Blue Rise by Quicksails Credit: Courtesy of Hausu Mountain

Many prolific musicians call Chicago home, but multi-instrumentalist Ben Baker Billington is a veritable Energizer Bunny. He’s been contributing otherworldly experimental sounds to the scene since his mid-aughts stint in noise project Druids of Huge, and his musical resumé is too long to reproduce in full here. Any outre artist looking for an open-minded collaborator with a refined ear and exacting technique would be well advised to call on Billington, and many have: he’s played drums for free-jazz misfits Tiger Hatchery, industrial-gospel legends Ono, and twisted psych-improv outfit ADT, as well as in the backing bands of Ryley Walker and Circuit des Yeux. Billington has also helped shape the city’s experimental scene as a concert programmer: he spearheads the Hideout’s monthly Resonance series, and during the COVID-19 pandemic he’s been helping organize Experimental Sound Studio’s celebrated livestream series, the Quarantine Concerts. Earlier this month, he became the assistant director of the Elastic Arts Foundation, the Logan Square community arts nonprofit that runs the eponymous performance space. But not to be forgotten amid all this activity is Billington’s long-running solo project, Quicksails. On Blue Rise, the latest Quicksails album for eclectic local label Hausu Mountain, he employs modular and digital synthesizers to create subtle, wide-screen tones. He teases the featherweight atmospheres of “Florian’s Brush” with drum brushstrokes, telegraphing an imminent shift in mood as sudden as a summer storm—it never arrives, though, and instead he builds toward a cinematic, heavenly melody. Billington understands how to harness the power of understatement, and on Blue Rise the tiniest details open doors to immersive worlds.   v