The List: May 6-12, 2010 

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Black Breath, the Dials, Canasta, Willie Clayton, Josephine Foster, EPMD, Nite Jewel

Black Breath

Black Breath

Thursday6

Daughters of the Sun
Gilberto Santa Rosa

Friday7

Dials
Johann Johannsson

Saturday1

Canasta
Willie Clayton
Josephine Foster

Sunday9

Black Breath
Ray Wylie Hubbard

Tuesday11

EPMD
Nite Jewel

Wednesday12

Givers

thursday6

Daughters of the Sun Minneapolis trio Daughters of the Sun get into some deep territory during their epic psychedelic excursions, but they never seem to get in over their heads. Last year's Rings is packed with droning, fuzz-covered guitars and whooshing synths and includes a long collage of field recordings from India—15 minutes' worth on the download version—but the engaging vocal hooks scattered throughout the mix make it more than mood music. For a new split LP, Skull Judge (Modern Radio), they contribute a 17-minute jam that's almost equal in length to all five songs from fellow Minneapolitans Vampire Hands, who headline here. "Dry Ice" rewards the listener who sticks with it as its monster drone coheres into something like a pop song ejected into deep space; it's one of the few tracks of that length worth a repeat play. Unmanned Ship and Stacian open.  9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $5, $3 in advance. —Miles Raymer

GILBERTO SANTA ROSA Last year's El Caballero de la Salsa (Sony Music Norte) surveys nearly two decades of hits by Puerto Rican salsero Gilberto Santa Rosa, who's been one of tropical music's dominant vocalists for at least that long. Almost every song, even the ballads, simmers with rich Afro-Cuban polyrhythms, but the radio-friendly recordings are less than ideal showcases for the improvisation that's his greatest strength—the arrangements are treacly and predictable, too short to really let him stretch out, and marred by overcompression and annoying synths. When Santa Rosa plays live, though, his band gives him plenty of room. He plays with rhythm, phrasing, and melody like a teppanyaki chef with his knives in the air, slicing and dicing and rearranging: he might use repetition of a single passage to whip up tumultuous tension, lengthen or shorten a line, play against the accent pattern of a song, or clench and loosen his articulation, but no matter what he does it feels effortlessly musical. Even the many fine records he's made over the years are an inadequate substitute for hearing him in concert. Venezuelan salsa star Oscar D'León shares the bill. 8:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $53, $48 in advance, 17+. —Peter Margasak

friday7

click to enlarge Dials
  • Dials

DIALS I met my fiancee at a Dials show a few years back, but even without that special reason to like them I'd still be captivated by their mix of post-power-pop energy and neo-new-wave arrangements, all filtered through the Buzzcocks circa A Different Kind of Tension. You'd be hard-pressed to find a local rock band so consistently in the pocket—whether on the napalm-hearted blaze of "Antonio," the herky-jerky robo-twist of "18" (with odd vocal squeaks from bassist Rebecca Crawford), or a deconstructed cover of Foreigner's "Urgent" that breathes unironic new life into that otherwise unlistenable tune, their live sound is flawless and focused. They've weathered troubles I wouldn't wish on anyone—the same 2005 car crash that killed Crawford's husband, John Glick, also took the life of Dials drummer Doug Meis, who played with Crawford in her fabulous old postpunk band the Puta-Pons—and persevered to release 2008's Amoeba Amore (No Fun), an unrelentingly upbeat album that's as detailed and subtle as it is high-spirited. Unfortunately this is the Dials' last show, at least for a while: Crawford recently got engaged, and the group's going on hiatus. Singer and guitarist Patti Gran will continue to play in Ratattack, though, where she's carrying on in the spirit of her old band the New Black. Swiss Dots (formerly Telenovela) and the Wanton Looks open. 9:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Brian Costello

JOHANN JOHANNSSON For the past decade or so, Denmark-based Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson has created large-scale works that balance sweeping orchestral drama with microscopic electronic detail. Much of his recorded output was originally music for theater, but even the material that began some other way has a narrative undercurrent—according to Johannson, the 2008 album Fordlandia (4AD), which sounds a bit like imagined orchestrations for a Sigur Ros album, is about failed utopias and rocketry. It'd be a stretch for me to pretend I can hear anything so specific in his work, but it's clearly meant to parallel the unfolding of some sort of story. His latest release, And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees (Type), is also his first film score, written for Marc Craste's animated short Varmints; it combines haunting legato strings, wordless vocal harmonies, meditative piano arpeggios, churchy organ figures, pastoral field recordings, and spacey electronic textures, and as a whole it hovers and sparkles more than it drives or evolves. On this tour he's performing as part of a six-piece ensemble that includes percussionist Matthias Hemstock and a string quartet drawn from New York-based collective ACME; he'll play piano, organ, and electronics. DJ Pogo spins. 10 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $15. —Peter Margasak

saturday8

CANASTA The orchestrated pop on this local sextet's new full-length, The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather (RWIM Chicago), is so perfect—every note falling into place with deeply satisfying craftsmanship—that you'll swear you've heard it before. But you haven't, unless it was in one of Obama's online campaign videos—the band performed at an early fund-raiser with him and later provided music for ads. Bandleaders Matt Priest (lead vocals, bass, trombone) and Elizabeth Lindau (vocals, violin, keyboard) are just tuned into some form of divine radio where all the best of indie pop, yacht rock, and sad troubadour folk present themselves in virgin form. The uncomfortably intimate "Plan Your Escape," the slinky "Appreciation," and the sweetly bitter "Shortcut" set the tone for the revelation that this sad puppy has teeth. These shows are release parties for the new album; Gregory & the Hawk open the early show and Brighton, MA opens the late one. 7 and 10:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $14, early show 18+. —Monica Kendrick

WILLIE CLAYTON The title of Willie Clayton's latest CD, Love, Romance & Respect (EndZone), says it all: crooning and rasping his way through a set of impeccably crafted paeans to fidelity and conjugal bliss, invoking a mythic world where a suave steppers' set represents the epitome of sophisticated elegance, Clayton throws down a gauntlet to the coarse, adolescent stance of much contemporary hip-hop and R & B in the name of old-school soul seduction. His singing, idiosyncratic even as it invokes vintage soulsters like Bobby Womack and Al Green, manages to sound both confidently adult and charged with youthful yearning. Tracks like "We Both Grown," with its hip-hop influenced rhythms, sound designed to appeal to a contemporary aesthetic, but most of the album reflects an uncompromising insistence that "grown folks' music"—as this kind of blues-tinged fusion of soul and R & B is sometimes billed on the southern circuit—can remain relevant in today's youth-infatuated market. Theo Huff opens; Mr. Lee, a sexagenarian whose headstands, somersaults, and pelvic thrusts can still flummox dancers 40 years younger, is the emcee for the evening. 7 and 9:30 PM, Mr. G's Supper Club, 1547 W. 87th St., 773-445-2020, $45. —David Whiteis

JOSEPHINE FOSTER Originally from Colorado, formerly a Chicagoan, and now living in Spain, Josephine Foster has changed direction restlessly in her music: she's adapted German lieder, devised a sort of self-styled Appalachian folk in the duo Born Heller, and played scorching psychedelia with the short-lived band the Supposed, among other things. One thing that's been consistent is her singing—both its disciplined precision and its peculiar melodic shapes—and in the past couple of years she seems to have figured out what she wants to do with her extraordinary vocal instrument. On her 2008 album This Coming Gladness (Bo' Weavil) she delivers rangy performances of original pieces that feel sketched more than written; her husband, Spanish guitarist Victor Herrero, plays coloristic, abstract figures instead of his usual flamenco licks, and Scottish drummer Alex Neilson (Trembling Bells) tweaks the pulse with free-jazz openness. Last year's Graphic as a Star (Fire), where Foster sets 26 poems by Emily Dickinson to her own gentle, idiosyncratic tunes, is even better. Accompanying herself with simple acoustic guitar, Dylan-esque harmonica, or nothing at all, she drifts easily between American and British folk styles, creating direct, lucid melodies that make Dickinson's highly compressed and profoundly inward-looking verses feel like they were meant to be sung. Spires That in the Sunset Rise and Arlt open.  9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Peter Margasak

sunday9

BLACK BREATH Heavy Breathing (Southern Lord), the breakneck full-length debut from Seattle's Black Breath, deserves all the comparisons it's been getting to Motorhead, Disfear, and Tragedy—and its punishing sound is yet another notch in the belt of Godcity, the Massachusetts studio run by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. Godcity seems to have a lock on brouhaha-worthy bands in the current hardcore punk and metal scene (Trap Them, Young Widows, Genghis Tron), and Ballou's talents don't go to waste here: unlike the myriad metal records that have sacrificed oomph to maintain a comprehensible mix at blitzing tempos, Heavy Breathing is fiercely thick and dense despite its often frenzied pace. Black Breath prefer hardcore-style beats and breakdowns, and Neil McAdams's vocals are straightforwardly shouty, not shrieky or growly (the man can yell for a terrifyingly long time without pausing to inhale), but their crusty thrash also borrows from death and black metal, especially in its liberal use of minor-key tremolo picking and, uh, "spiritual" imagery—they've got songs called "Black Sin (Spit on the Cross)" and "Unholy Virgin." These guys are working in a crowded subgenre and hardly reinventing the wheel, but they do fast, loud, and brutal right: with an obscene amount of guts and balls. Converge headlines; Coalesce, Black Breath, and Lewd Acts open. 5 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 312-866-468-3401, $15. —Kevin Warwick

RAY WYLIE HUBBARD At first I thought the title of Ray Wylie Hubbard's new A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C) (Bordello) was unwieldy, but that was before I heard the Texas legend sing it on the album's opening track, with its country-gospel rhythm and sparse arrangement as eerie as windblown winter trees—he's got a voice like scuffed leather and the way he turns a phrase is worthy of Bob Dylan or Tom Waits. Hubbard creates a world and a manifesto with each song—his arsenal includes slide, dobro, apocalypse, and, on "Pots and Pans," with guest moaner Maggie Walters, orgasm—and in case you somehow still have any questions left about what he's doing, there's a track called "Down Home Country Blues." If Hubbard ever goes down to the crossroads, I bet the devil will give him whatever he wants in trade for a few of these songs. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15. —Monica Kendrick

click to enlarge EPMD
  • EPMD

tuesday11

EPMD The string of albums Eric Sermon and Parrish Smith released in the late 80s and early 90s were a pivot point for rap's transition from cold-blooded east-coast electro minimalism of the form's breakthrough artists to the warmer, more organic G-funk from which its first megastars would spring. The collage-like assemblages of samples in their beats and their way of pairing soul songs and ominous synthesized boom would influence everyone from Dr. Dre to Kanye, and the way they could keep up an uninterrupted flow of shit talk for the length of an entire album helped inspire an entire subgenre of übersalty New York rap groups, from Mobb Deep to M.O.P. to the Lox. If at the time Sermon and Smith were aware of their place in rap history, they certainly didn't seem too excited about it—though many have tried, no other rappers have ever been able to kill a rhyme with such absolute-zero deadpan nonchalance. DJ Scratch and DJ Timbuck2 open. 9 PM, the Shrine, 2109 S. Wabash, 312-753-5700, $14, $7 in advance. —Miles Raymer

NITE JEWEL If Delilah—that honey-voiced radio personality who always seems to be on when I'm in a thrift store, playing drippy songs for the lovelorn and troubled—heard from any callers into psychedelic minimal wave, she'd definitely have to dedicate some Nite Jewel to them. This LA-based outfit, fronted by Ramona Gonzalez, plays sex-flunky adult-contemporary tunes that are all about vent-brush feathered-hair melodies and greaseball bass with its fly unzipped. Gonzalez's fragile, ethereal voice would sound new age if it were a little more syrupy and a little less lackadaisical, but the dusty underwater disco vibe keeps the music out of the Enya danger zone. Chandeliers opens, and there are a whole bunch of DJ sets too: Jordan Z, Beau Wanzer, Night Moves, Teen Witch, and Baby Bamboo. 9 PM, Funky Buddha Lounge, 728 W. Grand, 312-666-1695, $10. —Liz Armstrong

wednesday12

click to enlarge givers1_magnum.jpg

GIVERS Givers' cheery touch o' Afropop has gotten them saddled with comparisons to Vampire Weekend, but this Louisiana band's sound is more of a mishmash than that: fingerpicked folk, disco thump, new-wave keys. Their self-titled debut EP from last year is funky and fluid—just weird and spirited enough to blot some of the cuteness of the music. "Ceiling of Plankton" has that familiar Arcade Fire triumphalism (what indie-rock band didn't in 2009?), but the squirrelly pop-prog of its extended outro portends some interesting originality. Paper Bear and Abbott Smile open.  9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8, $5 in advance. —Jessica Hopper

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