Rex is a worthy inheritor of the Velvet Underground’s chamber-rock legacy. With its sparse instrumentation, intimate lyrical themes, unhurried tempos, and quietly hypnotic playing, the Velvet Underground’s third album defined a style emulated by bands as disparate as the Cowboy Junkies, Yo La Tengo, and Codeine (which shares drummer Doug Scharin with Rex). Rex creates a mesmerizing atmosphere by relying heavily on the sustained tones of slide guitar and cello and leaving lots of space in the arrangements–the instruments curl lazily around each other like smoke rings. This near-ambient approach extends to the singing; there’s a resigned country-and-western tinge to guitarist Curtis Harvey’s voice, but he’s mixed so low his murmurings become another texture. A steady diet of restraint can get boring; Rex avoids somnolence by building a couple of songs up to dramatic crescendos that emphasize the melancholy of their surroundings. In this Chicago debut, Rex opens for the Grifters; Nectarine will also appear. Friday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600. Free in-store appearance Saturday, 3 PM, Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway; 404-5080.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/John Mullin.