Salamander | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Salamander 

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SALAMANDER

When Erik Wivinus and Sean Connaughty first joined their guitars and voices as Salamander in 1992, says Wivinus, "We sounded like Low--only we hadn't heard Low yet." Since then the Minneapolis duo has broken up and and reformed, with various additional members, half a dozen times, and its sound has morphed along with the lineup. In 1997, after one of the breakups, Wivinus took one of Salamander's demos to Providence for the first Terrastock festival, a now-legendary benefit for the British psychedelia fanzine Ptolemaic Terrascope. He slipped the tape to publisher Nick Saloman (aka the Bevis Frond), who passed it along to Tony Dale, who runs the Australian new-psych label Camera Obscura. His offer to issue a posthumous Salamander collection inspired Wivinus to get the band back together, and the same baleful noise-rock incarnation heard on both that year's Red Ampersand and 1998's Red Mantra is still going strong. The music on those albums suggests Spacemen 3 or My Bloody Valentine at their most oceanic or Sonic Youth's guitar sprawl at its most epic: Drummer Bryce Kastning lays on the cymbals like a bebopper while Doug Morman's looped bass riffs provide a steady pulse, and Connaughty and Wivinus don't so much trade licks as exchange frequencies. Wivinus picks away at a simple progression while Connaughty conjures feedback, then shifts skyward until his drone envelops everything else; when he finally comes back to earth it starts all over again. But for all the wombscaping, Salamander's music has an intense physicality that's lacking in much 90s psych--at their best, as on Red Mantra's "Return to Rural Highway," they rock, no "post-" about it. They play second on this bill; San Francisco's Primordial Undermind, which has a new record on Camera Obscura, headlines; Overhang Party, a heavy-psych trio from Tokyo, opens. Monday, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Michaelangelo Matos

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