For the music fan this is the kind of weekend where you wish you could split yourself in two or three: there’s a lot of great stuff happening, but it’s not possible to take it all in. In addition to the full slate of shows previewed in this week’s Soundboard and some others in Thursday’s Best Shows to See post, there are still more that have been luring my interest, although there’s no way I’ll be able to check out all of them—or even many of them. On Saturday night I plan to check out the terrific reedist Steven Lugerner at Constellation, which means I won’t be able to be at the Graham Foundation, where experimental music presenter Lampo has programmed onetime Chicagoan Ben Vida for a concert.
According to Lampo’s website, “Tztztztzt Î Í Í…,” the piece Vida is premiering, is a sound poem of the same title performed by Sarah Magenheimer, Tyondai Braxton, and Vida. As best as I can determine from the composer’s description, the video component includes footage of performers in action as well as abstracted representations, both visually and sonically, of their facial movement and the sounds they made. There’s a lot of verbiage spilled about the process and motivation, but the work seems intended to cause a certain dislocation in the viewer about where and what produces certain sounds, further confounded by the relationship between sound and the everyday things that produce it. Also on the program is a sound work called “Damaged Particulates,” which combines preset and live electronics in four channels. To those locals that remember Vida’s activity in Chicago—in Central Falls, Town and Country, Singer, and as the only steady member of Bird Show—his once prominent guitar no longer seems to figure into his music-making schemes. Instead he’s devoted himself to analog synthesizer, which is how he produced both the gurgly and bulbous tones and piercing, high-end sine waves, all entirely satisfying onslaughts, on his most recent solo album, Esstends-Esstends-Esstends (Pan), from 2011. You can hear a track from it, “Qweek Plus Enner (outro too),” below.
Also on Saturday, but occupying a radically different stylistic niche, the great Mexican pop singer Julieta Venegas performs at the Concord Music Hall in support of her latest album, Los Momentos (Sony Music Latin), her first new record in three years. The recording represents a major shift for Venegas, who gave birth to her first child three years ago, at the age of 40. Rather than work in a studio with regular collaborator Cachorro López, she wrote and worked out the songs at home, and her production with Yamil Rezc is both muted and plastic, revealing an undeniable neo-80s synth-pop vibe. There’s a string section on “¿Por Que?,” but otherwise the music is made entirely on keyboards—whether piano, synthesizer, or (fleetingly) the old Venegas staple, accordion. At first listen the record turned me off—as someone who came of musical age during the 80s, I’m driven nuts by the current rage for its synthetic pop flavor—but as with her previous aesthetic detours (she started out with a dark rock flavor before turning to a more sunshiny approach in her previous three albums), I came around. Her delicate voice is enchanting as ever, but there’s a dark resignation in her lyrics, and the album’s general tone confronts the corruption and hopelessness surrounding Mexico’s ceaselessly violent and deadly drug wars. Below you can check out the video for one of the album’s brighter tunes, “Te Vi.”
After years of hearing their name bandied about, I finally saw and heard the Chicago duo Coppice earlier this year. I’m slowly making up for lost time, because the sounds produced together by Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer are as enticing, interesting, and mysterious as anything I’ve heard in recent months. The duo will perform a free concert Sunday afternoon at the gallery space Adds Donna at 3 PM to celebrate the release of their terrific new album, Big Wad Excisions, released by the happily relaunched Quakebasket label, operated now as before by percussionist Tim Barnes. I’m still not entirely sure how Coppice does what they do, but that hardly matters. They typically describe themselves as a “bellows and electronics” duo, but while that’s pretty much accurate, it doesn’t indicate the specific techniques they use. When I saw them perform, Cuéllar was sitting at a pump organ, and while there were occasionally sounds you might expect from the instrument, more often than not he creatively hijacked its wheezing potential in all kinds of hard-to-describe ways. Kramer sat at some device with several cassette decks, but he was using various wires and electronic currents to create an array of noises just as compelling as what his partner does. The stuff on Big Wad Excisions is clearly dominated by bellows-driven sounds—mostly undulating drones that seem to send the rippling vibrations straight into my brain. There are lots of blustery wind sounds, but on the gorgeously meditative “Sop” you can definitely hear the sorrowful long tones of an accordion and some kind of taped sounds slowed and accelerated by Kramer. Not knowing what the hell is going on is part of the appeal, and that effect is not lost when they perform live. Below you can check out the album’s final track, “Hoist Spell.”