An Eagle Horse from Como Park
An Eagle Horse from Como Park

Philip Montoro,
Reader music editor, is obsessed with. . .

Witch Mountain, Cauldron of the Wild This four-piece from Portland, Oregon, pairs clean female vocals with charcoal black guitars and dilated, doomy riffs. Singer Uta Plotkin sounds like Ann Wilson of Heart if she’d been raised by wolves—which works especially well on the lines “Don’t know if you’re dead / But I like it that way / ‘Cause you know if I knew / Don’t know what I’d do.” Cauldron of the Wild comes out Tue 6/12, and Witch Mountain plays at the Empty Bottle on Sat 6/16.

The Como Park carousel cassette In the late 70s someone taped a carousel calliope in Saint Paul, Minnesota, capturing it in a state of disastrous disrepair—and a few years ago that man’s son, Ned Hurley, submitted the recording to the blog Tape Findings. The horns sound like slowly deflating geese, and various valves jammed open or closed produce queasy, out-of-place drones and melodies gap-toothed with missing notes—the calliope’s renditions of pop chestnuts (including “Hello Dolly,” “Seventy-Six Trombones,” and, um, “It’s Not Unusual”) are hilariously abject and decrepit.

El-P, “For My Upstairs Neighbor,” from Cancer for Cure El-P has been working on the brand-new Cancer for Cure for years—his previous record, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, dropped in 2007—but it’s like he knew all along that at the time of its release Republicans in Congress would be fighting to weaken the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. “For My Upstairs Neighbor” addresses a woman in El-P’s apartment building whose husband or boyfriend he can hear beating her. It’s not the most confrontational-­sounding track, but the sung chorus is the most powerful lyric on the album: “If you kill him, I won’t tell.” El-P plays at Bottom Lounge on Fri 7/6.

He asks. . .

Dudley Bayne, keyboardist for Cheer-­Accident, jazz pianist, composer, what he’s obsessed with. His answers are. . .

Fred Frith, Traffic Continues This remarkably varied, fresh, and often delightfully surprising album, released by Winter & Winter in 2000, is the product of a collaboration between Fred Frith and venerable German new-music group Ensemble Modern. Frith combines improvisation and game and chance operations in two series of pieces titled Traffic Continues and Traffic Continues II: Gusto (For Tom Cora). The performances reveal an ensemble willing to sweat and grapple with challenging instructions, and Frith’s whimsical sense of humor makes the group’s efforts all the more worthwhile.

Marc Mellits Composer Marc Mellits recently moved to Chicago to teach composition and music theory at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Originally from Baltimore, Mellits has studied at the Eastman School of Music, Yale School of Music, Cornell University, and Tanglewood. After one look at the titles he gives his works—Shredded Paranoid Cheese, Desperate Miniature Humans, Tight Sweater Remix—you won’t be surprised to learn that they’re far from staid or academic. Mellits writes with intensity and verve, tapping a pop-­culture sensibility akin to Steve Reich’s but with more of a rock edge and an unassuming wit.

St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic The St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic was founded in 2002 by Chicago’s own Jeffery Meyer, who grew up in nearby Western Springs and currently serves as director of orchestras at Ithaca College School of Music. It’s impressive enough to start an orchestra halfway across the world, but even more so to keep it running for a decade. The St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic has brought new music and musicians to Russian audiences and Russian musicians to America. The group made its U.S. debut as part of Symphony Space’s 2010 Wall to Wall Behind the Wall festival in New York City.

He asks. . .

Boris Hauf, Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist and part-time Chicagoan, what he’s obsessed with. His answers are. . . I put on a record when I know what I want to listen to. If I want to discover something new but still fancy control over the range of that “new,” I turn on the radio. As anyone who’s traveled Europe knows, radio here sucks. If you’re looking to find anything alternative or even simply tolerably mainstream, you’re lost. My buddy Steve, also a Berlin resident, was spot-on when he said, “ saved my ass in many ways.”

Fred Anderson The very first time I visited Chicago, Fred Anderson invited me to “come down to the Lounge.” We sat at the bar, drank Coke, and chatted. Thrilled that such a sax giant would hang out with little me, I asked something about “free vs. nonfree” in music. He seemed annoyed and changed the subject. Many hours later, while I was bidding my farewell, Fred mused, “You know . . . that question you asked earlier . . . I think I want to answer that one now.” He took out his tenor and started blowing like only Fred Anderson could. I’ll never forget that man.

Levon Helm Recently I was invited to contribute to the “interactive library” of a performance festival. It was guaranteed that “no book would ever be allowed to leave the space of the library and that they’d be stored and locked every night.” I chose to loan my copy of This Wheel’s on Fire, Levon Helm’s retelling of the story of the Band. After the festival was over, all books were returned but mine. It was the only book that was stolen. Good for Levon. And the thief.