Atari Teenage Riot/Add N to (X)/Don Caballero | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Atari Teenage Riot/Add N to (X)/Don Caballero 

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Rarely has such sonic obnoxiousness, violence, and excess been collected on one bill. The calculatedly annoying Alec Empire, leader of Berlin's Atari Teenage Riot, has spent the last few years spearheading the dead-in-the-water digital hardcore movement, using samplers and drum machines to approximate the intensity and velocity of hardcore punk. The band's consistently entertaining new album, 60 Second Wipe Out (Elektra), features guest vocals from New York underground hip-hoppers the Arsonists and former Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna; its cartoonish music combines crushing and apocalyptically fast beats, punishing electronic squeals, and hooks that are little more than overdriven chants. But funniest of all are Empire's quasi-revolutionary rants: his anticapitalist, antiauthoritarian yammering may contain some valid points, but his rage is so sprawling it becomes comical ("The frequency terror network we're setting it up!! / Like a science!!!! / Anarchist data protection!!!! / The Ataris go for action!!!!!!" he declares on "Atari Teenage Riot II"). The kitschy-sinister analog-synth-driven sound of Add N to (X) is comparatively quaint, but the London group shares with ATR an obsession with technology's role in the future--on the cover of Add N to (X)'s first album, member Ann Shenton is graphically pictured giving birth to a Moog by cesarean section. On the more recent Avant Hard (Mute) she, Barry Smith, and Steve Claydon pound out rubbery keyboard riffs over the numb rhythms of High Llamas drummer Rob Allum, and while the mostly instrumental music variously calls to mind Silver Apples, Walter Carlos, Kraftwerk, and Throbbing Gristle, it can't be said to sound like any of them. Math-rock progenitors Don Caballero, who still play (gasp!) guitars, might seem an odd opening act for these two, but in terms of ear-popping bombast they fit right in. Singles Breaking Up (Vol. 1) (Touch and Go), a collection of miscellany from 1992-'98, showcases the band's proggish origins, but on last year's What Burns Never Returns the quartet staked out new and promising turf, thanks in particular to the hypnotic minimalism of Ian Williams's splintery guitar playing. At the very least, I can promise it'll be a long night. Thursday, July 22, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Michael Lavine/Joe Dilworth.


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