To any local music freak with half a brain and basically functioning ear canals, Jim Magas has been an obvious leader of Chicago’s “interesting music” vanguard for more than 20 years—my introduction to him was in the mid-90s at the Fireside Bowl, when he was fronting short-lived (and totally excellent) no-wave horror punks Lake of Dracula. If you held a gun to my head today (please don’t!) and told me to make a list of the top ten “rock” bands I’ve ever seen live, I’m pretty sure Lake of Dracula would be on there somewhere. The Reader‘s Peter Margasak described the Magas of that era as “a genuine maniac” who balanced “confrontational zeal . . . and arrhythmic whooping with propulsive hectoring,” which is also an apt description of his present guise as one-man electro party Magas—a project that’s been turning out dance floors with screwball MPC-generated thump since 2000.
When Gossip Wolf reported last year that he’d fired up weirdo-electronic vinyl-and-digital record label Midwich, through which he planned to release recordings from similarly inclined pals, I couldn’t wait to find out who else he’d wrangle to wax. Today we’re premiering two new tracks from Midwich’s dark coffers.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen gothic electronic duo Hide more than any other local band, and that’s no accident—they’re among Chicago’s most visceral and rewarding acts. Reader music editor Philip Montoro has done a great write-up about the band’s killer-chiller brutality to preview this Saturday’s release party, so I’m just going to quote him directly: “The new record’s primitive riffs and melodies stay drawn-out and deliberate, no matter how frantic the rhythms get: the 16th-note pulse of ‘Flesh for the Living,’ which sounds like the score of an eight-bit racing game, changes pitch only once briefly each bar, and the plodding, pitch-bent bass-synth lick in ‘Limb From Limb’ blows out a sawtooth waveform so insanely you can practically hear the speaker cones flapping.” Here’s the title track from the new 12-inch Flesh for the Living:
I’d only add that after seeing Hide live so many times—they employ serious volume, like any good writhing industrial-style music should—the nooks and crannies of Seth Sher’s production and Heather Gabel’s banshee wails sound radically crystalline on record.
I don’t know what kind of synthesizers Alex Barnett uses, but I do know that whenever I listen to any of his broad array of recordings—which include solo efforts, albums with Sher and Jeremiah Fisher as Oakeater, and a collaboration with Mamiffer‘s Faith Coloccia—I somehow feel like I’m the one being listened to. Since Barnett is such a notably nice guy, I’m probably just being paranoid about the insidious, mathematical intelligence I imagine that he’s arrayed against me—but “Slapwalk,” a twitchy and unsettling representative cut from his new LP, Chew From the Mind, drops me into the slow-build horror-film mind frame of the surveilled:
On Saturday, April 2, the Empty Bottle hosts a Midwich sandwich of sorts—Hide and Barnett will perform to celebrate their new recordings, along with sets from Magas, Viki Viktoria, and DJ Mike Broers, who uploaded a fine Midwich mix to the label’s Soundcloud last week.