Joshua Abrams Credit: Charlie Gross

Chicago jazz and improvised-music linchpin Joshua Abrams could continue to explore the outer reaches of minimalism with his Natural Information Society ensemble for decades and have no trouble maintaining a hypnotic atmosphere. The eight-piece band’s upcoming fifth album, Mandatory Reality (Eremite), opens with two sprawling tracks. The group is so successful at casting spells that “Finite,” which features Hamid Drake feeling out a graceful rhythm on the tabla, seems like it lasts just a moment despite being nearly 40 minutes long. And aside from the woodwind trill on “Agree” and the rapid horn stabs on the anxious, occasionally distressing “Shadow Conductor”—played by cornetist Ben LaMar Gay, alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella, and bass clarinetist Jason Stein—Mandatory Reality largely moves with gentle steps. On “In Memory’s Prism,” Abrams’s skeletal guimbri provides a foundation for Lisa Alvarado’s sighing harmonium, and for the tender, cycling horns, which emerge and dissipate like small waves breaking on a beach. On March 23, the group will appear at the Bohemian National Cemetery as part of the Empty Bottle’s Beyond the Gate series.   v