A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Luca Cimarusti, Reader music listings coordinator
Dead & Company bootlegs The version of the Grateful Dead on the arena circuit now includes none other than John Mayer—the musical equivalent of a jersey bedsheet—filling in for the late, great Jerry Garcia. And as much as it pains me to say this, he’s totally killing it. Maybe because he’s only a little more than half the age of the surviving Dead members, he’s injecting these songs with the sort of energy not heard from the band since the 70s. Do I like John Mayer now? Bring this tour to Chicago, please!
Rev//Rev Indiana’s TV Ghost were one of my favorite current-day bands, so I guess it should be no surprise that the projects bubbling up from the ooze of their disintegration are really doing it for me as well. Rev//Rev, the new trio led by front man Tim Gick, take TV Ghost’s dramatic, spooky postpunk as a foundation, but instead of delivering it with the bombast of a five-piece rock band, they concentrate it into its purest form using synths, sequencers, and drum machines. Rev//Rev make excellently freaky and damaged gothy dance music.
Jandek I’ve recently started delving into the massive discography of this formerly mysterious outsider-folk weirdo. On his more than 70 records, he works with twisted, atonal acoustic-guitar musings, heartbreaking country tunes, and minimal, fractured bleakness. Jandek is the perfect soundtrack for the impending Chicago winter.
Luca is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Steven Hess, drummer for Locrian, RLYR, Cleared, and Haptic
Killing Joke, Pylon Like a lot of teens in the 80s, I was introduced to Killing Joke through Metallica’s cover of “The Wait.” From that point onward, I became a slightly obsessed fan. I recall listening to their 1980 self-titled release and the 1990 album Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions on a daily basis, which possibly created a subliminal influence—or damage, depending on how you look at it—that’s still with me. Pylon, the latest release from the original members, brings classic KJ to mind with its sound, structure, and politically and environmentally charged lyrics. The usual dose of experimentation is there too, and the sound is a bit fuller than back in the day.
The Rempis Percussion Quartet, Cash and Carry I could go on and on about how incredibly talented each of these players is, and how as a quartet they completely take it to a new level. But this release is all about memories for me—of the Hungry Brain, music, and friends—and those are great memories. Cash and Carry, which was recorded live at the Brain in August 2014, really captures that warm and cozy feeling I got every time I walked through those doors.
Chaos Echoes, Transient The latest LP from this French group is an epic, mind-bending experimental death-metal record. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard, at least at this level of craftsmanship: deconstructed psychedelic doom, drone, dark ambience, full-on blasts, and hell, even some brushwork on the drums. Every time I hear it I’m completely mesmerized and taken on some strange aural adventure.
Steven is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Mike Weis, drummer for Zelienople, Kwaidan, and Good Stuff House
The carillon at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel Last December I took a tour of the carillon on the U. of C. campus, the second-heaviest such instrument in the world, and got a close-up experience of its 72 bells in action. It was frigid that morning, but the tiny performance cabin way up in its tower in the sky was cozy—we watched as the carillon player hammered at the “keyboard” with his fists, creating a sublime, cascading aural bath of heavenly tones and textures.
The Monks of Songgwangsa Temple, Echoes of the Great Pines This disc collects exquisite recordings of daily rituals at a remote Buddhist monastery in Korea. Sounds play a large role in Korean Zen tradition, including the “Wake Up Sound” of the Great Bell at 3 AM, the gigantic Dharma Drum, the Wooden Fish Drum, and the Cloud Plate (an iron plate in the shape of a cloud). My favorite track is a brief recording of the Great Bell unaccompanied. This is at the opposite end of the bell-performance spectrum from the U. of C. carillon—just one bell, ringing until its sound decays before it’s struck again.
Kelan Phil Cohran & Legacy, African Skies My friend sent me this 1993 record while I was recovering from cancer treatment a few summers ago, and I listened to it tirelessly during the two weeks I spent walking circles in my living room attached to a catheter. The hypnotic rhythms of its strings, which Cohran conceived of as an elegy to his mentor Sun Ra, were the perfect pain relievers. v