The List: September 9-15, 2010 

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: No Age, Sleep, Oval, Ben Frost, High Places, Joshua Abrams, Thee Oh Sees, and more

No Age

No Age

Thursday9

Marina & the Diamonds
Sleep

Friday10

Sam Amidon
Lesley Flanigan
Oval
Rangda, Buke & Gass
Ratatat

Saturday11

Ben Frost
High Places

Monday13

No Age

Tuesday14

Corridors

Wednesday15

Joshua Abrams
Thee Oh Sees

thursday9

MARINA & THE DIAMONDS On "Oh No!"—the fourth single from her debut, The Family Jewels (Chop Shop)—Welsh/Greek singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis takes the postmodern anxiety pop of Lily Allen's "The Fear" and ups the ante by detailing the desperation fostered by consumer culture and the internal war she has to fight to keep it at bay. Diamandis, who goes by the stage name Marina & the Diamonds, balances "I know exactly what I want and who I want to be" with "TV taught me how to feel / Now real life has no appeal." The Family Jewels is a rare treat: anticapitalist pop with an Abba-perfect candy coating. Young the Giant opens. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $15, 18+. —Jessica Hopper

click to enlarge Sleep
  • Sleep

SLEEP There are probably a few second-string doom-metal and stoner-metal bands who know in their heart of hearts that there's simply no way they'll ever be anywhere near as heavy and trippy and revelatory as Sleep or make a record as seminal as 1992's Holy Mountain. But they soldier on anyway, in the shadow of the masters, perhaps reassuring themselves that people will settle for them because Sleep's been split up since the late 90s. So when word went out that in May 2009 guitarist Matt Pike (High on Fire), bassist Al Cisneros (Om, Shrinebuilder), and drummer Chris Hakius (formerly of Om) would be anointing the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Minehead, England, with a live rendition of Holy Mountain, a lot of those B-listers must've had painful moments of reckoning with their bathroom mirrors. This fall Sleep are repeating that feat again and again, with Neurosis drummer Jason Roeder replacing Hakius. In addition to the entirety of Holy Mountain, they'll play what their PR refers to as "selections from" their swan song, Dopesmoker (whatever "selections" means in the context of a single 63-minute track)—and the muddy, boomy acoustics of the Logan Square Auditorium might actually complement the sound for a change. Your nose will probably tell you that someone's breaking more than just the smoking ban somewhere in the crowd, but that might simply be Sleep inducing synesthesia—their metal sounds like sticky bud smells. This show is part of the Adventures in Modern Music festival. Lichens and Ga'an open.  7 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 866-468-3401, sold out. —Monica Kendrick

friday10

SAM AMIDON Sam Amidon inherited his love of folk music from his parents, a couple of traditional singers and folklorists from Brattleboro, Vermont, but in his own work he's nothing like a purist. His excellent new I See the Sign (Bedroom Community), like 2008's All Is Well, consists primarily of trad tunes that he's inventively tweaked or totally reworked—his intimacy with the songs, and his understanding of their malleability and universality, allow him to transform the material. Playing guitar and banjo and joined by an excellent supporting cast that includes pianist Nico Muhly, singer Beth Orton, multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, producer-bassist Valgeir Sigurdsson, and on some tunes a full complement of strings and winds, Amidon interprets children's songs from the Georgia Sea Islands, a wide swath of old-timey and Appalachian folk numbers, and even R. Kelly's "Relief." He sings with a casual understatement that's neither detached nor overwrought; on "You Better Mind" he and Orton redirect the gospel fervor of Bessie Jones's version into insistently pulsing acoustic pop, as Ismaily (who's primarily a bassist) drives the bus with some appealingly ramshackle drumming. The album concludes with the sole original, "Red," which pushes an old-fashioned sound into something totally contemporary—Amidon chants "Found my lost sheep" as spiky string arpeggios drift into a dissonant drone. Here Ismaily will accompany Amidon on drums, bass, and vocal harmony. Via Tania opens. 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $12-$16. —Peter Margasak

LESLEY FLANIGAN On her lovely, self-released Amplifications New York sound artist Lesley Flanigan employs minimal tools—her voice and speaker feedback—to create something deceptively rich and fully realized. The speakers she uses, which she designed and built, double as sculptural objects; they're equipped with external piezo microphones that are connected to the speakers with amplifying circuits and can be variously positioned to create different tones and rhythms in the feedback. While the opening piece, "Retrobuild," uses layers of pretty, wordless vocals to create a dreamy piece of prerock pop that suggests Liz Fraser dabbling in exotica, most of her music treats her voice and the feedback as equal partners. "Sleepy" opens with her hushed soprano unfolding organically into swells of raspy low-end and droning midrange, and eventually additional layers of vocal melody open the piece up. Though her works are usually adapted to the specifics of each space where she performs, Flanigan always has deft control of the feedback, taming it as an instrument in service of her elegant compositional logic. This performance is part of Sonar Chicago. 5 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. —Peter Margasak

OVAL For his first releases in nine years as Oval, the new double album O (Thrill Jockey) and its complementary EP, Oh, Germany's Markus Popp has abandoned the music-making software he created in the early 90s—software that transformed digital errors into gently sputtering ambient music, allowing anybody who knew how to use it to sound like Oval. He's switched to off-the-shelf programs and started shaping his tracks more actively himself, and though the new material shares the amorphous, gently drifting melodies of the old, it's otherwise very different—it relies much less heavily on loops and repetition, instead building multipartite vignettes that sometimes continue to mutate and develop for their entire length, as though they're through-composed. His palette has changed as well, and now includes sparingly used samples of recognizable instruments like drums and guitar, synthesized tones that often sound like strummed or hammered piano strings, and choppy, prickly, off-kilter rhythms. "Ah!" is one of the most songlike tracks on O, layering ambient drones, sampled drumming, rhythmic synth patterns, and morphing melody lines; the majority are much more austere, though, using fewer elements and never employing familiar structures or tidy resolutions. The 50 tracks on O's second disc are all short studies that say their bit and get out of the way, and Popp packs plenty of sonic business into each one, whether it's jarring or serene. This concert is part of Sonar Chicago.  7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. —Peter Margasak

RANGDA, BUKE & GASS The free-rock trio RANGDA makes music that swings between ferocity and serenity—and not at all by coincidence, their namesake is a mythological figure who, depending on where in Bali you reside, represents either vengeful evil or benevolent protection. On "Fist Family," from their debut LP, False Flag (Drag City), Sir Richard Bishop (Sun City Girls) and Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance, Comets on Fire) wield their guitars like blades, creating feedback that scythes away everything in its path and clears the way for a crushing avalanche of percussion from Chris Corsano (Paul Flaherty, Bjork). But the way the guitars dip and wheel over processional beats on the winding, Eastern-tinged epic "Plain of Jars" is every bit as beatific as Verlaine and Lloyd's peaks in "Marquee Moon." —Bill Meyer

Though their name makes them sound like an Austrian law firm, BUKE & GASS are a musical duo—a real fine one—born from the ashes of Hominid, seemingly the only great band from Brooklyn's early-aughts hot streak that didn't blow up beyond the 'burg. B&G pick up where Hominid left off, whirling, lurching, and stomp-stomp-stomping, with rhythms that recall the Ex. Front woman Arone Dyer has a high, fluttery, pop-perfect voice that's both girly and forceful—she sounds like Karen O might if she could sing-sing—and plays a modified six-string baritone ukulele (or "buke"), while Aron Sanchez plays the "gass" (a guitar/bass hybrid of his own devising) and works the kick drum. They're busy and big like a full-size band, so it takes a while to realize there are only two of them—they claim not to use any looping pedals to thicken their sound—and that nobody's playing a drum kit. They'll play songs from their brand-new debut album, Riposte (Brassland). —Jessica Hopper

This show is part of the Adventures in Modern Music festival. Rangda headlines; Efterklang, Michael Zerang & Jim Baker, and Buke & Gass open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.

RATATAT Brooklyn-based instrumental duo Ratatat, aka Mike Stroud and Evan Mast, have been fighting an uphill battle since their sophomore album, 2006's Classics. It fused the raw, funky electro-rock of the group's self-titled debut with drugged-out, ethereal grooves, and it was clearly their record to beat. But 2008's LP3 was a lateral move at best, coming off like a forced effort to push further into atmospheric territory—its soundscapes downplayed the guitars and lost a lot of the band's old excitement. Stroud has admitted that much of the recent LP4 (XL) was recorded during the same sessions as its predecessor, but it doesn't feel similarly contrived. It shifts moods with confidence and panache, from the tense, eerie quasi-orchestral synths in the opening track, "Bilar," to the eccentric exuberance of "Neckbrace," a loopy frolic loaded with froggy croaks and gurgles, vaguely oriental stings on what might be an Autoharp, and processed vocal samples that sound like Appalachian scat singing. LP4 isn't on par with Ratatat's electrifying early releases, but it's solid and engaging, worthy of a head bob or two. Dom and Bobby Birdman open. 7:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 866-448-7849, $25, $22.50 in advance, 18+. —Kevin Warwick

click to enlarge Ben Frost
  • Ben Frost

saturday11

BEN FROST I've listened to it a bunch now, but Ben Frost's dense, shape-shifting By the Throat (Bedroom Community)—a cinematic, radically dynamic suite of 11 pieces by the Iceland-based Australian guitarist and composer—pulls me along for a nail-biting ride every time. As Throat swings from disemboweling sub-bass to ethereal strings, Frost weaves in prepared piano passages, elegiac brass, a ghostly children's choir, acid-abrasive electric guitar, samples of howling wolves and groaning whales, and crawling double-bass scrapes that seem to portend apocalypse. Frost, whom Brian Eno recently selected for a Rolex-sponsored yearlong mentorship, has clearly been touched by the likes of Arvo Part, Swans, Trent Reznor, and Sunn 0))), but he assembles his pieces so elegantly and with such gut-punching power they transcend their influences. He's worked extensively with choreographers, and there's a deep sense of movement in his writing. Though a handful of idiosyncratic musicians contributed to the album—from pianist Nico Muhly to the string quartet Amiina—in his live performances Frost goes it alone, playing guitar while manipulating prerecorded elements on a computer, the sound made massive by a pair of guitar amps and two gigantic bass amps. His local debut is part of the Sonar Chicago festival. 6 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. —Peter Margasak

HIGH PLACES When a band figures out how to connect on a broader level, it doesn't always mean better music. Talking Heads may have gotten blasted out of a lot of frat-house windows after they stopped making sense, but they also stopped making great records; when R.E.M. started to make sense, they stopped writing great songs. High Places, on the other hand, are better for shedding some of their quirks and getting to the point. Their early tunes were made out of singsong vocals and whirring loops of found sounds that sparkled like cute new toys and had about as much staying power. But on their new album, High Places vs. Mankind (Thrill Jockey), Mary Pearson and Robert Barber bring things into sharper focus without totally forsaking their penchant for sonic experimentation. The beats bump instead of rattling, while the electric guitars and Pearson's singing cut stark lines through the dubby echo rather than spin around inside it. This show is part of the Adventures in Modern Music festival. Wooden Shjips, Julian Lynch, and Ahleuchatistas open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12. —Bill Meyer

monday13

NO AGE When people talk about how great SoCal duo No Age is, they rarely talk about the songs themselves. It's usually about the energy that Dean Spunt and Randy Randall fill a room with, the excess of PMA-inspiring thumbs-upness they exude from the stage, or their apparent drive to ensure that every performance is the most fun somebody's ever had at a rock show. It's this ability to make any venue seem like the coolest punk club in the world—even the cavernous, impersonal Aragon—that turned me into a huge fan of the band, even though I could only put together melodies and titles for a handful of their cuts without consulting iTunes. Their upcoming full-length, Everything In Between (Sub Pop), suggests that Spunt and Randall are looking to get a little more love for their songwriting. They're still using the same general formula—hazy post-post-Sonic Youth psychedelia punctuated with bursts of manic punk—but the textures are deeper, the structures more refined, and the hooks are stronger, so that I've already figured out that my favorite jams on the new record are called "Depletion" and "Valley Hump Crash." Pavement headlines. 7 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph, 312-742-1168, $15-$40. —Miles Raymer

tuesday14

CORRIDORS New York sound artist Byron Westbrook has worked with Rhys Chatham and Phill Niblock—composers who've devoted significant energy to exploring sound as a physical force—and while his solo project Corridors isn't quite as vigorous or immense as their output, it's driven by the same basic idea. His new, self-titled album on Sedimental is a wonderful document of his live performances, though it can't help but fall a little short of them. Westbrook typically moves between four to eight channels of (per his own description) "preprocessed (or unprocessed) 'static texture tracks,'" made from recordings of trumpet, organ, viola, and his own guitar feedback, among other sources, working them over beyond recognition. The sounds are stored on a few iPods in chunks of ten to 30 seconds, and before they're disseminated to the various speakers delay is added, decaying at various controlled rates. While the CD already suggests an immersive, shifting ambience, hearing those sounds spread around in the intimate Enemy space should greatly heighten their physical effect. Cleared, Brett Naucke, and Duplicates open. 9 PM, Enemy, 1550 N. Milwaukee, third floor, enemysound.com, donation requested. —Peter Margasak

wednesday15

JOSHUA ABRAMS Since moving to Chicago in the mid-90s bassist Joshua Abrams has anchored myriad working bands and an even greater number of ad hoc groups. Jazz forms the bedrock of his style, but he's always had catholic tastes—he's played live hip-hop as the original bassist in the Roots, back-porch minimalism with Town and Country, and idiosyncratic folk rock with Bonnie "Prince" Billy. His previous solo recordings have mostly been one-man jobs, combining field recordings with a variety of overdubbed instruments—on 2004's After he uses guitar, piano, turntable, music box, and more—but for his absorbing new album, Natural Information (Eremite), he worked with other musicians, including guitarist Emmett Kelly, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, and drummer Frank Rosaly. The solo opener "Mysterious Delirious Fluke of the Beyond," where Abrams sticks to processed or multitracked hammered dulcimer, sets the tone with its mesmerizing permutations of brief phrases, all circling within a single chord—he favors the kind of indefinite harmonic suspension that occurs in ritual trance music all over the world. He only plays bass on two of the album's six tracks, on most of the others substituting guimbri (a three-string North African lute favored by Gnawa musicians) or donso ngoni (a six-string West African harp), which not only have respectable lower registers but traditionally use unfretted drone strings. On "Abide in Sunset" Abrams's focused wanderings dig deep into Kelly's slowly morphing guitar patterns and Rosaly's expansive quasi-tribal percussion, while elsewhere Adasiewicz blankets the music in shimmering, hypnotizing sound, a radical departure from his typically frenetic melodic improvisation. Abrams constantly elaborates on the bass parts that form the kernels of his tunes, altering their shape and metabolism so that even 15 minutes without a key change never feels like too long—but he never thrusts himself into the spotlight, preferring an ensemble approach that jives with the selflessness he's displayed throughout his career. For this release party he's joined by Kelly, Adasiewicz, and Rosaly. My Silence opens; Jeff Parker spins. 10 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $8. —Peter Margasak

THEE OH SEES Former Coachwhips spazztermind John Dwyer and his band of bruisers Thee Oh Sees put out records with an almost alarming frequency, as if they feel a compulsion to remind people every couple of months that they're not only one of the best garage-rock bands going but maybe the best rock 'n' roll band hands down. Help—one of two full-lengths they released last year, not including a singles collection—might be the group's high point in terms of songwriting, especially the hypnotic, sugary-sweet earworm "Enemy Destruct." The title track from the recent Warm Slime (In the Red) might be their technical peak, employing some kind of sonic sleight of hand to make 13 and a half minutes seem like a perfectly reasonable length for a song with just one part. Then again, it's always possible that Dwyer and company will have put out something that tops either or both by the time I finish writing this paragraph. Hot Machines and Paul Cary open. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $14, $12 in advance. —Miles Raymer

Related Locations

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Tabbed Event Search

Follow Us

Sign up for newsletters »

 Early Warnings
 Food & Drink
 Reader Recommends
 Reader Events and Offers