Caleb Johnston, Sejayno | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Caleb Johnston, Sejayno 

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Baltimore pipe-organ repairman Caleb Johnston is touring with an organ of his own devising, reverse engineered from several vacuum cleaners, and he plays it like a little kid abusing a thrift-store Casio, leaning heavily on a few keys or absentmindedly wandering over them all. He performs in incomplete sentences--you get the feeling he'd be spinning a grim fairy tale if only he'd fill in the blanks, but his languorous fogs lack verbs and his twinkling tufts lack subjects. His organ warbles and fades in and out, like it's hooked up to a weak battery, and though the air sounds like it's being sucked down instead of blown through, at the same time the instrument has a tone like it's throwing up through a long metal esophagus--you get whistles, snores, squeaking brakes, tolling bells, National Weather Service alert beeps, and the repetitive cranking of a car that won't start.

Johnston is traveling with Sejayno, a trio anchored by mad scientist Peter Blasser, who left Chicago for Baltimore about a year ago. Among many other things, Blasser makes "shinths," homemade synthesizers that are basically dead brains until a human provides the synapses--you have to touch the exposed circuit board with your fingers while you hold a spoon hooked to an amp in your mouth. On the tracks I've heard they warble, brap, growl, and yammer like a band of cute wildebeests from a children's story, though it's sometimes hard to say which sounds come from the shinths and which might be treated vocals or one of Blasser's other toys. Local instrument builder Eric Leonardson and his springboard open the show. Wed 4/20, 9 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland, 773-862-3616, $7 suggested donation. All ages.

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