Mates of State | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mates of State 

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Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner, the marrieds who are Mates of State, cram just about as much music into each moment as two humans with only four lungs and two instruments can. The duo's interactions are so precise they sound charted, yet so supple they feel improvised. Gardner reels off baroque fingering exercises and carnival swirls on Yamaha organ (and occasionally piano) as drummer Hammel shifts rhythms with a willful restlessness. Last year's Our Constant Concern seemed like a private (and not always polite) conversation between lovers, with Hammel and Gardner voicing individual perspectives in bright but not twee chirps. Beginning with the chanted instruction "Everyone settle down," then skirting confrontation on "A Duel Will Settle This" and dividing humanity into the "halves" (of couples) and the single "have-nots," the disc was something like a survey of contemporary boho domesticity (though, as befits its subject, it was more modest than that description makes it sound). On this year's Team Boo (Polyvinyl) Hammel and Gardner generally harmonize rather than stating separate cases, and the lyrics seem to refer less frequently to the state of their union; in fact, they seem to refer less frequently to anything specific at all. Individual lines are often matter-of-fact, but they're combined into strings of sentiment that are sweetly fanciful--and sometimes they achieve the same effect in a single line, like "I wonder if I could tie the ocean to your knees." Saturday, September 27, 10 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408


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