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Chicago explorers Bitchin Bajas to pay homage to Sun Ra

Last fall Chicago drone explorers Bitchin Bajas released a cassette of synthesizer-only Sun Ra covers called Switched on Ra (Drag City). The trio of Cooper Crain, Rob Frye, and Dan Quinlivan combine feel-good vibes with versatility and flexibility—they’ve shape-shifted into a free-jazz-inspired combo on Frye’s 2021 solo LP, Exoplanet (Astral Spirits), and leaned into their […]

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Chicago singer-songwriter Claude makes dream pop for the youth, young and old

“I’m a twentysomething / Don’t you think it’s about time?” Chicago singer-songwriter Claudia Ferme, aka Claude, sighs on “Twenty Something,” which opens her debut full-length, A Lot’s Gonna Change (American Dreams). The track breathes and pulses through dream-pop heaven with swirling, chiming guitars and distant, mellow horns. It’s meant to be redolent of a certain […]

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Drummer Susie Ibarra and guitarist Tashi Dorji subdivide sound and silence on Master of Time

In 2019, the Tang Museum at Skidmore College presented The Second Buddha: Master of Time, an exhibition concerning Padmasambhava, the guru credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet during the eighth century. Along with lectures and exhibits both visual and virtual, the museum commissioned a concert—conceived as a “musical bardo exploration”—by Susie Ibarra, a Philippine American […]

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Chicago duo Conjunto Primitivo concoct an irresistible blend of reggaeton and industrial

In March 2020, when I wrote about underground industrial label Chicago Research and the tight-knit community that surrounded it, I heard that local duo Conjunto Primitivo planned to release their debut full-length through the label. Considering how that month ended, I’m not surprised to see that album coming out only now—and I can’t argue with […]

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Chicago guitarist Melody Angel sings blues-rock that celebrates life and demands justice

Chicago guitarist and vocalist Melody Angel combines fiery celebrations of life with equally fearless and uncompromising demands for social justice. Her style of blues-rock mixes genres and influences as freely and as pointedly as her lyrics assault the boundaries between the personal and the political. Angel counts Hendrix and Prince among her idols, and though […]

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Back Alley Jazz renews a south-side tradition

In 2018, Back Alley Jazz, an offshoot of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, thrummed the heartstrings of nostalgic south-siders when it resuscitated the popular neighborhood-alley jams that took place in the community from the mid-1960s into the ’70s. Since then, this riff on tradition has become a tradition itself, turning unassuming corridors and street corners […]