This spring, east-coast instrumental duo Elkhorn released On the Whole Universe in All Directions (Centripetal Force), and Chicago’s Elijah McLaughlin Ensemble released the equally game-changing III (Astral Spirits). Though their sounds are distinct, the two bands aim at a common goal of musical transcendence—which may help explain how they ended up on this bill together. The members of Elkhorn switch up their instrumentation for this release; Drew Gardner, who usually plays electric guitar, instead overdubs drums and gauzy layers of vibraphone that exchange solemnly spiritual phrases with Jesse Sheppard’s patiently strummed 12-string acoustic guitar. The Elijah McLaughlin Ensemble adds musicians and instruments in order to enrich the textures of its leader’s pastoral melodies. McLaughlin doubles on guitars and synthesizer, blending his contributions with Katinka Kleijn’s cello, Adler Scheidt’s piano, and Joel Styzens’s hammered dulcimer to form spacey swirls over the surging rhythms of upright bassist Jason Toth. But for this concert, both groups will get back to fundamentals. The McLaughlin Ensemble will be represented only by its core members, McLaughlin and Toth, who’ll perform distillations of their recorded work and debut some new themes. And for Elkhorn’s first Chicago appearance since 2019, Gardner will be back on electric guitar, with Sheppard on 12-string and Ian McColm (Heart of the Ghost, Center) on drums. This configuration is similar to the lineup that played the open-ended, skirling jams on Elkhorn’s 2022 release, Distances (Feeding Tube). Scott Verrastro (Kohoutek, Curanderos) will open the concert by playing an improvised percussion duo with McColm; Elijah McLaughlin and Jason Toth will play second, and Elkhorn will headline.
Elkhorn, Elijah McLaughlin & Jason Toth Scott Verrastro opens in a duo with Ian McColm, who will also drum with Elkhorn. Fri 5/5, 9 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, $10, 21+