A day-by-day guide to our Critic's Choices and other previews | Essay | Chicago Reader

A day-by-day guide to our Critic's Choices and other previews 

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friday15

the diminisher Multi-instrumentalist David McDonnell is one of the busiest musicians in town: he plays in Michael Columbia, Herculaneum (see Saturday), Orso, and Icy Demons, and in September he released Imaginary Volcano (Unsound), the debut from his solo project, the Diminisher. McDonnell plays the lion's share of instruments on the record's subtle, arty pop tunes--that's him on harpsichord, organ, saxophones, drums, bass, and more--and his arrangements are impressively rich and orchestral. The disc suffers from a certain deadness that can come from loads of multitracking, but McDonnell has a bona fide band to play his songs live; for this show he'll be joined by most of Herculaneum, bassist Griffin Rodriguez, and a string quartet. Gutbucket opens. a 10 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Peter Margasak

cnew brutalism Tactical Works is a small group of friends spread out across Baltimore, North Carolina, and Tennessee that includes architects, electrical engineers, machinists, and luthiers. They play in five so-called Brut bands: Beton Brut, New Brutalism, Villabrut, Soldat Brut, and a fifth that's so far unnamed. Everyone involved shares a love of Brutalist architecture (think poured concrete and severe geometry, like the Regenstein Library at the U. of C.), angular, pared-down rock (think Shellac), and aluminum. Members of Tactical Works have machined all of New Brutalism's instruments from solid aluminum--the drum shells are rolled and welded from plates of the stuff, and even the 80-pound speaker cabinets are covered in metal sheeting. So far they've produced only two metal drum kits, but they're selling their solid aluminum guitars--wicked-looking axes, less than an inch thick, some with countersunk screws for fret markers. Guitarist Matt Hall sees aluminum as preferable to the usual wood: "It's dense but lightweight," he says, "with unbelievable sustain and amazingly rich overtones." As they demonstrate in the photos on New Brutalism's MySpace page, the instruments are fireproof and hold up fine when somebody accidentally drives over them during load-out. Early Skin Graft denizens (and fellow aluminum fans) Big'n headline with a reunion set; Tornavalanche, Quatre Tete, and New Brutalism open; and Chicago author Wayne E. Popelka reads from his new memoir, Somewhere in the Middle, drawn from letters he wrote home during his time as an intelligence analyst with the Iraq Survey Group. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --J. Niimi

VALIENT THORR At this point the notion of a band cooking up fake names and an elaborate sci-fi backstory is not in itself noteworthy. So what do Valient Thorr--Warped Tour vets and ostensible Venusian survivors of a 1957 spaceship crash--bring to the table? Well, their alien Viking whackjob patter is pretty solid, really. (Lead singer Valient Himself in a Chartattack.com interview: "I think there's a guy named Walt Disney....He made a time machine and the other Valient Thorr escaped but part of his spirit lives here. Not just earth things you could relate to like art and writing; beyond a ghost spirit.") And while the grease metal on their recent Legend of the World (Volcom) is a bit generic on the surface, it's surprisingly funky underneath. Gogol Bordello headlines; Dan Sartain opens. a 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $18. A --Monica Kendrick

saturday16

cBLACK SHEEP Black Sheep, the Queens-based duo of Dres and Mista Lawnge, was the least-known group in the Native Tongues crew, but a party still isn't a party in America until the DJ drops "The Choice Is Yours"--something you can't say about any song in the Jungle Brothers catalog. Black Sheep's 1991 debut, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, is a seminal work of conscious hip-hop, but after their 1994 follow-up, Non-Fiction, sold poorly they faded into obscurity. Since then they've worked on solo projects and made the occasional guest appearance and recorded the 1999 album The Tragedy of Almost, which is still unreleased. Last year they announced a comeback, and earlier this year they released a mix CD of new and old material, as well as 8WM/Novakane (Bumrush), an online-only studio album. The production is decidedly contemporary, but the humor that was their hallmark is absent; Dres is still on point, but he's rapping about realness and heartbreak now. Mista Lawnge (now Mr. Long) left to pursue a solo career during the making of the album, leaving Dres to keep the flame alive, joined by Jungle Brothers DJ Sammy B. They open for Naughty by Nature and Digital Underground here. a 9 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-559-1212, $25-$55, 18+. --Jessica Hopper

cangela desveaux Angela Desveaux grew up in Nova Scotia and lives in Montreal, but her heart is in old American country. On her debut, Wandering Eyes (Thrill Jockey), her sweet, breathy voice makes her sound younger than 28, but her songs perfectly illuminate pre-thirtysomething concerns, balancing woe and wonder, doubt and rose-colored romanticism. The record isn't stunning, but it has a warmth that makes it easy to return to, and Desveaux a dexterous songwriter. Half the songs on Wandering Eyes are upbeat, with trilling organ, pedal steel, and some casual nods to Sweetheart of the Rodeo; her ballads are just as winning, setting her bright voice in dusty, melancholy music. With talent to spare and such pretty pipes--on occasion she sounds a bit like one of her heroes, Lucinda Williams--it's hard to imagine she'll stay in the indie underground for long. Archer Prewitt headlines and the David Daniell-Douglas McCombs Duo opens. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. --Jessica Hopper

herculaneum This fine local quintet takes a big step forward on Orange Blossom (482 Music), the follow-up to its 2004 debut. The disc's eight diverse pieces, written by drummer Dylan Ryan, showcase the group's postbop ebullience and resourcefulness, balancing warm, catchy melodies and insistent grooves in nifty contrapuntal arrangements. The band has chops too: solos by trombonist Nick Broste, trumpeter Patrick Newbery, and reedist David McDonnell (see Friday's item on the Diminisher) arrive in tight processions that enhance the flow of each tune. A couple of more meditative pieces aren't so successful, but they reveal the extent of the band's ambition. The Paul Giallorenzo Quartet featuring Jeb Bishop opens. a 9:30 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-3616, $8 suggested donation. A --Peter Margasak

sunday17

in flames, lacuna coil Come Clarity (Ferret), the latest album by Swedish band IN FLAMES, set some older fans on edge--it's stylistically all over the map, and not all of its stabs at various metal subgenres hit the mark. It might be that their brutal touring schedule (which recently included Ozzfest dates and a stint opening for Motorhead) created a milk-in-the-fridge effect, where their music picked up other flavors, suitable or not. But when Come Clarity works--that is, when they return to the melodic grind that made them cult heroes--few bands are better.

When it comes to shameless subgenre straddling, it's hard to beat In Flames' tourmates, LACUNA COIL. Record stores already had a hard enough time figuring out where to file this Italian band--they like that sweet spot where metal, goth, and industrial intersect. But on their latest album, this year's Karmacode (Century Media), they push their luck even further, throwing in a Depeche Mode cover and attempts at spiky Euro dance-rock that would make KMFDM blush.

In Flames headlines, Lacuna Coil plays third, the Sword plays second, and Seemless opens. a 5:45 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $25. A --Monica Kendrick

monday18

bitter tears One comment at the Bitter Tears' MySpace page reads, "You guys can be a little creepy." For sure they can--with their dancing-bones piano and spidery string-walks and strangled, leering vocals, these back-alley-of-Broadway hucksters (often heard providing accompaniment for Redmoon productions) make everything from love to marriage to drinking sound manically, paranormally sinister. "I got annihilated by a dirty bomb in the bar / That's why I didn't come home last night," goes a sample refrain from the sing-along antihit "Murdered at the Bar," off last year's The Grinning Corpse Who Went to Town (Roydale). And the online track "Hanukkah Christmas" may be the first entry in a new genre: Deliverance klezmer. The Bitter Tears headline, Reds and Blue play second, and Black Apple opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401. F --Monica Kendrick

tuesday19

MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK Motion City Soundtrack recently appeared on the cover of Alternative Press, which should be reason enough to write them off. But the Minneapolis emo-punks are likable enough--they have literate lyrics, a respectable respect for the Smoking Popes and Jawbreaker, and a touch of midwestern goofballness, all of which help them avoid the usual pathos. The All-American Rejects headline, the Format plays second, and Boys Like Girls open. a 6 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 312-666-6667 or 312-559-1212, $22.50, sold out. A --Jessica Hopper

ZEROPOINT Local experimental electronic musicians Robb Drinkwater and Jason Soliday have been improvising as Zeropoint for the past seven years. Soliday plays a selection of hand-built and circuit-bent gizmos, including a dinky keyboard adorned with many more knobs and sensors than God intended; Drinkwater's homemade arsenal includes a combined shortwave radio and feedback loop, outfitted with copper pads that let his fingertips become part of the circuits, and a "matrix mixer" that looks like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. (See for yourself at splintergroup.com/rdrink/gear/ gear.html.) The sounds Zeropoint creates are pretty sci-fi too--imagine you could listen to deep-space magnetic events, cryptic microwave transmissions, and colliding black holes. Michael Hartman of TV Pow headlines and Snake Charm opens. a 8:30 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-3616, $5 suggested donation. A --J. Niimi

wednesday20

cJEFF PARKER, KEVIN DRUMM, and MICHAEL ZERANG These iconoclastic Chicagoans have played together in different combinations over the years, but rarely all at once. A few years ago they made a record for Atavistic's Out Trios series, and while the results were uneven--always a risk with improvised music--the range of sounds they produced was astonishing. I was going to list the instruments used on the recording, but that's beside the point: Parker, Drumm, and Zerang are all capable of rendering their gear unrecognizable. And when they're playing in this mode, there's too much happening for the listener to stop and figure out who made what noise: metallic clatter, lacerating sine waves and feedback, and floor-rumbling low end seethe and boil in a shape-shifting mass. It's anyone's guess what they'll sound like here, but considering that these guys are among the most careful listeners and progressive voices in the city the show should be riveting. a 9 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $10. --Peter Margasak

SOCALLED This Jewish DJ from Montreal discovered klezmer while crate digging; since then his sampling has become a key ingredient in the music of klez modernist David Krakauer. But Socalled's own recordings retain a much stronger hip-hop focus; his tracks combine elaborate samples of Yiddish music and borscht belt comedy with live instrumentation (lots of New York klezmer stars turn up) and vocals from the likes of Killah Priest and C-Rayz Walz (who guests on the forthcoming Ghettoblaster). HipHopKhasene (Piranha, 2003), a collaboration with Oi Va Voi violinist Sophie Solomon, is a musical adaptation of a traditional Jewish wedding, and last year's The Socalled Seder: A Hip-Hop Haggadah (JDub) sets the Passover ceremony to breakbeats. On paper it screams novelty, but Socalled's musicality, structural rigor, and skillful production make it all work. He performs with headliners Golem as part of the traveling Hanukkah party called Jewltide. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15, $12 in advance. --Peter Margasak

thursday21

cnachtmystium It's relatively easy to hang a mythology on your sound when you come from, say, Norway, a place plenty of Americans consider exotic. But like many bands in the current wave of American black metal, Saint Charles's Nachtmystium has to work a little harder. Grotty fifth-gen cassette demos are out; running your own label (in this case, emerging powerhouse Battle Kommand) and making it viable is in. Fractious sub-subgenre snobbery is out; touring with everyone from Deicide to Pelican is in. (Also in: releasing a split record with Leviathan, something that seems to be practically obligatory now. Nachtmystium's is due in the spring.)

That energy and flexibility are why their most recent album, Instinct: Decay, is one of my favorite metal albums of 2006. It reminds me of one of my 2005 favorites, the record from Leviathan side project Lurker of Chalice. Much of the icy, vicious grandeur of classic black metal remains, but the sound is expansive: Nachtmystium's darkness has the spaciousness of an uncaring void instead of the lightless constriction of a coffin. The album has room for space-rock weirdness, goth melodicism, and occasionally some shiny, brittle folk. And it's heavy. Don't miss tourmates and labelmates Zoroaster, a promising doom band from Atlanta that plays second. March Into the Sea opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick

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