Lakshmi Ramgopal at the May 6 opening concert for A Half-Light Chorus Credit: Philip Montoro

A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

Philip Montoro, Reader music editor

Anna von Hausswolff, Dead Magic On her fourth studio album, Dead Magic, this Swedish singer does what Swans haven’t managed in decades. With her heavy postrock band, a massive pipe organ, and her wild, piercing, ragged voice, she simultaneously evokes thundering vastness and terrifying intimacy, implacable truths and unknowable secrets.

Lakshmi Ramgopal, A Half-Light Chorus This sound installation by the artist also known as Lykanthea runs through July 22 in the Fern Room of Lincoln Park Conservatory, as part of ESS‘s Florasonic series. Inconspicuous speakers play a looped four-channel recording of nine vocalists imitating 22 different birds from India and from Sanskrit literature, among them the puff-throated babbler, the Indian peafowl, and the blue-bearded bee eater (their names appear on signs similar to the conservatory’s plant markers). The vocalists include Ramgopal, her mother, and her infant niece, to whom A Half-Light Chorus is dedicated. Being surrounded by their calls feels eerily like wandering into a forest where the birds have suddenly developed human intelligence.

Demilich When I previewed the first Chicago show by these veteran Finnish death-metal weirdos, I didn’t get into their dry sense of humor. So here’s my best recollection of my favorite stage banter by front man and guitarist Antti Boman: “We were afraid to play in Chicago because of all the Mafia movies. Children shouldn’t be exposed to such films, don’t you think? But you all seem very nice. Even though you’re all in the Mafia.”

Philip is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

Asmahan in the 1944 film <i>Gharam wa Intiqam</i> (“Passion and Revenge”)
Asmahan in the 1944 film Gharam wa Intiqam (“Passion and Revenge”)

Zeynab Ghandour, artist and performer as Thoom

Asmahan, “Once I Entered a Garden” Asmahan is a famous Syrian-born singer from the 1930s. Her voice is heavy and somber, which I prefer to the light and birdy tone of a singer like Fairuz. She had a rough life navigating multiple wars, three marriages, and prejudices against women in music. My grandmother, Allah yerhama, used to sing this song so much that it’s sometimes hard to listen to now. It isn’t my preferred song that Asmahan has sung, but it holds another weight for me.

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Sote Iranian musician Ata Ebtekar, aka Sote, is actively developing the scene in Tehran. He started SET, an experimental electronic-music and arts festival in the city. My friend showed me his 2016 album, Hardcore Sounds From Tehran, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s an overwhelming wrath of relentlessly pounding machine rhythms and disintegration. It’s also very dynamic composition. Sote is very inspiring to me.

Halcyon Veil UK artist Rabit started the Halcyon Veil label in 2015, and their catalog is one of my favorite curations right now. Their releases are diverse in sound and approach, which I appreciate because honest experimentation comes in many different forms that are often divided by the history of the conventions they utilize. They have an André Breton quote on their website: “Perhaps the imagination is on the verge of recovering its rights. If the depths of our minds conceal strange forces capable of augmenting or conquering those on the surface, it is in our greatest interest to capture them.”

Zeynab is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

Vaporwave community SPF420 loved retrofuturistic beach-party imagery.
Vaporwave community SPF420 loved retrofuturistic beach-party imagery.

Ryan Beck, aka producer, programmer, and artist Scim

SPF420 In 2013, before the meme-ification of vaporwave, SPF420 was a group organized around the live broadcasting of niche micro-genres and experimental electronic music. It featured acts such as Foodman, Luxury Elite, and Giant Claw. There is a need for a new digital space that combines elements of existing music and social media platforms with a focus on original content created by artists. I think visiting a website should be as exciting as going to a club, especially when VR becomes widely adopted.

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Max The advent of the digital audio workstation and affordable, reliable computers has democratized music creation. I hope for a future in which all of my friends have the tools and time to create and share their art. Max takes this to the next level. It’s a visual programming language that allows artists to make their own instruments and audio effects. It’s also a great tool for experienced software developers to quickly prototype their programs.

Obe, Har Whenever someone asks me for a music recommendation, I’m increasingly inclined to suggest one of my friends from Chicago, since there are so many talented artists living here. As Obe, Oliver Beltran has been putting out some of my favorite tracks in the past few months. He’s fairly new to producing—he doesn’t have much more than a Soundcloud now—but he already has a refined sound.

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.