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At their U.S. debut here in February of 2004, the Norwegian duo Fe-mail brilliantly demolished the worst stereotypes about noise music--that it all sounds the same, that anybody can do it, that it's an expression of brute masculinity. For Maja Ratkje and Hild Sofie Tajford, noise isn't a way to voice nihilism but a kind of celebration, a place where music making runs amok but not afoul of pleasure and purpose. On the cover of their forthcoming Voluptuous Vultures (PsychForm), they're sitting serenely amid pastel ceramic statuary, but there's nothing soft or calming about the sounds on the album. Like the best Japanese noise acts, the duo ride waves of crushing, explosive sound like a thrill-seeking surfer, but they also draw on more traditional musical training to increase the density, rigor, and complexity of their pieces. Ratkje is one of the most astonishing singers on the planet, sounding at times like Diamanda Galas or Shelley Hirsch, and Tajford is a superb French horn player. More often than not those elements are masterfully manipulated, either through Ratkje's multitracking or Tajford's chopped-up samples. On their 2003 debut album, Syklubb Fra Haelvete (reissued in the U.S. last year by Important Records), and All Men Are Pigs (Gameboy), a more recent collaboration with fellow Norwegian noisemonger Lasse Marhaug, they emphasize electronic elements; the new disc is my favorite because the unplugged elements in their impossibly broad soundscapes sometimes come to the fore. Mike Svoboda, an exciting new-music trombonist and former Chicagoan, will open with a solo set; after Fe-mail's set the three will perform a series of improvised duets. Mon 9/19, 8 PM, Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 5811 S. Ellis, 773-702-8670. Free.

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