Levitation Chicago: Chelsea Wolfe, Earthless, Faust, Bitchin Bajas with Natural Information Society, Night Beats, Circuit Des Yeux, Methyl Ethel | Thalia Hall | Fairs & Festivals | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Faust


Ian Land

Levitation Chicago: Chelsea Wolfe, Earthless, Faust, Bitchin Bajas with Natural Information Society, Night Beats, Circuit Des Yeux, Methyl Ethel 

When: Sat., March 12, 6:30 p.m. 2016
Price: $40
Faust first convened 45 years ago as a clothing-optional, experimentation-mandatory collective occupying a live-in farmhouse studio in Wümme, Germany. Their early records are a patchwork of musique concrète, Dada goofiness, and an occasional catchy pop song. They went underground for 15 years after Virgin Records rejected a proposed fifth LP in 1975, and they’ve been fitfully active and even harder to pin down ever since. For a start, there have been two touring Fausts: the mostly instrumental combo led by keyboardist Hans Joachim Irmler and drummer Zappi Diermaier played a set of feedback-laden, droning instrumentals in Chicago in 1999, while another led by Diermaier and bassist Jean-Hervé Péron delivered a TV-smashing, boiler-bashing spectacle here in 1994 and a savage, bluesy-rock set in 2009. Faust are inveterate collaborators—they’ve made records or toured with minimalist violinist Tony Conrad, tape-collagists Nurse With Wound, hip-hop outliers Dälek, and members of art-rock band Henry Cow. Their latest album, j US t (pronounced “just us”), is a collection of rhythm and song fragments that Péron and Diermaier conceive as foundations for other musicians to use, and they plan to work with local guests at most stops on their current U.S. tour. Tonight Diermaier and Péron will be joined by French multi-instrumentalist Maxime Manac’h and Chicagoans Bobby Conn and Monica Boubou. The first stop of the tour is the final night of the Levitation Festival, an import from Texas, named after the 13th Floor Elevators song, that’s heavy on mind-altering music.

Last year the Bitchin Bajas and Natural Information Society—two of Chicago’s finest merchants of aural hypnosis—teamed up to make Autoimaginary (Drag City). The swirling drones and floating pulse of the liquid trio of Cooper Crain, Rob Frye, and Dan Quinlivan appear to neutralize the commanding rhythmic thrust and single-chord workouts of NIS by and large. On the epic side-long “On No Fade,” for example, percussionists Frank Rosaly and Mikal Avery summon a slow-moving, ritual-like vibe via cymbal-rubbed colors and quiet hand percussion that occur within a sumptuous chorus of long-tone arco bass, piano stabs, dyspeptic bass-clarinet curlicues, and flanged organ drones. The balance shifts on “Anemometer” as the twangy guimbri lines of NIS capo Joshua Abrams set the course, surrounded by dancing cymbal play, Frye’s spritely flute improvisations, and more long-tone keyboard sounds. On the title track the pairing of the two groups creates something out of the ordinary for each member, as when the spacey Wurlitzer improvisations from Ben Boye summon the spirit of heady early-70s jazz and its mind-warping attack. As terrific and satisfying as the rest of the album is, it’s this conclusion that excites me most and pushes me to imagine an even deeper exploration of this mesmerizing sound world.

— Bill Meyer, Peter Margasak



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