Monday, February 27, 2017

Rhiannon Giddens, Ron Trent, D.C. blues, and blockchain: music stories from around the Web

Posted By today at 07.00 AM

Rhiannon Giddens at the 2016 Freedom for All Gala - NICHOLAS HUNT
  • Nicholas Hunt
  • Rhiannon Giddens at the 2016 Freedom for All Gala

Rhiannon Giddens challenges the perceived whiteness of American folk music

You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise these days, but folk music isn't actually just about bearded white dudes who, say, hole themselves up in cabins for months to get in their feels (not to name any names). Black folk artist Rhiannon Giddens, founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, is pushing back against that stereotype on her new solo album, and she has plenty of underrecognized folk history to back her up. [TrackRecord]

Ron Trent gives a history lesson in deep house, hot on the heels of a new retrospective
Chicago deep-house pioneer Ron Trent just released a Prescription Records compilation with Chez Damier, who founded the label with him in 1993—and in this interview, he tells tales from the world of late-80s Chicago dance music that brought him to his defining take on the deep-house sound. [NPR]

A new documentary explores D.C.'s little-known Anacostia Delta blues style
Washington, D.C., is nowhere near the Mississippi Delta that helped birth the blues or the Chicago bars where it went electric, but the city is home to its own lesser-known subgenre—the Anacostia Delta blues style, to be exact. A new documentary, directed by Bryan Reichhardt (Barnstorming, Pictures From a Hiroshima Schoolyard), is introducing this music to a wider audience. [The Washington Post]

Red Bull Music Academy covers health goth, kawaii, gqom, and grime in the second season of its Hashtags documentary series
Red Bull Music Academy continues to show love for the niche cultural movements that have thrived on the Web with the second season of its Hashtags series—this time its subjects are grime, gqom (a South African genre derived from house music), and the relatively fashion-oriented trends of health goth and kawaii. [Red Bull Music Academy]

The blockchain tech behind Bitcoin is making its way into the music industry
What are blockchains, and why are they supposedly changing everything? Fact answers the first question pretty succinctly: "a blockchain allows people to connect and transact on a 'peer to peer' basis, as opposed to through a third party like a bank." Cool—sounds like the money guys have finally figured out how torrenting works. As for the "changing everything" part, well, that's a little more complicated—but there's some hope that this technology will make it easier to ensure that musicians get paid when their work is streamed. [Fact]

Chicago rap veterans the Cool Kids are back and ready to make good on their legacy
Back when Twitter wasn't yet a thing and MySpace had cred—from roughly 2007 till 2009—Chicago's Chuck Inglish and Sir Michael Rocks, aka the Cool Kids, were one of the biggest names in the local rap game. Now, six years after they disbanded, they're returning to a different scene and a different Internet. But they're hungry to reclaim what's theirs. [MTV News]

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Taylor Ho Bynum salutes his mentors on a rich, sprawling new big-band album

Posted By on 02.24.17 at 02:00 PM

Cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum is tightly connected to the legacy and sound of visionary composer and reedist Anthony Braxton—he studied under Braxton, has played under his leadership for decades, and serves as executive director of the Tri-Centric Arts Foundation, which administers Braxton's prolific output. In his own music, though, Bynum has usually mapped his own path. He's had a fruitful partnership with drummer Tomas Fujiwara, and he's led an evolving number of medium-to-large ensembles, privileging strings in some and brass in others—such as the band on his most recent album, Enter the Plustet (Firehouse 12).

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meat Wave return with the brash, self-loathing ‘Bad Man’

Posted By on 02.22.17 at 12:00 PM

  • Courtesy of Billions
  • Meat Wave

Last week Chicago postpunks Meat Wave released their third album, The Incessant, inspired by the stumble into singledom that singer-guitarist Chris Sutter took a couple years back, which ended a 12-year relationship. Sutter recently talked to Noisey about his confronting the breakup in song: "I never wanted it to feel like a 'woe is me'-type of thing." And this album doesn't. On the rigid, tense "Bad Man," he sneers, "Before he bit the dust remarked the truth will set you free." The group lunges into a coiled, syncopated melody, and he bleats, "'Well I'm a bad man."

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Line up for the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 02.22.17 at 07:00 AM


ARTIST: Andy Burkholder
SHOW: John Bender, Champagne Mirrors, Carol Genetti, and Beau Wanzer at Hideout on Wed 3/8

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Weird Al, Puerto Rico’s FemFest, and vocaloids: music stories from around the Web

Posted By on 02.20.17 at 07:00 AM

“Weird Al” Yankovic - CASEY CURRY
  • Casey Curry
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic

We at the Reader have compiled some of the best, biggest, and oddest music stories of the week.

"Weird Al" Yankovic and the strange tale of his celebrity
"Weird Al" Yankovic got famous parodying hit songs in the early 80s, and he's outlasted many of the stars he lampooned to become a household name in his own right. [Washington Post]

Scientists said it, OK? Sharks like death metal.
Apparently at a distance its low rumbling sounds like a struggling fish? They should try some Impetuous Ritual or Grave Upheaval. [The Independent]

Puerto Rico's FemFest brings together the women of experimental music in San Juan and Oakland
FemFest, a three-day series of shows this past weekend in San Juan, hopes to serve as a space for community, resistance, and catharsis for the women of the experimental scenes in Oakland and Puerto Rico—women who curator Alexandra Buschman says "don't realize how good they are." [Remezcla]

Downtown aldermen advance a push to ban street musicians from the Magnificent Mile and State Street
Aldermen Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Brian Hopkins (2nd) want to block street musicians from some of the most heavily trafficked areas of the Mag Mile and State Street, claiming that their presence makes it impossible for some people to sleep or work. Their ordinance just got an endorsement from a City Council committee, and the full council is scheduled to take a look at it on February 22—in a few months, if you notice that downtown is less musical, at least you'll know why. [DNAinfo Chicago]

The legacy of Chicago jazz legend Oscar Brown Jr. continues to grow, despite complications, thanks to his family's efforts
The work of Chicago jazz legend Oscar Brown Jr. has continued to resurface over the past year, more than a decade after his death. The South Side Weekly (where the author of this post is music editor) spoke to the people leading this revitalization effort, Oscar's daughters Maggie and Africa Brown, about the ups and downs of bringing his music to light. [South Side Weekly]

So what's the deal with vocaloids?
If you've spent some time in the anime-flavored parts of the Internet, you might've noticed computer-generated singers showing up, even receiving celebrity-style adulation—most prominently virtual teen-pop icon Hatsune Miku. These avatars are (loosely speaking) the personifications of programs called "vocaloids": flexible, powerful voice-synthesis software that anyone can use to tap into a ready-made pop-star presence, to explore the gaps between "authentic" and "artificial," or to confront even thornier questions about identity and transformation. It's the future already, and it's going to keep getting more complicated! [Bandcamp]

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Friday, February 17, 2017

New York quartet Hush Point deftly modernize west-coast jazz fundamentals

Posted By on 02.17.17 at 02:00 PM

  • Zachariah Kobrinsky
  • Hush Point

My favorite overlooked trumpeter is New York veteran John McNeil, a wry, witty player who adds forward-looking accents to the language of west-coast jazz. Lately he's found simpatico partners half his age—saxophonist Jeremy Udden, bassist Aryeh Kobrinsky, and drummer Anthony Pinciotti—in the quartet Hush Point. Last month they dropped their third album, Hush Point III (Sunnyside), on which they sound more confident and intimate than ever—they seem to be able to anticipate one another's moves via some sort of musical telepathy. Hush Point's version of jazz, while providing a perfect showcase for solos, is rooted in an old-school ensemble mentality—and few experiences in music give me more pleasure than hearing two (or more) skilled improvisers tease out sophisticated melodies together, exploiting their knowledge of harmony to glide across a tightrope without getting tangled up.

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Activate:Chi aims to bring the music and nightlife biz into the resistance

Posted By on 02.17.17 at 07:00 AM

Activate:Chi principals Danny Schwartz, Dom Brown, and Mikul Wing - COURTESY ACTIVATE:CHI
  • Courtesy Activate:Chi
  • Activate:Chi principals Danny Schwartz, Dom Brown, and Mikul Wing

Some people use social media to lash out (hello, Mr. President). Others use it to catalyze positive change. Chicago nightlife veteran Dom Brown (cofounder of Porn and Chicken) has felt pressure to do something since the minute the election was called for Trump, and his personal last straw came in late January, when POTUS issued his executive order on immigration (better known as the "Muslim ban"). Brown took to Facebook to voice his frustration and reach out to friends and colleagues who might also want to make a difference. Out of that post, fledgling activist group Activate:Chi was born.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ThemPeople draw from Chicago’s close-knit hip-hop scene for two new tracks inspired by TV

Posted By on 02.15.17 at 12:00 PM

The artwork for ThemPeople’s Sitcom
  • The artwork for ThemPeople’s Sitcom
Lately ShowYouSuck, the Cool Kids, and Mick Jenkins's DJ, Green Sllime, have been dipping their toes into TV—and the medium has also inspired Chicago hip-hop group ThemPeople.

The collective's fingerprints are all over the work of several buzzing local rappers, including that of the scene's undisputed prince. So when Chance the Rapper won three Grammys on Sunday—which provoked Chicagoans to start poring over their digital archives so they could brag about their connections to him—I looked back on the feature I wrote right before he dropped Acid Rap and remembered ThemPeople's contributions to his career.

When Chance accepted his Grammy for Best New Artist, he talked about the importance of community—well, he started to, but the show tried to play him off with a swell of music. Community has been vital to Chance's career from the very beginning. When we talked for that Acid Rap article, he told me that ThemPeople producer Lboogie—aka Lon Renzell—had let Chance use his studio for free to work on #10Day, his debut mixtape.

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Forty-fives go mobile on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 02.15.17 at 07:00 AM


Scott Williams
SHOW: Soul Summit at Double Door on Sat 2/18

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Eugene Chadbourne’s paradigm-smashing There’ll Be No Tears Tonight is back in print

Posted By on 02.14.17 at 12:00 PM


In 1980 guitarist Eugene Chadbourne dropped a record that would forever distinguish him from his peers in the pantheon of free improvisation, setting him on the twisted path he's followed more or less ever since. At the time, he was an adherent of the non-idiomatic playing pioneered by British guitarist Derek Bailey—he collaborated regularly with the likes of John Zorn, Tom Cora, Lawrence "Butch" Morris, and Toshinori Kondo. But with There'll Be No Tears Tonight (originally issued on Parachute, a label he formed with Zorn), Chadbourne found an ingenious, funny, and authentic approach to the music closest to his heart. He loved much more than just hard-core free improvisation, and on this mind-melting record he brought it all together. Last fall There'll Be No Tears Tonight got an overdue reissue on compact disc (accompanied by some patience-testing bonus tracks) from Corbett vs. Dempsey.

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