.U. Soundsystem. At the bottom of the post you can watch their video for "Ça Chante."
On Sunday night at the Empty Bottle, a five-act concert concludes the latest Trash Audio synthesizer meet-up, a daylong marketplace and social event for synth geeks. The lineup is strong, with former Chicagoan Robert AA Lowe in his Lichens mode and the return of Keith Fullerton Whitman, who played earlier this year in a Lampo show at Graham Foundation. (Robert Devine and Alessandro Cortini also perform.) Whitman has been on a roll of late, and this summer he released his third terrific album of 2012, Occlusions (Editions Mego), which demonstrates the latest modus operandi he's developed for his custom-designed digital-analog hybrid synth. He was inspired by the unpredictable music of percussionist Eli Keszler—with whom he made a split album for the NNA label this year—and created patches to produce a kind of electronic simulacrum of free-jazz drumming. The results are totally electronic, but the music's thrilling energy and spontaneity feel completely organic. It helps that it was cut during a live performance—with audience noise, including some maniacal whooping, left in place—which gives it a presence and room sound that direct-to-deck recordings lack.
yMusic, Beautiful Mechanical (New Amsterdam)
200 Years, 200 Years (Drag City)
John Luther Adams, Four Thousand Holes (Cold Blue)
Ben Frost & Daniel Bjarnason, Sólaris (Bedroom Community)
Mariana Aydar, Cavaleiro Selvagem Aqui Te Sigo (Universal, Brazil)