• courtesy of Front Porch Productions
  • Lichens (aka Robert A.A. Lowe)

The distinctive Chicago label Kranky Records is in the midst of celebrating its 20th year, and the birthday party reaches its apex this weekend with a four-night extravaganza spread out over three venues. The kick-off happens tonight at the Empty Bottle, then the party moves to Constellation for two nights, and closes things out at Lincoln Hall on Sunday. This week’s paper includes previews of Grouper and Tim Hecker, but one of the things that’s cool about this minifest is how it reflects the familylike vibe of the label. Two of the best artists performing are no longer actively involved with the label, but they’re in town to show their support: Lichens and Keith Fullerton Whitman.

Lichens (aka former Chicagoan Robert A.A. Lowe) made his earliest records in that solo guise for Kranky, but his latest efforts have been released on smaller imprints. He sounds better than ever on last year’s Lítío Fólk (Morc), a spell-casting collection of wordless vocals, synthesizers, and organs (I think—the Bandcamp page doesn’t list credits) that’s the strongest manifestation of his trippy, drone-based music. Below you can check out a typically gorgeous track from the collection, “Kopernik Tripnote.” Boston’s Whitman hasn’t released a record for the label in seven years—although the imprint did bring back some of his records back into circulation this year. Lichens performs on tonight’s bill with Implodes and Disappears, while Whitman performs at Constellation on Saturday with Tim Hecker, Ken Camden, and Pan-American. Saturday’s Constellation bill features Grouper, Benoît Pioulard, Christopher Bissonnette, and Justin Walter, while Sunday’s Lincoln Hall finale features Stars of the Lid, the Wordless Musical Orchestra, and Locsil.

Today’s playlist:

Dur-Dur Band, Volume 5 (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Steve Lacy, The Forest and the Zoo (ESP-Disk)
Mika Vainio, Fe3O4—Magnetite (Touch)
Eyvind Kang, Narrow Garden (Ipecac)
Bushman’s Revenge, A Little Bit of Big Bonanza (Rune Grammofon)