Macha | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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It's hardly unheard-of to layer guitar, bass, and drums over pulsing world-music rhythms; Westerners were doing it even before Paul Simon discovered the Boyoyo Boys. But Macha's hybrid--whip up a gamelan storm, then play rock on top of it--is so obviously a gold mine you almost want to slap yourself upside the head for not thinking of it first. The quintet, based in Athens, Georgia, released its self-titled debut in 1998 and See It Another Way (Jetset) the following year, and both feel less like genre collisions than a kind of third-mind music, a la Burroughs and Gysin, where two ideas fuse to create a new entity distinct from either. This can happen in large part because the elements in the band's sound--their deadpan, relentless forward motion and the bubbling, endlessly circling metallophones, zithers, and recordings of Indonesian street parades that underpin it--are innately complementary. To my ears the closest analogue is the synthesizer-enhanced rock of Who's Next, but unlike the Who, Macha doesn't hit you over the head; its songs are simultaneously lush and withdrawn, with a heady romanticism reminiscent of the Velvet Underground or Echo & the Bunnymen. They're beguiling as pure sound, but in most cases pure sound is all they have to offer: singer Joshua McKay obeys the unwritten indie rule that enunciation is the enemy, and though "Double Life" (from the first record) and "The Nipplegong" (from the second) are pretty damn memorable, Macha's songwriting doesn't yet match its swirling ensemble virtuosity. I wonder what the band could do with "What Goes On" or "Baba O'Riley." Thursday, April 20, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.


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