Town and Country | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Town and Country 

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Local quartet Town and Country established a signature sound on their self-titled 1998 debut, weaving lulling, hypnotic patterns from entirely acoustic instrumentation: Ben Vida's folksy fingerpicked guitar and laconic brass, Jim Dorling's wheezing harmonium, and the double basses of Liz Payne and Josh Abrams. On two subsequent records they adorned their music with bells, celeste, piano, and mbira without changing its basic feel, but on their latest, C'mon--which comes out this week on Thrill Jockey--they've fundamentally transformed their sonic cross section simply by replacing one instrument with another. A little over three minutes into the first tune Dorling abandons his harmonium, and with it the thick drone that has been Town and Country's foundation; for much of the rest of the disc he plays bass clarinet, which dramatically opens up the band's sound. Instead of lying on a plush aural carpet, the doleful melody of "The Bells" seesaws in space, and the hocketing reed and string parts on "I Am So Very Cold" turn together like a skeletal gear assembly made from hair-fine wire. Throughout the record there's a new brightness to Town and Country's usually somber demeanor, especially in the way the strummed guitars dance around the woody clarinet figures, but this is still very quiet music: a friend who saw them open for Papa M at the Empty Bottle last month lamented that they were nearly drowned out by the chattering crowd. Here's hoping the talkers will stay in the Hideout's front-room bar at this record-release show. Saturday, February 16, 10 PM, the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; 773-227-4433. Town and Country will also give a free in-store performance Saturday, February 16, at 1 PM at Jazz Record Mart, 444 N. Wabash; 312-222-1467.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.

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