Electrelane | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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Some albums are so perfect for driving they're dangerous. I once drove a third of the way across Indiana listening to Kraftwerk 2 before I realized I was going the wrong direction, and another time Surfer Rosa got me a speeding ticket in North Dakota--by the end of its 30-odd minutes I was 50 miles out of Montana, with its "safe and reasonable" speed-limit policy. So next time I road-trip I'm packing Electrelane's Axes (Too Pure). A mostly instrumental album recorded live, start to finish, in one room by Steve Albini, it requires a kind of active listening that seems to sharpen your senses; this is driving music that keeps you aware of the terrain. Like early Kraftwerk, the tempos of many of the songs ebb and flow, as on the vocally hooky "Two for Joy." Lest you fall asleep on the autobahn, though, Axes is shot through with inspired sonic intrusions: in "Gone Darker" a train whistle pulls against a vexatious guitar riff and squalls of saxophone merge with the screech of metal brakes, while the Sonny Sharrock-like free spaz of "Business or Otherwise" contains some of the most jarring (and exquisitely recorded) ambient noise Albini's put to tape since the Pixies' "Vamos." The seamless blending of tracks--the soaring "Those Pockets Are People" morphs into a chaotic take on the Leonard Cohen classic "The Partisan"--adds to the feeling of movement through a landscape. Electrelane are a band with a lot of ideas, and they reveal them slowly; as with any good road trip, the getting there becomes a destination in itself. Danger Adventure opens; Coltrane Motion plays second. Fri 6/10, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $10.

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