The List: February 4-10, 2010 

Critic's Choices and other notable concerts: Mose Allison, Explode Into Colors, Dana Hall, Seth Troxler, Polysics, and other notable shows

Explode Into Colors

Explode Into Colors

Megan Holmes


Mose Allison
Roche Moche


Mose Allison
The Elixir of Love
Explode Into Colors
Dana Hall
Kronos Quartet
Seth Troxler


Mose Allison
James Blackshaw
Dana Hall


Mose Allison
The Elixir of Love


The Elixir of Love


MOSE ALLISON Last year producer Joe Henry coaxed pianist, songwriter, and vocalist Mose Allison into the studio for the first time in 12 years. Allison, who turned 82 in November, has been refining his singular blend of country blues, urban jazz, and rustic poetry since before Henry was born, and at this point he's got nothing left to prove. His material has been covered by everyone from Bonnie Raitt to the Clash; Blue Cheer recorded his version of "Parchman Farm" on their debut, and the Who made "Young Man Blues" famous. His discography was already monumental, even without one more album stacked on top, but now that I've heard The Way of the World (due from Anti- on March 23), I'm glad Henry kept at him—according to the liner notes, Allison took almost a year to come around. His voice, never especially limber, has deepened and become a little wobbly, but Allison can still deliver his wry, biting lyrics with unmatched authority and wit. On "Modest Proposal" he indicts believers who rely on their faith at the expense of rational thought, singing, "He gave us the power to reason / Just trying to show us the way / So let's let him go for a season / And start making sense today." He's supported by a small group of Henry's regular collaborators—drummer Jay Bellerose, double bassist David Piltch, and guitarist Anthony Wilson—who underscore the nimbleness and fluidity of Allison's hybrid music, abetted by a couple terrific alto sax solos from Walter Smith III. Still a terrific pianist, Allison is joined here by two locals, bassist Kelly Sill and drummer Bob Rummage. See also Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20. —Peter Margasak

click to enlarge Mose Allison

LIGHTS This peculiar Brooklyn band's second full-length, Rites (Drag City), combines throbbing disco, warbling folk, chill psychedelia, and Laura Nyro-style pop (thankfully not all in the same track), an unwieldy hodgepodge that hangs together largely on the strength of the beautiful but sturdy harmony singing of guitarist Sophia Knapp and drummer Linnea Vedder. Most of the songs twist through multiple moods—sashaying funk, angelic frenzy, incense-scented torpor—and the transitions between them are often breathtaking, like the way the ethereal glow of "Heavy Drops" explodes into a kaleidoscopic cascade of crashing cymbals and wah-wah guitar that's topped with a killer vocal hook. Bassist Andy MacLeod breaks the spell when he takes the mike on the album's final track, a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Save Me a Place," but only because his perfectly respectable singing can't touch the pure pleasure of the women's tandem vocals. MacLeod isn't with the band on this tour, and neither is the member called Wizard Smoke who's credited with visuals and lighting in the liner notes to Rites; Lights will be a trio, with Alana Amram of the Rough Gems on bass. The Entrance Band headlines; Lights and White Mystery open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, $5 (limited). —Peter Margasak

ROCHE MOCHE Roche Moche work in the fine tradition of the late-aughts Pilsen underground scene: hideous, artful sludge rock topped with heathen screaming and girly moaning. They're a newish local trio, two men and one woman, and so far they've been working mostly the dives-and-house-shows circuit. Their songs are occasionally obscured by recordings of voices—archival news reports, maybe, or interviews, with people talking about unpleasant history that resonates painfully with the present day. Their lyrics also make references to war or seem somewhat polemical (insofar as they're intelligible), but whether Roche Moche are viably political or just pissed kids has not yet become clear. Porch Collapse and Steven Koozer open. 10 PM, Mutiny, 2428 N. Western, 773-486-7774. —Jessica Hopper


MOSE ALLISON See Thursday.  8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20.

THE ELIXIR OF LOVE Lyric Opera's production of Donizetti's 1831 comic two-act L'elisir D'amore is funny, well performed, and full of great bel canto singing by an excellent cast. The charming sets, meant to evoke a rustic 19th-century Italian village, even include a live horse. Soprano Nicole Cabell, whose lyrical and coloratura singing seems effortless, plays the fun-loving, flirtatious Adina; she's pursued by lovesick peasant Nemorino, sung with great zest by tenor Giuseppe Filianoti in an impressive Lyric debut. In Filianoti's portrayal, Nemorino's ardent longing is equal parts buffoonery and tenderness, the latter at its peak in the aria "Una Furtiva Lagrima"—which he sings when he thinks he's seen proof that Adina does in fact love him. He believes he owes his success to a "love elixir" (actually just cheap Bordeaux) bought from an unscrupulous country doctor, Dulcamara, who's played to the hilt by baritone Alessandro Corbelli, a hilarious character actor. Baritone Gabriele Viviani is also entertaining as the pompous, arrogant Sergeant Belcore, Nemorino's chief competition for Adina, but his Lyric debut was somewhat marred by weakness at the bottom of his range. All the duets and trios are terrific, though, as is the chorus throughout. Beginning February 7, Adina will be sung by Susanna Phillips and Nemorino by Frank Lopardo; the production runs through February 22. Bruno Campanella conducts. See also Sunday and Wednesday. 2 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $33-$207. —Barbara Yaross

EXPLODE INTO COLORS All-female Portland trio Explode Into Colors are big faves in their hometown, both with basement-party punks and on the outre-dance scene. They're killer live—with Claudia Meza on baritone guitar and vocals, Lisa Schonberg on drums, and Heather Treadway on percussion, keys, and more vocals, their setup is full sounding and for-real funky. The dance-punk revival, even in its hottest moment a decade ago, was rarely this lively, and it hardly ever produced songs this good. Explode Into Colors have some sinister-sounding angular riffs and an easy way with a wood block, and on their recordings (and at Portland shows) they've even got a sax, played by Ben Hartman of Old Time Relijun—all of which calls to mind first-wave punky dance classics like 23 Skidoo, ESG, and This Heat. EIC create lots of sonic space with heavy reverb, and they aren't afraid to open it up and use it—their sprawling songs rarely follow any sort of verse-chorus structure, instead motoring from dubby slow jam to soulful industrial clatter to workin'-it-out bridge. So far they've only put out a long-gone self-released cassette and three singles—"Paper" b/w "Heat" (Just for the Hell of It), "Eyes Hands Mouth" b/w "Wooden Ghost" (Kill Rock Stars), and "Coffins" b/w "Sharpen the Knife" (M'Lady's Records)—but every track I've heard could justify a proper full-length. Blane Fonda and Carbon Tigers open. 9:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $10, 17+. —Jessica Hopper

click to enlarge Dana Hall
  • Dana Hall

DANA HALL Though the recent Into the Light (Origin) is Dana Hall's debut as a bandleader, he's hardly shy about asserting himself. A veteran drummer who's played with the likes of Bobby Broom and Malachi Thompson and serves as musical director of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, Hall favors a furious attack—but you never get the sense he's just hitting hard because he's got nothing to say. He swings with great nuance and negotiates the tempo changes built into many of the album's tunes with sublime grace. With an energy level worthy of Elvin Jones, he stokes the fires under his brawny, restless re­imagining of 60s postbop, giving his excellent band—trumpeter Terell Stafford, saxophonist Tim Warfield Jr., bassist Rodney Whitaker, and pianist Bruce Barth—plenty to respond to. The album opens with an explosive take on Herbie Hancock's "I Have a Dream," with Hall changing up the groove and working in fresh accents every couple of bars. The title track makes effective use of live and postproduction electronics, from abstract swooshes that pan back and forth to swirling, spacey effects on Stafford's trumpet, and on "Jabali" the horn men push into full-on free-jazz territory. Everyone's performances on Into the Light are excellent, but even more impressive is the strength of Hall's leadership—through every shift in style and approach, he's able to hold the band to a coherent musical identity. He performs here with the same quintet that appears on the album. 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12. —Peter Margasak

KRONOS QUARTET At home I've always filed my Kronos Quartet albums under "classical," but the group's repertoire has never been purely classical—and in the past decade they've tackled so much music outside the usual realm of the string quartet, from jazz to pop to folk to various regional traditions, that it's safe to say the only things consistently classical about them are their instrumentation and technique. On last year's fine Floodplain (Nonesuch) they play music from river valleys in south Asia, Africa, eastern Europe, and the Middle East, ranging from a composition by the great Turkish tambura virtuoso Tanburi Cemil Bey to a tune by Palestinian electronic group Ramallah Underground. They're occasionally joined by guests—the Azerbaijani mugham masters in the Alim Qasimov Ensemble come aboard for "Getme, Getme"—but the members of Kronos are so proficient and imaginative at coaxing different sounds from their instruments that they're able to do justice to most of this wide variety of material all by themselves. The program for this concert is like a Kronos Quartet version of a Whitman's sampler, including music from Floodplain and works by John Zorn, Terry Riley, Cafe Tacuba, and guitarist Bryce Dessner of the National. 8 PM, McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, 425 Fawell, Glen Ellyn, 630-942-4000, $44, $42 seniors, $34 youth. —Peter Margasak

click to enlarge Seth Troxler
  • Seth Troxler
  • Axl Jansen

SETH TROXLER An economically depressed small town floating in a sea of southern Michigan farmland, Kalamazoo doesn't seem like the type of place where a dance-music scene could really thrive. But its plentiful empty factory space and its location—halfway between Detroit and Chicago on I-94—helped it sustain a respectable reputation for raves during the late 90s. Though now based in Berlin, 24-year-old Seth Troxler was born in Kalamazoo and grew up there and in suburban Detroit; he started listening to house music at age seven, and his stepfather was part of a well-known local DJ crew. Troxler's upcoming entry in Bpitch Control's Boogybytes mix series is rooted solidly in Michigan-born techno—specifically the type of chilly, restrained, minimalist funk that Detroit's had on lock for decades—and though that might seem like a narrow focus, he pursues his love for those sounds into lots of strange corners. Standout bits include the twitchy robot groove of "The Connie Shake" by Matthew Dear's project Jabberjaw, Richie Hawtin's skittery, blipped-out remix of Spektrum's "Freakbox," and a version of "Party Guilt" by the Royal We (Troxler, fellow Michigan-to-Berlin transplant Shaun Reeves, and Mexican expat Hector) that centers on a sparse synth figure and a sardonically funny dialogue between a man and a woman—the two of them together represent several dozen club cliches ("Can I have a drink? / Can I have a cigarette? / Can I have guest list? / Can I come back there?"). Duke Shin opens. 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140, $15, $10 in advance and before midnight. —Miles Raymer


MOSE ALLISON See Thursday.  8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20.

JAMES BLACKSHAW A 12-string guitar can be an unwieldy thing, but in the right hands it's a peerless source of rich sonorities. Young Englishman James Blackshaw has such hands, and he puts them to good use on the splendid live album Waking Into Sleep (Kning), a solo performance recorded in Sweden in 2006: the stirring melodies of "Spiralling Skeleton Memorial" and "Sunshrine" billow into kaleidoscopic patterns of swirling tones. On his latest album, The Glass Bead Game (Young God), Blackshaw incorporates minimalist forms and layers of extra instrumentation, but the results are mixed. The lovely arrangement on "Cross" weaves together orchestral strings, female voice, and fingerpicked guitar in a successful hybrid between his sound and that of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. But when he switches to piano on "Fix," it just sounds like decaffeinated Philip Glass. Blackshaw plays solo 12-string for this show; White/Light and Sick Gazelle open.  10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8, $5 (limited). —Bill Meyer

COLORLIST On their second studio album, A Square White Lie (482 Music), saxophonist Charles Gorczynski and percussionist Charles Rumback, aka Colorlist, have refined their spellbinding meditations, sanding away the rough edges of the performances to reveal something even more seductive. Their methodology hasn't changed: Gorczynski still plays long, arcing passages on saxophone and harmonium, sampling phrases to create hypnotic loops, and Rumback maintains a steady pulse while constantly altering the volume, density, and tone of his playing, augmenting conventional trap-set technique with hydroplaning cymbal drones, inventive brush work, and the scrape and clatter of objects dragged across his kit. His variegated percussion melds perfectly with the pastoral improvisations that Gorczynski unfolds atop the warm, enveloping backdrop of loops. Though the tone of his horn has a nice bite to it, his gorgeous, plaintive melodies nonetheless bring to mind the serene and ethereal aesthetic of ECM Records. A Square White Lie was recorded and mixed by Joshua Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv, and it's to his credit that his fingerprints are nowhere to be found. Cory Healey's Every open. 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor,, $10 suggested donation. —Peter Margasak

DANA HALL See Friday. 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12.


MOSE ALLISON See Thursday.  4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20.

THE ELIXIR OF LOVE See Friday. 2 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $33-$207.

GPKISM Japanese pop culture has a dis­concerting gift for magnifying and perfecting Western fashion trends—and when you get an eyeful of a band like GPKism, you have to wonder why American goths even bother dressing up anymore. Led by a front man who calls himself Gothique Prince Ken, GPKism look like the sort of Barbie dolls that Wednesday Addams might've played with—their style, an only barely masculinized variation on the "gothic lolita" look, consists mainly of immaculate makeup, dramatic sweeping hairstyles, and black gowns encrusted with bustles, ruffles, buckles, lace, straps, and even corsets. The music—a romantic sort of electronic pop with elements of darkwave—would seem drab by comparison if it weren't for GPK's stylized croon, part Peter Murphy and part Freddie Mercury. GPKism have earned a reputation that extends to this hemisphere thanks to a steady stream of releases—including their first full-length, Atheos, last spring—on the Darkest Labyrinth label, based in Japan and run by guitarist and programmer Kiwamu (GPK himself is Australian). The band tours as a trio, with keyboardist Ryonai. Critics can go ahead and complain that this is as much about fashion as it is about music, because that's rather the point. Seileen opens; both groups will attend a merch signing at 2 PM at Quimby's, 1854 W. North.  8 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $16. —Monica Kendrick


THE ELIXIR OF LOVE See Friday. 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $33-$207.

POLYSICS If I walked into a Polysics show and saw that half the crowd were ASIMO robots pogoing and banging their heads, I doubt I'd even blink. This Japanese four-piece plays exactly the kind of music our future android overlords will make as soon as they learn about Devo, the Queers, and hooks—punky, giddy, synth-fortified sci-fi power pop. Video-game noises sparkle and squiggle through frantic riffs, and the boy-girl vocals jump all over the map: unhinged yelping, vocodered growls, woo-hoo choruses, even some perky singing in the relentlessly ingratiating style of anime theme songs. (Unsurprisingly the band has written the theme song to an actual cartoon, a short-lived American series called Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!) Their latest album, this fall's Absolute Polysics (MySpace Music/Interscope), is a mite darker and angstier than usual, but then again, it's been that kind of year. Onstage Polysics engage in the sort of good-natured hyperactivity you'd expect given their sound—except for keyboardist Kayo, who makes everybody else's spaz attacks funnier by maintaining the stoic demeanor of a Buckingham Palace guard. Unfortunately, this is her farewell tour; when Kayo announced her impending "graduation" from the band last month, she explained that because she joined in 1998 as a high school pup, she still hasn't learned what it's like to live as "a regular girl doing regular things." I can't imagine choosing the real world over Polysics, but I guess the grass is always greener. Evil Beaver and Earth Program open. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 877-435-9849, $15, $13 in advance. —Ann Sterzinger

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