When he’s not playing dissonant rock with his main gig of the past two decades, Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore is usually playing mad scientist with one of a wide array of coconspirators–from pseudophilosophical windbag DJ Spooky to radical free-jazz drummer Milford Graves to the chameleonic Jim O’Rourke. His experiments have improved over the years, yet he never pretends to be something he isn’t: instead of striving to imitate jazz technicians, he plays up his strengths as a colorist, using sound like Jackson Pollock used paint. On recent recordings made with drummers Tom Surgal and William Winant he doesn’t stray too far from Sonic Youth, unleasing torrents of free noise over complex percussive interplay. But his latest excursion into improv is The Promise (Materiali Sonori), a pin-drop-quiet date with legendary British saxophonist Evan Parker and Italian electronics whiz Walter Prati. Parker blows sinewy yet fragile tendrils and the occasional throaty staccato burst, while Moore and Prati interject cloudy waves of alien noise; here and there Prati also adds some ill-advised electric bass. Moore’s contributions, which range from restrained but acidic chordal washes to damped plucking, are a bit more tentative than normal–maybe because he was in awe of Parker or maybe because he’s used to working in higher-energy settings–but by and large he pulls it off. For his first Chicago performance without Sonic Youth, he’ll be joined by Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson, an honorary member of the local improv scene whose explosive outbursts should give the scrappy Moore a bit more to do. Saturday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

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