Minimalism isn’t always the cool, dry thing academia has led many to believe it is. The guitar playing of Loren MazzaCane Connors revolves around tiny, fragile, bluesy gestures that drip with emotion and long bent notes that resonate like sobs; both his older, gentler work and his newer, amped-up efforts convey the same sort of introspective, elegiac beauty. Connors’s intensely personal style has little room for fixed structures, but when he performs with guitarist Alan Licht (Blue Humans, Run On), his musings get a grounding without getting fettered. While in some sense Licht plays the straight man, his structures are hardly sacrosanct either–he moves with Connors, sometimes following and sometimes prodding, providing a fluid framework for him to improvise within. Without a trace of pyrotechnics, this duo manages–most recently on Two Nights (Road Cone)–to make some of the most beautifully wrenching guitar music on record. Composer Arnold Dreyblatt’s brand of minimalism is a bit more formal. He’s studied under La Monte Young, Pauline Oliveros, and Alvin Lucier, and his music explores unusual sonorities and slowly developing harmonic effects using an alternative tuning system called just intonation. But as 1995’s superb Animal Magnetism (Tzadik) makes plain, Dreyblatt’s writing and his performing group, the Orchestra of Excited Strings, keep things surprisingly lively. While his compositions are built on numbing repetition, careful listening reveals a rich undercurrent of beautifully shifting sound. Dreyblatt will make his Chicago debut performing on bass and supported by various Chicagoans, including Gastr del Sol’s David Grubbs and Jim O’Rourke (whose Dexter’s Cigar label will reissue his masterful 1982 debut, Nodal Excitation, this fall). In their opening set, Gastr will perform an unrecorded piece by fellow minimalist Phill Niblock; there will also be a screening of the short film Kick That Habit, which features the Swiss electronic duo Voice Crack. Sunday, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 773-525-6620. Licht and O’Rourke perform together Saturday at 4 PM, Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway; 773-404-5080. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Arnold Dreyblatt, Loren Mazzacane Connors and Alan Licht by Paula Court.