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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Orquesta Akokán resurrect the thrilling sound of 40s Cuba with modern singer José ‘Pepito’ Gómez

Posted By on 05.10.18 at 12:19 PM

Orquesta Akokán - ADRIEN H. TILLMANN
  • Adrien H. Tillmann
  • Orquesta Akokán

The folks behind New York's Daptone Records love vintage sounds, particularly the gritty old-school soul they brought to so many new ears when they resurrected the careers of singers Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley. The label's output is undeniably fetishistic in its retro leanings,  but that would only be a problem if its releases privileged "retro" above strong material and distinctive performers—good music is good music. That rings as true as ever with Daptone's recent release of the self-titled debut by Orquesta Akokán.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Erudite Mexican pop singer Natalia Lafourcade returns with more classic Latin American ballads

Posted By on 05.02.18 at 05:16 PM

Natalia Lafourcade - SONY MUSIC LATIN
  • Sony Music Latin
  • Natalia Lafourcade

I'm a longtime fan of Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade, one of Latin America's most sophisticated and curious pop stars. I wrote about her when she rolled through town in summer 2017 in support of the gorgeous Musas, which surveys some of her favorite ballads from Latin America—a collection foreshadowed by her brilliant 2012 album saluting the music of Mexican composer Agustín Lara, Mujer Divina. In February she released the second volume of the Musas project, and it overwhelmed me with its beauty and soul, just as part one did.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Jenny Hval collaborator Håvard Volden digs deeper into abstract sound in his own projects

Posted By on 04.27.18 at 06:00 AM

Lost Girls (Håvard Volden & Jenny Hval) - LASSE MARHAUG
  • Lasse Marhaug
  • Lost Girls (Håvard Volden & Jenny Hval)

Ever since Norwegian singer and art-pop provocateur Jenny Hval released her gripping 2011 debut, Visceral (Rune Grammofon), her most important musical partner has been guitarist Håvard Volden, a staunch experimentalist who's helped realize her fizzy, ambitious pop. In her live performances she's usually accompanied by several wig-wearing women, and though Volden joins her too, often wearing his own wig, he tends to stand off to the side behind a mixing desk—Hval is the focal point, and he seems happy with that arrangement. In 2012 the two of them made a lovely, mostly acoustic album called Nude on Sand (Sofa), but its sparse, direct songs increasingly seem like an anomaly for both of them—insofar as artists so unpredictable can be characterized as having a "typical" approach.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Oakland’s Once & Future Band stage a battle between obnoxious prog and massive hooks

Posted By on 04.23.18 at 04:24 PM

Once and Future Band: Raj Ojha, Raze Regal, Eli Eckert, and Joel Robinow - JAPHY RIDDLE
  • Japhy Riddle
  • Once and Future Band: Raj Ojha, Raze Regal, Eli Eckert, and Joel Robinow

I listen to music for most of every day, every week, and I can say without hesitation that the majority of music released today shouldn't be. Though professional and competently played, it's so generic—so lacking in passion or purpose—that I don't know how the musicians involved can imagine that anyone would bother to engage with it. It's not that I'm too jaded to hear value in anything anymore—rather, I've learned how much genuinely interesting new music is being made, and I don't want to waste my too-scarce hours on anything else. Most of the time I can make clear distinctions between what I love, what I hate, and what I think is merely serviceable, but once in a great while an artist defies even that most basic kind of categorization. Oakland's Once & Future Band have been tying my brain in knots since last fall, when I first heard their self-titled 2017 debut—released, like the new four-track EP Brain, via the Castle Face label run by John Dwyer of Oh Sees.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Facility Theatre transforms The Little Match Girl Passion from a vocal piece into a meticulously pitched spectacle

Posted By on 04.19.18 at 12:06 PM

Facility Theatre’s The Little Match Girl Passion - LESLIE SCHWARTZ PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Leslie Schwartz Photography
  • Facility Theatre’s The Little Match Girl Passion

Composer David Lang, who served on the committee that awarded Kendrick Lamar's album Damn a Pulitzer Prize earlier this week, won his own Pulitzer in 2008 for the vocal composition The Little Match Girl Passion. Commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Corporation and the Perth Theater and Concert Hall, it was premiered in October 2007 by Theatre of Voices, conducted by Paul Hillier. A sublime recording of the work by the same ensemble was released in 2009 by Harmonia Mundi. The piece was written for four vocalists and percussion, but a choral version by the Los Angeles Master Chorale came out in 2016 on Cantaloupe Records.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Improvising horn trio Spectral play with the colossal reverb in an abandoned munitions bunker

Posted By on 04.18.18 at 11:04 AM

Spectral: Dave Rempis, Darren Johnston, and Larry Ochs - COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS
  • Courtesy of the artists
  • Spectral: Dave Rempis, Darren Johnston, and Larry Ochs

There's always been a chamber-music feel to the trio of trumpeter Darren Johnston and saxophonists Dave Rempis and Larry Ochs, now known as Spectral (the title of their 2014 debut album). Their output is entirely improvised, but the players carefully navigate space together to create their spontaneous melodic fragments and sophisticated counterpoint. One can image several approaches for an improvising trio consisting of three horn players—a monolithic group sound, brute-force blowing, strings of solos over vamps—but Spectral builds multipartite pieces with compositional logic, wending from one passage to the next via organic links and deftly responding to one another.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Reedist Aram Shelton reconnects with old friends on his first return visit since 2015

Posted By on 04.13.18 at 07:07 PM

Aram Shelton - LENNY GONZALEZ
  • Lenny Gonzalez
  • Aram Shelton

For the first few years after reedist Aram Shelton left Chicago for the Bay Area in 2005, he returned often enough that you might not have realized he was gone. He maintained close ties with musicians here, and for a while those older partnerships were more fruitful than his efforts in California. But as Shelton developed solid working bands in his new home, his visits to Chicago tapered off—and since moving to Copenhagen in 2016, he hasn't made it back here at all. He's found yet another new circle of collaborators in Denmark, and he's about to have to do it all over again—he and his wife are moving to Budapest, Hungary.

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David Grubbs reads from a new book that gets inside push and pull of an experimental concert

Posted By on 04.13.18 at 06:00 AM

David Grubbs - JOHN FOSTER
  • John Foster
  • David Grubbs

In 2014 former Chicagoan David Grubbs published a wonderful book called Records Ruin the Landscape that explores the historically conflicted relationship between experimental music and recordings of it. Grubbs, who made his name in the bands Squirrel Bait, Bastro, and Gastr del Sol in the 80s and 90s, generally had his first encounters with 1960s experimental music—New York School composers, Fluxus artists, pioneering minimalists, the improvised sound works of UK group AMM—through recordings, yet many of those artists expressed antipathy toward them, insisting on the experiential nature of their work. Recordings freeze a performance in time and make it replicable, but of course they lack the sometimes crucial environmental elements of a live concert—and no one could argue that one is a perfect simulacrum of the other.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton revisit the connection they forged in the Be Good Tanyas

Posted By on 04.06.18 at 02:44 PM

Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton - MARILYN CVITANIC
  • Marilyn Cvitanic
  • Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton

Texan Jolie Holland was only briefly a member of the Be Good Tanyas, from 1999 to 2000, but that was apparently enough for her to develop a rapport with cofounder Samantha Parton. Six years ago Parton suffered a concussion in a car accident, and as she healed, doctors discovered an aneurysm and a benign tumor behind her left eye. When she finally resumed touring in 2016, it was with Holland—in fact, most of Parton's musical activity since getting back on her feet has been with her old bandmate. Last year they released a duo album called Wildflower Blues (Cinquefoil), and to my ears it's better than anything either of them has done before. The pair play their first local show since the record dropped on Sunday at SPACE in Evanston.

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Singular pianist and musical mind Cecil Taylor has died at 89

Posted By on 04.06.18 at 12:34 PM


This morning I woke to the news that pianist Cecil Taylor had died on Thursday in his Brooklyn home at age 89. Sometimes artists of Taylor's stature are so ingrained in your consciousness that they become part of you, whether they're alive or dead. He came out of jazz and belonged to it, but beginning the late 50s he bucked the tradition in every way, blazing a trail all his own. He was an artist in the largest possible sense, and he committed his life to making something unique and personal. He never faltered in that commitment, and like a handful of other uncompromising artists to emerge from jazz at the time—especially Ornette Coleman—he endured years of neglect and ridicule before people eventually caught up with his original vision and recognized it for its genius.

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Performing Arts
Spirits to Enforce Berry Memorial United Methodist Church
November 08
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November 12

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