Juana Molina, Psapp | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Juana Molina, Psapp 

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The booklet that comes with Juana Molina's new album, Son (Domino), is packed with photos of embroidery and tapestries by her great-aunt. Delicate and handmade they're the perfect embodiment of the intimate music, which the Argentinean singer recorded almost exclusively on her own. As on her previous records, Molina's gentle coo glides across stark acoustic guitar and woozy analog synth, but a closer listen reveals the details that make Son her most assured and beautiful release to date. Scatting, beatboxing, and mewling are multitracked into a beguiling mix, along with digitally manipulated whistling and electronic tones that seem to melt directly into her voice. A sense of whimsy shines through without marring the music's prettiness, an effect she's only previously managed live, where her charm and modest humor cast her somber songs in a slightly different light. Technically her approach isn't that far removed from Bjork's eccentric work, but Molina has her own sound, small and lovely. --Peter Margasak

Last weekend some friends were telling me about a contest they'd had the night before to see who could make the smallest noise. Psapp have likely spent a few evenings doing the exact same thing--except they release their contest results as albums. On their debut for Domino, The Only Thing I Ever Wanted, the coed London duo keep the volume knob locked on one: the loudest thing you'll hear over the windup-toy clicks and hiccuping music-box chimes is a violin swell. Whether producer Carim Clasmann plays a real piano, some one-octave toy piano that's probably shaped like a dinosaur, or everything in his bedroom plus the kitchen sink, the effect is the same: stark intimacy, with enough tension between the organic and the programmed to cut the inherent preciousness. When Galia Durant finally chimes in, it sounds like she's singing to herself while walking in the snow. --Jessica Hopper

Juana Molina headlines, Psapp opens, and Kate Simko spins between sets. Sat 6/24, 10 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $18 in advance, $20 at the door.

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