Mako Sica and Hamid Drake Credit: Maria De Lourdes Resto

Since I first encountered it nearly a decade ago, I’ve repeatedly tried to engage with the music of Chicago trio Mako Sica. The determinedly exploratory ensemble couches improvisational impulses within meditative, expansive prog-rock modes more concerned with using chants, texture-rich guitar, and spacious rhythms to carve out space than with displaying hollow virtuosity. Unfortunately, their music has always left me underwhelmed, sounding noodly in parts where I wanted it to be probing. Recently the trio—guitarist and trumpeter Przemysław Drążek, singer and multi-instrumentalist Brent Fuscaldo, and percussionist and keyboardist Chaetan Newell—released Ronda (Feeding Tube/Astral Spirits), a collaboration with sublime Chicago percussionist Hamid Drake, and the results assuage every issue I’ve ever taken with their music. On both their composed material and free improvisations, Drake’s preternatural sense of groove gives the music of Mako Sica the muscular armature it’s always lacked. It also provides a sense of order that gives a dramatic shape to even their most amorphous jams, adding waves of melody and atmosphere that feel inspired by 70s Miles Davis and moody guitar twang that falls into the general vicinity of the spaghetti-western scores of Ennio Morricone. Drake seems to bring out the best in the musicians, who constantly shift instrumentation and meticulously weave a richly textured soundscape that never sticks to one vibe or rhythmic feel for too long.   v