Jason Kahn & Jon Mueller | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jason Kahn & Jon Mueller 

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Both Jason Kahn and Jon Mueller are percussionists first and foremost, but they're concerned less with the impact of sticks on drumheads than with what happens after the sound leaves the instrument. There's only one stark snare crack on their new Supershells (Formed), recorded in concert 16 months ago at Milwaukee's Hotcakes Gallery--for the rest of the album they pile up metallic reverberations and piercing electronic tones that expand until they seem to press against a wall, creating a feeling of confinement that gives a palpable sense of the room's lively acoustics. Kahn pumps the output from an analog synth into the body of a snare drum, then covers and uncovers its head with loose cymbals to alter the shape of the noise; Mueller plays a more conventional setup, but augments his scrapes and washes with cassettes so that it's hard to tell which sounds are live. Like the music on Supershells, the seven untitled tracks on Kahn's solo album Fields, recently released on his own Cut label, also need space--and volume--to come alive. Played quietly, their smears of shortwave static and lightly tapped cymbals are an indistinct blur, but if you turn up your stereo the sound unfolds into myriads of finely etched abrasions, subliminal whistles, and gut-jiggling resonations--there are even a few good old-fashioned impacts. Tonight's concert kicks off Kahn and Mueller's nine-date tour of the eastern United States; Haptic opens, joined by French guitarist Sylvain Chauveau. Kahn also contributed a piece to "GeoPhonoBox," a sound-art exhibit at Around the Coyote, 1935 1/2 W. North; the gallery hosts an opening reception at 7 PM on Friday, March 2, and the exhibit will be up till March 28. a 9 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-3616, $7 suggested donation. A

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