With Rick Rizzo and Janet Bean occupied with parenting, Bean and Douglas McCombs heavily involved in other projects–Freakwater and Tortoise, respectively–and the recent departure of guitarist Wink O’Bannon, Eleventh Dream Day is sadly inactive these days, which alone would make this appearance a pretty big deal. What makes it even bigger, however, is that the band will be performing material from their forthcoming album Ursa Major, their debut with Chicago independent Atavistic. Like last year’s El Moodio (Atlantic), this record breaks new ground; it has a pair of strange instrumentals, some bound-up rockers, and even a striking bit of country-tinged heartland rock. But the most impressive element is the way the band have so convincingly settled into their stirring ballads. On “Flutter,” for example, Bean’s eerily beautiful singing and the floating, melancholy cello underpinning take languid strides. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything here from the band’s past except the trusty vocal blend of Bean and Rizzo, stronger than ever; the privilege of their low profile is that they truly have no one to please but themselves. For this date and a handful of upcoming European gigs, O’Bannon’s role will be filled by Yo La Tengo guitarist Ira Kaplan, whose extroverted heroics will surely inspire Rizzo to engage him in a battle royal or two. Monday, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Tiffany Bauer, Yael Routtenberg.