U.S. Maple | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

U.S. Maple 

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U.S. Maple

The underground rock scene's sloppy dependence on dissonance, fractured rhythms, and quasi atonality has by and large rendered these elements ineffective. But within this sad state of affairs arrives U.S. Maple's stunning debut Long Hair in Three Stages (Skin Graft), produced by Jim O'Rourke, proving noise can be more than just a racket. Fronted by Al Johnson, the whirling white-trash dervish of the late hick noiseniks Shorty, U.S. Maple plays music that can sound utterly disorganized at times. But Johnson's wheezing cries and drunken whoops fit so tightly into the aggressive, disjointed machinations that there's no doubt this Chicago band possesses a keen if complicated sense of order. The group's complex, post-Captain Beefheart rhythmic scheme upends standard grooves into a dizzying array of heaving stops and starts and polymetric irregularities; if there was ever a postpunk Trout Mask Replica, U.S. Maple's debut is it. The band's components are connected like strands of DNA. Pat Samson's drumming forms an inextricable link to Todd Rittman's "low guitar"--the band eschews bass guitar altogether--which in addition to putting some raw meat on the rhythmic bones forms nifty lockstep patterns with the "high guitar" of Mark Shippy. While U.S. Maple isn't afraid to rock straight-up, the band rarely sticks with it for very long, opting instead for endless jarring sideways excursions. The group's live show, in which frantic, reckless motion mirrors the sounds blaring from the stage, is fast becoming legendary. Saturday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo / Scott Groeniger--Tom Smith Collection.

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