A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Peter Margasak, Reader music critic
Abu Obaida Hassan & His Tambour, The Shaigiya Sound of Sudan After a Sudanese expat cabbie told producer Vik Sohonie that a song he loved was by Abu Obaida Hassan, Sohonie spent five years tracking down Hassan’s music and then the man himself (though he’d been rumored dead). This collection features eight killer tracks from the 70s and 80s, with Hassan accompanying his own soulful singing on amplified tambour-a five-string lyre-over percolating Daleeb rhythms from northern Sudan. It’s an invaluable glimpse of a culture largely lost to the ravages of civil war.
Misha Mengelberg, Pech Onderweg A ravishing and deceptively slack solo set by Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg, this 1978 live recording was originally released in ’79 by Bvhaast (run by saxophonist Willem Breuker) and reissued last year on vinyl by ICP. It captures the pianist’s idiosyncratic improvisational logic as he morphs from one episode to the next, his ideas sometimes sticking the threads together and sometimes flinging them apart.
The International Nothing, In Doubt We Trust The duo of German clarinetists Kai Fagaschinksi and Michael Thieke create all manner of psychoacoustic effects with acoustic instruments, building a seamless 37-minute piece from long tones, tongue pops, spittle flecks, unpitched breaths, and other extended techniques. They drone, pulse, wiggle, and swarm, pulling apart and coming together, sometimes suggesting electronic feedback, and generally producing an experience so immersive I’m bummed when it ends.
Peter is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Bill Harris, Drummer, composer, and producer
Ben LaMar Gay, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun If you don’t know Ben, you better do something about it immediately. The Chicago multi-instrumentalist’s debut album, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun, compiles 15 tracks from records he’s made over the past seven years but never released. Ben is an iconoclast and a hugely creative spirit, and on this album he melds an expansive amount of sound and imagery into something that feels like a 15-scene movie rather than a simple audio recording.
Ryley Walker, Deafman Glance I first became familiar with Ryley years ago, when I stumbled upon his 2015 release Primrose Green. I’ve always been impressed with his songwriting as well as his melodic and harmonic sensibilities, and on the new Deafman Glance they’ve matured into something more abstract and complex. I also appreciate Ryley’s ability to get the right musicians in a room together to create something extraordinary.
ZRL, ZRL The group ZRL consists of three of my favorite Chicago musicians and improvisers: Lia Kohl on cello, Zach Good on clarinet and other reeds, and Ryan Packard on vibraphone, electronics, and drums. Every time I see them play live, I’m impressed with their ability to straddle the blurry line between new music and improvisation in a way that makes their work sound composed. Plus something about the timbral combination of vibes, cello, and clarinet on their self-titled 2017 album is incredibly colorful to me and makes it hard to put down.
Bill is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Angel Bat Dawid, Clarinetist, pianist, composer, and vinyl addict
Marvin Tate Chicago is just burstin’, oozin’, and drippin’ with rich and tantalizing creative juices. One of the local musicians whose name I want to blast out there is master poet, artist, and singer Marvin Tate. Once again he’s put together something so magically amazing: his band the Kitchen Sink. His riveting poetry songs often deal with hot topics-on “N Word,” for instance, he preaches all in n-words without ever saying the N-word. And then there’s “Black Bike Ride,” where he leads a chant describing thousands of black people riding bikes naked and how powerful the images of “tattoos and booty cracks” would be. Getting slapped in the face with that much blackness all at once . . . it’s pretty epic.
Gira Dahnee Chicago composer, pianist, and vocalist Gira Dahnee is coming out with her first full album, A Call to Love, this year! Her originaI compositions are hauntingly spiritual, vulnerable, and just wondrously beautiful. To get a dose of what this powerful sista is bringing, check out the riveting “Painted Waltz” from her 2015 EP Future Geechee.
Culture Power45 Culture Power45 is more than a record label-it’s an epic movement! Some of Chicago’s premier producers, DJs, and MCs have come together to create straight-to-vinyl hip-hop gloriousness. It’s a revolutionary thing to put hip-hop on vinyl in the MP3 download era. Join the movement!