The artists behind both High Plains and Anjou have been crucial in defining the sound of Chicago’s Kranky label | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

The artists behind both High Plains and Anjou have been crucial in defining the sound of Chicago’s Kranky label 

click to enlarge High Plains

High Plains

courtesy the artist

This impressive double bill features gorgeously patient ambient sounds created by a group of musicians long faithful to influential Chicago indie label Kranky Records, where minimalism, new age, and gentle noise have combined in shifting timbres for nearly 25 years. Headlining the evening is High Plains, a duo featuring Vancouver’s Scott Morgan—who’s frequently recorded solo records for the label under the moniker Locsil—and Madison cellist Mark Bridges. The pair first met in 2014 when they were both in residence at the prestigious Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Alberta. They hit it off, and last year reconvened in rural Saratoga, Wyoming, where aided by a steady diet of Schubert’s Winterreise and the inspiration of the area’s wide-open landscapes, they shaped a deeply melancholic series of soundscapes that seem tailor-made for a Werner Herzog documentary about deforestation or some other human-driven calamity. Morgan’s electronic-tone washes and occasional arpeggios fit the elegiac bowed lines of Bridges perfectly, forging a series of somber meditations spiked with generous helpings of unsettling darkness. Anjou is the duo of Chicagoan Mark Nelson and Robert Donne, both of whom were in Labradford, the pioneering ambient trio from Virginia that led to the formation of Kranky. The pair’s recent second album, Epithymía, also hovers around ambient drift. But as the epic multipartite opener “Culicanae” makes clear, Anjou frequently break out of the swirling, post-Philip Glass electro patterns, traveling into more abrasive stretches of noise and what sound like murky sine tones, while the occasional lyric cornet lines of guest contributor Paul Watson veer more toward Miles Davis than Mark Isham.   v

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