Ancient Greeks | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ancient Greeks 

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Here's what happens when a brainy guitarist with a predilection for abstract composition and dry free improv forms a rock band. Nathaniel Braddock started Ancient Greeks in 1998; this winter they finally released an album that hints at a workable balance between self-consciously cerebral and melodically hedonistic. The songs on the quartet's Flameshovel debut, The Song Is You, boast multistylistic ambitions: jazzy chords, African pop voicings, electronic burbles, and prog-rock rhythms all jostle for position. At the music's best, these elements all coalesce, as on "Burning Is Easy," in which high-frequency sine waves, loose conga grooves, and warm Fender Rhodes arpeggios swaddle a blue-eyed soul tune that keeps unfolding; Chris Warland's falsetto never extends beyond its modest emotional reach, staying true to the melody, and bassist Andy Rench and drummer Timothy P. Stevens don't get too fancy. But sometimes chops and ideas supplant actual songs and what we hear is a band thinking with their instruments. "The Joke" is a post-rock nightmare--it goes on and on, with a shuffling sub-Tortoise groove and splatters of staccato guitar that endlessly trace the dull chord progression. Warland, who also plays adequate saxophone, can effectively sketch out the group's gentle melodies, but he's occasionally too expressive and indulges in a nasal yawping he tries to pass off as intensity. Despite these shortcomings, the right components are all there, and time could help filter out the impurities. Nad Navillus and Tim Kinsella open. Saturday, January 18, 10 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; 773-227-4433.

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