Dama/Libra, Secret Means of Escape | Hideout | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Dama/Libra, Secret Means of Escape 

When: Mon., Aug. 18, 8 p.m. 2014
Price: $8
Joel RL Phelps and G. Stuart Dahlquist have known each other for nearly two and a half decades, but only this year did they begin collaborating as Dama/Libra. In the late 80s and early 90s, Phelps was an early member of powerful indie-rock band Silkworm, and since then he’s been fronting the Downer Trio. Dahlquist is the brother of Silkworm’s phenomenal drummer, Michael (who was killed by a suicidal driver in 2005), and has worked in doom-oriented projects such as Sunn O))) and Burning Witch; most recently he played in the droney Asva. On Dama/Libra’s new album, Claw (Northern Spy), they build spacious, vaguely liturgical drones on a foundation of long organ notes (they cite the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt as an influence) and slow, rumbling bass. The music can cast a spell, but it’s often shattered—either by occasional ritualistic drumming (as on “The Chant”) or by Phelps’s minimalist vocal melodies, delivered in a full-bodied wail that’s imperfect enough to sound vulnerable. The raw, intuitive singing forms a taut dichotomy with the poised, stately instrumental tracks, and the contrast increases the power of both. This stuff sometimes sounds like it should be performed in a cathedral, not a rock club, but that in no way undermines its visceral impact. —Peter Margasak

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