Local Release Roundup; ESS on the Move | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Local Release Roundup; ESS on the Move 

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JEFF BARAKA (O TYPE STAR)

The Shift | Wholistic Boogie Media

Jeff Baraka, aka O Type Star, has been on the periphery of Chicago's hip-hop scene for more than a decade, but the 2003 single "A Different Type of Cancer" is his only official release so far. This promotional EP, with three songs from the recent odds-and-sods sampler Urban Myth and three from his forthcoming full-length debut, Driving Songs Vol. 1 (due in April), combines new material, remixes, and "semi-live" performances. Baraka's mellifluous, playful baritone is perfectly suited to the wry wordplay of "Angster of Love" ("Like a cranberry cocktail with turpentine / These bittersweet lessons and I'm learnin' mine") and the effusive "Coolin' on the Lakeshore," where he claims to represent Chicago, Milwaukee, and everyplace in between. Philadelphia rapper Czar and Chicago's Qwazaar make memorable cameos on "Author Rise," and "Soul Oasis," produced by No ID, is heavy-lidded west-coast hip-hop dominated by a liquid bass-and-organ riff and a pitch-shifted diva tangling with a theremin. The highlight is "Cryogenic"--an old cut from the Cyphernauts, Baraka's short-lived collective with Juice, Mr. Greenweedz, and Akbar--with its twinkly keyboard track, seesawing sax sample, and Common cameo. Baraka performs as part of Second City's Words revue every Saturday through March 19. otypestar@yahoo.com

CRICKET RUMOR MILL

If Only Then | Loose Thread

Like its more adventurous labelmate Zelienople, this instrumental post-rock trio creates a whole spectrum of enveloping moods--from breezy to blue--without ever seeming to break a sweat. On their second LP they play hide-and-seek with Americana ("Country Midwestern"), break out the horns for a parping faux-jazz number ("When Eyedrops Were Animals"), and relax by the pool with some serene world pop ("Events Unfold"). The songs never take any surprising turns, but they're intricately composed and delicately played. www.loosethread.com

LANDLORDS

5-Day Notice | Fordafresh

This hip-hop duo has adopted a Three's Company motif, and MCs Roper and Furlee live up to their cheeky names with clever pop-culture satire. A follow-up to the 2001 disc Rent's Due and the 2003 single "12 Inch," 5-Day Notice benefits from production by Meaty Ogre, Madd Crates, and Mixx Massacre and Memo of the Molemen as well as guest rapping by up-and-coming west-sider Verbal and old-school MC Akbar. For the bulk of the album Roper and Furlee stay front and center, delivering winking commentary--"I'm often asked why I'm in the rap biz / Yo, word to R. Kelly, I just do it for the kids"--over lively, ear-popping tracks that incorporate everything from Die Hard dialogue to samples from Pat Benatar's "Invincible." thelandlords@gmail.com

RIDICULOUS TRIO

Plays the Stooges | 4boxs

MIKE HAGEDORN

The Driver | 4boxs

These limited-edition titles from trombonist Mike Hagedorn, part of his 4boxs CD-R series, may be his oddest ventures yet. The Ridiculous Trio--Hagedorn, drummer Shannon Morrow, and tubaist Rob Pleshar--ambushes the Stooges catalog and subjects it to an enthusiastic jazz freak-out. Their squalling arrangements of classics by Iggy and company ("No Fun," "I Wanna Be Your Dog," "Dirt") display impressive imagination, a goony sense of humor, and plenty of what Hagedorn calls "pimprovisation." The Driver is Hagedorn's first solo trombone record, anchored by its 31-minute title track--a percussive cut-and-paste collage composed and produced by local jazz polymath Rufus Brown, who died last month from a brain aneurysm at age 32. Its drive is mostly of the metaphorical sort, with layers of insistently rhythmic overlapping cells and clipped, gravelly blurts, but Hagedorn occasionally uses his slide to imitate a high-revving engine shifting up through its gears. Both albums can already be downloaded for free, but Hagedorn will celebrate the official release of The Driver at the Empty Bottle on Wednesday, February 23, with his group 1,2,3,4. www.4boxs.com

TWIN WRECKS THE MEMORY

Royal Drug Lodge (Trouble for the Rest of Us) | Self-released

Led by guitarist-vocalists Ryan Pavela and Dan Sullivan, Twin Wrecks the Memory plays a lacerating hybrid of garage rock, punk, and metal. These guys wear their influences on the sleeves of their black leather jackets: cranked-up Stooges-isms fuel "Kiss Ride Kill" and "Alcohol and Rock n' Roll" (the vocals even approximate Iggy's deadpan drawl from time to time), "Riot Ready" borrows riffs and revolutionary imagery from the MC5, and "Bleed" is a poison-pen Nirvana pastiche. The lyrics sometimes cross the fine line between stoopid and stupid, but the band's paint-peeling intensity makes it hard to stay cynical. Twin Wrecks the Memory plays a CD-release show at the Subterranean Cafe & Cabaret on Friday, February 25; see listings for details. www.twinwrecksthememory.com

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Chicago Soul Sessions, Volume 1 |

Listen Up

Compiled by David Burns and Stewart McKenzie (and featuring a pair of cuts from their smooth R & B duo, the McKenzie Burns Project), Chicago Soul Sessions is a snapshot of an oft neglected segment of the local music scene. An abundance of "neosoul" artists contribute, but the tracks flirt with jazz, gospel, hip-hop, and funk. Standouts include Cherisse's sweet soul kiss-off "I Can't Make You Be a Man," Kevin Chandler's boudoir groover "When Ya Lovin' Me," and cuts from piano virtuoso Kaialexander and singer Chester Gregory, who played the title role in the Black Ensemble Theater production The Jackie Wilson Story. The disc is the first release from Burns and McKenzie's new label, Listen Up. www.mckenzieburns.com

ESS on the Move

Last weekend Experimental Sound Studio moved into a temporary location in the West Loop, and by Monday the nonprofit studio and recording lab will be fully operational in its new space. There will be one complete studio instead of two, but executive director Lou Mallozzi says that "a couple local places . . . are willing to help" if ESS needs to contract out any work.

ESS had already been preparing to leave its old home near Foster on Paulina, which is slated for demolition, but the mid-January cold snap necessitated an emergency change in plans: the building's heating and plumbing systems failed, and the landlord couldn't afford to invest in extensive repairs to a place that was about to be torn down. ESS's equipment, files, and tape archive were undamaged, but its new space in Ravenswood was far from ready.

The interim location is at 406 N. Aberdeen, near Grand and Ogden, and the telephone number is 312-850-9362. Mallozzi says the studio will launch a series of workshops in the spring, and this summer it will put down roots at the Ravenswood space, which it will rent from longtime ESS benefactor the Dale & Edna Walsh Foundation. Mallozzi promises a series of performances and parties for the new site's grand opening.

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