BENNY GREEN TRIO In the early 90s, pianist Benny Green emerged as a vibrant jazz throwback, making spunky trio albums for Blue Note that recalled the label’s 50s and 60s output in sound, feel, and look. Now, at age 48, he’s a veteran, with a humbler approach—he seems to be playing more for the sheer joy of it, rather than trying to build himself up as a hotshot. His new trio album, Source (Jazz Legacy), is his first as a leader in more than a decade, but he’s still devoted to that same era, playing hard-driving classics by the likes of Sonny Clark, Duke Pearson, Kenny Drew, and Horace Silver. Backed by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington (no relation), who’ll also join him for this engagement, Green exults in the comfortable pleasures of blues-soaked postbop, with a focus on precision, not flash. His solos manipulate familiar vocabulary in exhilarating ways, building zigzagging single-note lines around percussive low-end punctuation that sets the heart racing. —Peter Margasak See also Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, $25.
NEURAXIS Even by metal standards, Montreal-based tech-death band Neuraxis have had a revolving-door lineup since forming in 1994—one pretty much has to assume that their intricate matrix of pain somehow preserves the group’s collective memory and keeps them sounding like themselves. They’ve just released their sixth studio album, Asylon (Prosthetic), the second with singer Alec Leblanc and the first with no original members (founding bassist Yan Thiel was replaced by Olivier Pinard two years ago). I’d like to say I can hear a dramatic difference, but the truth is I can’t—the sheer violence of their music suggests a dystopian existence where individuality has ceased to matter and humans are all just fodder for vicious high-speed war machines. Guitarist Robin Milley, who’s been in the band for 15 years, seems to be reaching for the posthuman with his compositions, particularly the longer tracks (that is, anything over four minutes—these guys don’t really do epics), and the skittering, rupturing guitar lines sound like somebody playing jazz fusion on outer-space meth. Whatever happens to Neuraxis’s lineup next, I doubt it’ll matter: this stuff has so much momentum of its own, someday it might not even need humans to play it at all. —Monica Kendrick Sepultura headlines; Belphegor, Hate, Keep of Kalessin, Neuraxis, and Bonded by Blood open. 5 PM, Reggie’s Rock Club, $28. A
D. CHARLES SPEER & THE HELIX When Dave Shuford adopts the nom du rock D. Charles Speer, he gives himself license to delve into pieces of personal history that his long-running improvisational group, the No-Neck Blues Band, won’t touch. On the solo LP Arghiledes (Thrill Jockey) he reconciles his experimental tendencies with his Greek roots, plucking a bouzouki, keeping time with finger cymbals and a whiskey glass, and growling 80-year-old odes to Piraeus hash dens through a haze of dub effects and feedback that’s also pierced by the occasional blues lick. But with the Helix, a lusty combo that includes steel-guitar wizard Marc Orleans and barroom keyboardist Hans Chew, he plays straight-up country-rock that reflects some of the other sounds he heard growing up in Georgia. Leaving the Commonwealth (Thrill Jockey), their latest album, serves up joy and tragedy in equal measure—some songs celebrate Cajun cooking and antique records, while others memorialize Civil War casualties and old friend Jack Rose, the late guitarist who toured and recorded with the Helix. —Bill Meyer Helen Money headlines; D. Charles Speer & the Helix, Blink., and Zachary Cale open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, $8, free with RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GREG STUART Radical music has rarely sounded as gorgeous as the collaborations of percussionist Greg Stuart and composer Michael Pisaro. Pisaro’s resonant pieces include field recordings, prepared and processed sounds, and instrumental passages performed by musicians, who make many of the final decisions about what sounds to play (so long as they place them where the composer wants them). Stuart has been recording Pisaro’s pieces for five years, finding in them the inspiration to create vast environments of tiny yet distinct sounds (one long-form piece, Ricefall, comprises 64 tracks of dry rice falling on various objects) framed by palpable silences. A Transparent Gate With Six Panels, which Pisaro developed specifically for Stuart, superimposes live performance on triangle, woodblocks, crotales, and a Tibetan bell over an eight-channel recording of the same instruments. —Bill Meyer 7:30 PM, Elastic, $7. A
CRYSTAL STILTS Were there an organization called the National Association of Reverb Effects Manufacturers, it would probably award some sort of plaque to Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts in recognition of their work on behalf of reverb effects units. The band has released a string of records—most notably 2008’s Pitchfork-approved debut long-player, Alight of Night—that’s helped inspire an entire generation of young garage-pop bands to drench their recordings in so much echo that their tunes nearly get lost in it, and there’s no way that hasn’t boosted the sales of effects pedals. The group’s recent In Love With Oblivion (Slumberland) is as cavernous as their past efforts, and the songs’ hooks—specifically on “Shake the Shackles” and “Half a Moon,” which find the sweet spot between their twee-pop progressions and Brad Hargett’s gothy, near-monotone vocals—are strong enough that the production can’t wash them out. —Miles Raymer See also Saturday. Eternal Summers and the Beets open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, $12.
ANTHONY PATERAS Over the past decade, Australian pianist and composer Anthony Pateras has moved fluidly between genres—classical, noise, free improvisation, experimental rock—and threaded them all together with his fierce curiosity and subtle virtuosity. This year his free-improv quintet Thymolphthalein released Ni Maitre, Ni Marteau (Editions Mego), a spiky, pleasingly grimy session whose extremes in sound and gesture are marked out at one end by the tape-machine smears of Jerome Noetinger and at the other by the thudding percussion of Will Guthrie; last year his duo with hardcore punk drummer Max Kohane, Pivixki, released the visceral Gravissima (Lexicon Devil), which sounds a bit like an instrumental piano-and-drums answer to Japanese punk-prog dervishes Ruins. His 2008 album Chromatophore (Tzadik) collects a sprawling assortment of unconventional compositions—chamber music heavy with weird string friction, an equilibrium-destroying percussion piece—and his long-running trio with drummer Sean Baxter and prepared-guitar player David Brown spotlights his work on prepared piano, whose sharp, prickly tone suggests next-century hammered-dulcimer music. He also has an excellent electronic duo with Robin Fox, and on their 2009 album End of Daze (Editions Mego) he creates a violent array of piercing, squiggling bursts with a Doepfer A-100 (a modular synth) and a Revox tape machine. For his Chicago debut, Pateras will debut a four-channel computer piece in homage to French sound poet Henri Chopin, which he prepared for the occasion; it uses rapidly panned samples of prepared piano, manipulated Doepfer, and brief recordings of his voice distorted with the Revox machine, and he’ll perform it in darkness. —Peter Margasak 8 PM, Graham Foundation, Madlever House, 4 W. Burton, 312-787-4071, free with RSVP to pateras.eventbrite.com. A At 8 PM on Tue 5/24 at Mayne Stage, Third Coast Percussion and flutist Tim Munro of Eighth Blackbird premiere Lost Compass, a commissioned piece by Pateras, who will be in attendance; tickets are $15.
POIRIER In the music world, Montreal is best known as home to the Arcade Fire and somewhat less so as home to the family of blog-beloved indie-rock bands surrounding Wolf Parade. It’s also home to a more obscure—and more interesting—genre called “lazer bass,” a booming, party-starting hybrid of dance music and dancehall named by New Yorker pop critic Sasha Frere-Jones in a 2008 blog post. His coinage never really caught on, and neither has the sound—and the latter is a hell of a shame. Lazer bass not only has everything that’s led dubstep to nightclub domination—ridiculous, throbbing bass lines and choppy but eminently danceable beats—but also adds the frenetic energy of dancehall, a style that’s well-represented in Montreal’s large Caribbean community. Ghislain Poirier is one of the foremost proponents of lazer bass, and on his DJ mixes and original productions—like the 2010 album Running High (Ninja Tune)—he shows a rare gift for stringing together bangers massive enough to reduce clubs to rubble and audiences to a state of exhausted, danced-out bliss. —Miles Raymer Blockhead headlines; Poirier, Quadratic, MC Zulu, DJ Demchuk, and Abstract Science DJs open. 8:30 PM, Abbey Pub, $20, $18 in advance.
AUSTRA Dark female-fronted electro-pop, the kind that tends to come with slightly ironic cloaks or swaths of outrageous eye makeup, has been doing pretty well as of late: there’s Bat for Lashes (Natasha Khan), Glasser (Cameron Mesirow), and of course Fever Ray (Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Knife). Add to that list Austra, a new Toronto trio headed by Katie Stelmanis and her shape-shifting, ethereal voice. Their promising debut, Feel It Break (Domino), doesn’t exactly reinvent the subgenre—self-consciously dramatic song titles like “Darken Her Horse,” “Spellwork,” and “Shoot the Water” make it easy to guess what it’ll sound like—but even when the beats are a bit colorless, Stelmanis keeps the songs fresh with her bewitching, Siouxsie Sioux-influenced gothic mystique. Trained in opera, she can lift her droning vocals effortlessly into a smooth, airy upper register or drop into a throaty sort of sassy, sultry sing-talking. Stelmanis definitely gets it, but whether or not Austra the band are worthy of their own mood-lighting technician remains to be seen. —Kevin Warwick Gemini Club opens with a DJ set. 9 PM, Beauty Bar, $5.
TOMMY STINSON Tommy Stinson first came to the music world’s attention in the 80s as the underage bassist for proto-indie upstarts the Replacements. Like most of his bandmates, he followed up the group’s 1991 breakup with a couple collections of somewhat satisfying pseudo-Replacements rock, most notably as leader of the band Bash & Pop. Then in 1998 his career took a bizarre turn when he joined Guns N’ Roses after Axl Rose fired what was left of their lineup; he’s been with them ever since, making Stinson the longest-running bassist in GnR history. He also found time to join Soul Asylum and briefly record a couple tunes with a reunited Replacements—though without his late brother, Bob. For this tour he’s performing songs from his days in Bash & Pop and another post-Replacements group called Perfect, along with solo material that draws from 2004’s Village Gorilla Head and a new record he plans to release this summer. —Miles Raymer Slobberbone and Dave Hause open. 9 PM, Double Door, $10.
LUCINDA WILLIAMS Lucinda Williams has never made a bad record, but she hasn’t made a great one in more than a decade. She set an impossibly high standard for herself in 1998 with the perfect Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Mercury), and though the new Blessed (Lost Highway) likewise fails to reach that level, it’s her best since then. Williams’s strongest material tends to be fueled by misery, so it’s good to hear that even though she’s now happily married to former Universal executive Tom Overby her writing hasn’t slipped. Even the sweetest, most tender songs on the new album—like the quasi-lullaby “Born to Be Loved,” where the protagonist strives to preserve a newborn’s innocence, or the title track, where Williams wonders at random acts of kindness and selflessness—aren’t cloying in the slightest. That’s not to say Williams has turned into a Pollyanna: on “Buttercup” she cuts off an abusive, manipulative former lover with searing bluntness, and on the poetic “Soldier’s Song” she alternates between the narrator’s brutal war experience and the simplicity of his wife and child’s lives back home. The melodies and arrangements on Blessed are just as effective as the lyrics; they underline the dissolute melancholy of “Copenhagen” (about learning of a friend’s passing) and the inchoate rage of “Seeing Black” (a litany of questions about the reasons for a suicide). And Williams’s voice—which combines sensuality, vulnerability, and strength with alchemical grace—remains as remarkable as ever. —Peter Margasak See also Sunday. 8 PM, Park West, $40. 18+
See Saturday. 8 PM, Park West, $40. 18+
LYKKE LI As much as I loved Lykke Li‘s 2008 debut album, Youth Novels, over time the quirky Swedish singer’s occasionally wispy vocals and childlike hooks started nagging at me like burrs. The fantastic new Wounded Rhymes (LL/Atlantic) is much poppier, but it’s also bigger and bolder—working again with producer Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn & John, she tries the Phil Spector wall-of-sound approach, albeit with much sparser instrumentation. Heavy quasi-tribal drums ring with miles of reverb, and old-school girl-group harmonies (from Zhala Rifat and Wildbirds & Peacedrums vocalist Mariam Wallentin) shadow Li’s sweet cry. Muffled organ chords, simple guitar patterns, and floor-rumbling bass tones fill out the sonic landscape, and while about half the tunes wed their booming beats to harmonically minimalist melodies where there’s hardly a chord change, the others borrow transparently from Brill Building pop, doo-wop, and 50s dream pop. The echo that swaddles everything mutes the ebullience of Li’s frothy melodies, an appropriate effect considering the content of her lyrics, written in solitude in Los Angeles after a painful breakup. The songs sting, whether she’s rhapsodically embracing heartbreak (“Sadness is a blessing / Sadness is a pearl / Sadness is my boyfriend”) or nonchalantly exerting her power. Wounded Rhymes is both more accessible and more mature, and though the music is still giddy, it hits much harder than before. —Peter Margasak Grimes opens. 8 PM, Metro, sold out. A
MAN MAN Albums can almost seem like a formality for bands that focus on spectacular live shows. Fortunately that’s not the case with Philadelphia’s favorite crazy-painted, tighty-whitey warriors, Man Man. On first listen their brand-new Life Fantastic (Anti-), the long-awaited follow-up to 2008’s Rabbit Habits, sounds like good times (albeit weird times), with the familiar grab-bag instrumentation (horns, xylophones, household utensils, etc) and hopped-up rhythms twisted and braided into staccato bursts of fun-house pop. But closer listens reveal just how dark the depths beneath can get. As jaunty as the record is, front man Honus Honus uses his signature wordplay, filled with startling rhymes and puns, to make shameless, abject cries to heaven—bad luck, bad romance, and an overall bad relationship with the human condition, rendered as unblinkingly as anything on, say, an Eels album. There’s a lot of death and despair on Life Fantastic, woven into a sound that’s almost aggressively playful. Never underestimate the healing effects of manic, hysterical laughter—especially from a band that has such a gift for the orgiastic. —Monica Kendrick Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers open. 9 PM, Metro, $19, $17 in advance. 18+
KLANG When the Chicago Jazz Festival asked James Falzone to pay homage to Benny Goodman in 2009, the centennial of his birth, the local clarinetist wasn’t known as a practitioner of the buoyant swing that Goodman turned into some of the most popular music in 1930s America. Falzone is always game for a challenge, though—he’d already interpreted Messiaen as well as traditional French and Arabic music—and he created relatively faithful arrangements of Goodman classics for his quartet Klang (vibist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Jason Roebke, and drummer Tim Daisy), even bringing in guitarist Dave Miller to play the part of Charlie Christian. But when he finally got around to recording the project for the superb new Other Doors (Allos Documents), he transformed that swing-era music into something much more personal and contemporary. On “Memories of You” he elongates the melody almost unrecognizably over a funereal tempo, and on “Rose Room” he updates Goodman’s intimate small-group aesthetic, particularly in his beautiful pinpoint interactions with Adasiewicz. In the album’s liner notes, he writes that one thing he likes about those small-group records is that “personality is as important as notes,” and the members of Klang demonstrate similar priorities, especially on Falzone’s new compositions for the project. (He wrote almost half the tunes on the album.) Various combinations of four guest players—cornetist Josh Berman, trombonist Jeb Bishop, reedist Keefe Jackson, and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm—flesh out some of the arrangements, and a similar eight-piece lineup will perform at this release party. Nick Broste will sub for Bishop and Nate McBride will sub for Roebke, who’s on tour. —Peter Margasak Jason Stein spins. 9:30 PM, Hideout, $7.
CAITLIN ROSE Young Nashville singer Caitlin Rose doesn’t have a classic country voice—she’s like Zooey Deschanel without the pitch problems—but on her debut album, Own Side Now (Theory 8), she puts a gentle spin on the proto-countrypolitan sound of Patsy Cline and the 70s California country of Linda Ronstadt. Rose’s warm, soft-focus melodies benefit from richly varied arrangements that mix in strings and horns to punch up both her sweet singing and the woozy cry of Luke Schneider’s pedal steel. The album was coproduced by Mark Nevers, who’s worked with everyone from Lambchop to Bobby Bare to Candi Staton, and he brings his fluency in soul and twang to its relaxed, confident grooves. Most of Rose’s songs deal in failed or sputtering romance, but with the exception of “Shanghai Cigarettes,” which sounds a bit like a lost Paul Burch classic, they don’t pack much lyrical punch—in that excellent tune, though, Rose turns the last puff of a pack’s last cigarette into a metaphor for the demise of a relationship. At 23, she’s certainly someone to keep an eye on. —Peter Margasak Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit headline. 8:30 PM, Mayne Stage, $16. A