CHRISSY MURDERBOT Like a lot of dance-music fans, local producer Chris Shively (aka Chrissy Murderbot) has recently been a bit gaga over footwork music. In case you’re unfamiliar, footwork is the south-side-born descendant of house and juke known for its spooky melodies and 160 BPM tempos, and it’s got a growing reputation as a possible successor to dubstep, that au courant genre that unites dance-floor hedonists and cerebral art-music producers. A good number of the songs on Shively’s new full-length, Women’s Studies—released by esteemed British dance label Planet Mu, which has been on a footwork kick for the past year or so—are built around footwork beats. But as with his past efforts, he never sticks with one style for long, preferring to take sharp turns into electro, dancehall, or whatever else can hold his attention long enough for him to put a track together. This eclecticism suggests Shively could grow into a serious force in the dance-music world, despite his occasional goofiness—like the video-game-geek promo clip for “Bussin’ Down.” —Miles Raymer MC Zulu, DJ Nephets, and Lady Foursquare open. 10 PM, Smart Bar. F
SLOAN The title of Sloan’s new album might seem to be about betrayal, but The Double Cross (Yep Roc) actually celebrates the 20th anniversary of this four-piece from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who are stars in their homeland but remain cult figures in the U.S. (That’s 20 as in XX.) Such workmanlike cleverness is well suited to Sloan, whose music has always been reliable, unfussy, and comforting; it’s easy to appreciate, if occasionally hard to remember. It doesn’t help that the new record’s first three tunes are run together without pauses, which inadvertently makes them sound like one long song. Every member has contributed original material since day one, and maybe because they juggle power-pop hooks, classic-rock swagger, and new-wave gloss, they’ve never hit upon a readily identifiable sound. Still, the band has consistently pumped out catchy tunes with little apparent effort, and their tenth album is no exception—I always enjoy listening to a Sloan record, even if I almost never find myself craving one. —Peter Margasak Dearly Beloved opens. 8:30 PM, Subterranean, $15. 17+
DAMON & NAOMI, AMOR DE DIAS It’s been four years since Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang put out an album as Damon & Naomi. But just from listening it’s hard to tell that any time has passed between 2007’s Within These Walls and the new False Beats & True Hearts (20-20-20). Krukowski and Yang, formerly of Galaxie 500, figured out what they like as a duo almost 20 years ago, and they haven’t wavered from it since. This album is them doing what they’ve always done: slow, textured soundscapes that rest at the border between dream pop and shoegaze. The songs blur into one another, becoming one long, exquisite drone. The main way to tell the tracks apart is that sometimes Yang sings in her high wavery voice, sometimes Krukowski sings in his gentle half-speaking indie-boy voice, and sometimes they harmonize. And sometimes the pristine surface is broken by Ghost guitarist and longtime collaborator Michio Kurihara, whose virile classic-rock licks crack and bite against all that languid drifting with lovely incongruity. “All through the day / Waiting for love to arrive / Watching for signs it still exists / Hoping it could survive,” Yang sings on “Embers,” and this nostalgic sense of grasping after an ever-vanishing, flickering light nicely parallels the duo’s aesthetic interests. In some ways, Damon & Naomi are more timely now than ever—they look good through a haze. —Noah Berlatsky
As the duo Amor de Dias, Alasdair MacLean of the Clientele and Lupe Nuñez-Fernandez of Pipas set pretty melodies in gossamer arrangements that draw inspiration from the feel—though perhaps not the sound—of vintage bossa nova. They seem to be trying to make an art of wispiness and delicacy, and their debut album, Street of the Love of Days (Merge)—which is lovely if a tad slight—makes Everything but the Girl’s coolly cosmopolitan early material seem bubbly and demonstrative. Only after you adjust to the feather-stroke gentleness of Amor de Dias do the album’s details begin to make sense: the sudden, jagged guitar solo that cracks the calm of “Late Mornings,” for instance, or the bald-faced Satie rip on “Foxes” that works perfectly as a prelude to the mood that follows. For their first U.S. tour, MacLean and Nuñez-Fernandez will play acoustic Spanish guitars and be joined by cellist Heather McIntosh. —Peter Margasak Damon & Naomi headline; Amor de Dias and Good Night & Good Morning open. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, $12.
HAPPY THOUGHTS Indiana three-piece the Happy Thoughts (aka Eric & the Happy Thoughts) make a great soundtrack to a perfect midwestern summer of Tastee Freez trips, campground high jinks, and games of Marco Polo in the pool. The folks at HoZac have been championing the band for years now, and with good reason: nobody else seems to be playing this kind of pure, straight-ahead, distinctly heartland rock ‘n’ roll anymore. Their self-titled debut album, out on HoZac this week, hums with feel-good vibes, and even bummer jams like “Bad Days” are toe-tappy—trends come and go, but down-home, no-frills music like this never seems to go out of style. They’re playing day one of the resuscitated HoZac Blackout (see page B10), and they provide a good excuse to say something about the actual bands—too often, when the Blackout comes up, all anybody wants to talk about is the debauchery. But this reliably fubared festival has always offered its ‘faced audience a pretty broad spectrum of music—garage and punk, old and new, avant and pop all share the stage, and as long as it’s fun, raw, interesting, and devoid of indie-poseur doucheyness, it’s welcome at the party. Just make sure you’re still sober enough to sway when the Happy Thoughts take the stage. —Brian Costello The Spits headline; the Brides, K-Holes, TV Ghost, the Happy Thoughts, Mickey, and Squish open. 7 PM, Velvet Perineum, 2515 N. Milwaukee, 773-276-3600, $20, $45 two-day golden ticket.
REBIRTH BRASS BAND Formed in 1983, when most of its members were still in their teens, Rebirth Brass Band long ago established itself as a New Orleans institution, despite regular personnel turnover, and the terrific new Rebirth of New Orleans (Basin Street) expresses post-Katrina optimism for the group’s hometown in its self-referential title. The record mixes pop standards served up in avuncular post-Dixieland style (“Exactly Like You”), Crescent City staples (Dave Bartholomew’s “Shrimp and Gumbo”), and original tunes that flirt with the band’s raunchy side (“I Like It Like That”)—few acts can juggle family-friendly Carnival spirit with hip-hop-derived nastiness like Rebirth Brass Band (e.g., their irresistible 2001 song “Pop That Pussy”). The group pits precision and rawness against each other in a tug-of-war—chunky, funked-up second-line rhythms muss up jazz-grade solos and sharply contrapuntal brass lines. But as good as this record is—as good as all the band’s records are, for that matter—it’s a poor substitute for one of their live shows. Onstage, the ensemble not only knocks down the fourth wall but feeds on the audience energy that comes pouring through, pushing the rowdy fun into the red.
—Peter Margasak Luke Winslow King opens. 8 PM, SPACE, $30, $25 in advance.
ANNA CALVI British singer Anna Calvi only began performing in public about five years ago (she’s 28 now), after playing violin and guitar as a child and eventually earning a degree in orchestrating and arranging. It’s clear from her music, though, that she spent several of those early years cultivating her emotion-rich approach. On her self-titled debut on Domino, her powerful, crystalline voice summons the sound of dramatic wailers like Siouxsie Sioux and Polly Jean Harvey (her album was coproduced by Rob Ellis, who produced Harvey’s first LP and has been one of her regular contributing musicians). But Calvi’s twangy, reverb-drenched guitar and luminous vocal melodies make it apparent that she’s also absorbed ideas about heart-on-sleeve affect from everything from flamenco to chanson, not to mention early Scott Walker—she favors an old-school, highly theatrical approach brimming with opulent pathos. I don’t think her songwriting matches her thespian flair just yet, but she’s off to an excellent start. —Peter Margasak Cuckoo Chaos opens. 10 PM, Schubas, $12.
CEREBRAL BALLZY Hardcore was founded on the explicit rejection of hand-me-down nostalgia and a commitment to the guarantee that the form would never fall victim to backward-looking veneration the way the hippies’ rock revolution had. So does that mean all these twentysomething kids starting bands that mimic the first wave of hardcore—which went down long enough ago that their parents could have hit up those first all-ages shows—are missing the point? Or are they even punker than preceding generations of Bad Brains fans for rejecting hardcore’s dogma? These are questions one might ask of young Cerebral Ballzy and the group’s self-titled album (out this summer on Williams Street), if one were willing to overthink the compact, furious jams they kick out—but that would definitely be missing the point. —Miles Raymer This show is the first day of the Windy City Sound Clash, which wraps up Sun 5/29 at the same venue. Chixdiggit headline; Cerebral Ballzy, Kepi Ghoulie, Love & Squalor, and the Turkletons open. 5 PM, Subterranean, $12. A
RADIAN On their most recent album, 2009’s Chimeric (Thrill Jockey), Viennese instrumental trio Radian use different tools—Stefan Nemeth largely forgoes his usual synthesizers in favor of electric guitar—but continue to sculpt meticulous music that exploits the tension between relentless rhythms and weird, grainy, abstract sounds. On the opening blast, “Git Cut Noise,” Nemeth’s feedback-rich guitar noise and Martin Brandlmayr’s lean, exact drumming—judging by his style, he’s listened to a lot of This Heat—both seem over-the-top and almost improvised, but everything Radian does is painstaking. Though they rely on raw, unpredictable, and even accidental sounds, they edit, transform, and rearrange those sounds endlessly. Many of the tracks are built from seemingly incidental noises—indeterminate electronic buzzing and humming, the pop of a guitar cord being plugged into a live amp, the twitchy scratching of wire brushes on the head of Brandlmayr’s snare drum—many of which would end up excised from most groups’ songs. But Radian find musicality in them, transforming them into surging arrangements. On “Subcolors” they process a single guitar chord over and over—first it’s just the flat, dry sound of strings struck by a pick, followed by the same chord amplified by what might be different combinations of the instrument’s electronics, and then finally the sound is truncated and treated digitally to become something almost entirely new. That repeated, mutating chord, edited into a similarly shape-shifting rhythm, overlaps with Brandlmayr’s precise drumming and atmospheric vibraphone to create a kind of terse, hypnotically throbbing funk. This is Radian’s first Chicago show in six years, and considering how well they’ve translated each previous record to the stage, I can’t wait to hear it. —Peter Margasak Cleared (see Three Beats, page B7) and David Daniell open. 9 PM, Hideout, $12.
READING RAINBOW HoZac has a well-deserved reputation as a reliable source for grotty garage punk, but every once in a while it throws a changeup into the mix to keep us on our toes. One of my favorite recent surprises is Prism Eyes, the second full-length from Philadelphia boyfriend-girlfriend duo Reading Rainbow. Drummer Sarah Everton and organist and guitarist Rob Garcia play twee-as-kittens bubblegum with a primitivist performance style that verges on Beat Happening-esque. If you unpack the songs, though, you’ll find subtly complex hooks that, combined with Everton’s voice, Garcia’s droning keyboard, and the tasteful application of reverb throughout, almost make me want to compare the band to 90s dream-pop group Lush. At just over 40 minutes, the album’s maybe ten minutes longer than it needs to be, and on a straight top-to-bottom listen the drones start to get a little too drone-y. But playing the excellent opening track, “Wasting Time,” on repeat can keep you busy for a couple weeks before the idea of going further into the record even occurs to you. So maybe it’s not fair to complain. —Miles Raymer This show is part of the HoZac Blackout; see page B10. The Nervous Eaters headline; Nobunny, Tutu & the Pirates, Timmy’s Organism, Puffy Areolas, Idle Times, Reading Rainbow, People’s Temple, Heavy Times, Radar Eyes, Outer Minds, and Nones open. 4 PM, Velvet Perineum, 2515 N. Milwaukee, 773-276-3600, $30, $45 two-day golden ticket.
GA’AN This Chicago band’s self-titled debut has been floating around since 2009 in a cruelly limited cassette-only edition (why not go for eight-track next time, folks?), but early this year it got a fine vinyl reissue on the local Captcha label; I don’t know what I expected to happen when these dark cosmic incantations became more widely available, but I’ll admit I was the tiniest bit surprised when all heaven failed to break loose. Ga’an frequently and not without reason attract comparisons to Magma, Goblin, and Popol Vuh, and their debut’s six longish tracks pulse, snake, and clatter—they’re fond of meters built on sevens—beneath the chants and wails of vocalist and keyboardist Lindsay Powell, who reminds me ever so slightly of Grace Slick. It’s cultish, occult, and thoroughly hypnotic—music for communing with a technologically advanced outer-space mushroom god, or for soundtracking a movie about same. The band, a quartet when Ga’an was recorded, is now a trio: Powell, who also plays solo as Fielded, and original drummer Seth Sher, who’s never a mere timekeeper, have been joined by Tyson Torstensen on bass and synth. This lineup will release an album called Black Equus on Captcha in late summer or early fall, once the cover art’s ready—the band will have homemade cassette copies tonight—and the new material delivers on the promise of Ga’an’s stunning debut. The nearly 20-minute “Call of the Black Equus” in particular has a satisfyingly albumlike structure all by itself—a little like “Sister Ray,” except with less jizz and violence and more messages from the Pleiades. —Monica Kendrick Pillars & Tongues, Axis:Sova, and Ancient Ocean open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle. F
RICHARD PINHAS Neil Young may have named his latest album Le Noise, but it’s neither as French nor as noisy as Richard Pinhas’s recent work. The Paris-born guitarist has been merging rock and electronics since the early 70s, when he founded the group Heldon, and he’s run the gamut from bone-crunching, mathy prog to sublimely drifting pieces for looped guitar and sampled speech from philosopher Gilles Deleuze or sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. He’s spent much of his career playing with family (his son Duncan, who will play electronics tonight) and old buddies from Heldon and Magma, but since 2007 he’s also recorded with Michigan freak-scuzz combo Wolf Eyes and the dean of Japanese noise, Merzbow. On the new Rhizome (Cuneiform), a live Pinhas-Merzbow duo album, the guitarist’s swooping phrases and snaky leads take on a gritty bite that helps them cut through the squelchy gargles and implacable beats emanating from his partner’s laptop. But on “Hysteria,” the half-hour centerpiece of last year’s double CD Metal/Crystal (Cuneiform), Pinhas melts down his instrumental voice till it’s inseparable from the roiling maelstrom of blasts and blips from Merzbow and Wolf Eyes—the intimacy of their violent dance is all the more impressive given that the component tracks were recorded independently on three different continents. Though Pinhas just turned 60, an age by which a musician has usually let you know what to expect from him, his field of play has never been more wide open. Opening are Magas, who’s debuting new material for analog synth and Roland TR-808 drum machine; Scum Ra, aka Plastic Crimewave of the Reader‘s Secret History of Chicago Music with Kathleen Baird of Spires That in the Sunset Rise; and Mark Solotroff of Bloodyminded and Anatomy of Habit. —Bill Meyer 8:30 PM, Abbey Pub, $12, $10 in advance.
MELVINS Even if you’ve gone public as a hater vis-a-vis the trend of bands performing entire classic albums live, you might want to put on a fake mustache and sneak out to one of these. No two Melvins albums are necessarily similar to each other, and very few are in any way forgettable. Early this year, the band had a monthlong Friday-night residency at Spaceland in LA during which (among other things) they set the current double-drummer lineup loose on early-90s works of genius like the EPs Eggnog and Lysol (swiftly and involuntarily retitled Melvins) and the full-length Bullhead, where the band first perfected the core-of-a-dead-star sludge style they’ve been toying with ever since. This two-night stand will include music from all those releases, plus a couple of the Melvins’ mid-90s major-label LPs: the first show will feature songs from Lysol, Eggnog, and Houdini, and the second will be all Bullhead and Stoner Witch. (Personally, I suspect musicians like gigs like this, probably because preordained set lists cut down on the drunken bellowing of requests from the crowd.) Yeah, I understand being against nostalgia on principle—but for me, albums this awesome trump certain principles. —Monica Kendrick See also Wednesday. 8:30 PM, Double Door, $25, $40 two-day pass.
JOE MCPHEE Thirty years ago multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee told a room full of European improvisers to think about the blues not as a form but as a feeling. Then he showed them what he meant with some gorgeously tentative notes from his pocket trumpet (he plays various saxophones and clarinets as well as brass), and they responded in kind. The title of “Blues for New Chicago,” which appeared on the out-of-print Hat Art release Topology, honored both the birthplace of his girlfriend at the time and the hometown of Buck Rogers. In 1981, when Topology came out, McPhee had never performed here, but since 1996 he’s been an honorary Chicagoan; local musicians have become some of his most sympathetic and enduring partners. Among them are saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, cellist and electronicist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and percussionist Michael Zerang, all of whom play with him in Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet. Lonberg-Holm and Zerang also comprise Survival Unit III, one of McPhee’s standing ensembles. The tumultuous performances on their new Syncronicity (Harmonic Convergence) show that McPhee, now in his early 70s, has neither mellowed nor settled into routine; playing mainly the alto sax, a horn he rarely touched till the past decade, he clears space for his anguished blues within a soundscape of acid static and kaleidoscopic abrasions. Tonight he’ll improvise freely with Vandermark, Zerang, and vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, a newer-to-him Chicago face—the two of them first shared a stage in late 2009 as bandmates in Topology, a nine-piece group Vandermark formed to play McPhee’s old compositions. On Thu 6/2 at Elastic, Topology will reconvene with a lineup consisting of McPhee, Vandermark, Adasiewicz, Lonberg-Holm, cornetist Josh Berman, trombonist Jeb Bishop, reedist Dave Rempis, bassist Kent Kessler, and drummer Tim Daisy. McPhee also plays with Survival Unit III on Fri 6/3 at 9 PM at Logan Hardware, 2410 W. Fullerton; that show’s free, and Extraordinary Popular Delusions open. —Bill Meyer Ken Vandermark spins music from the Stax and Analog Africa catalogs. 9:30 PM, Hideout, $10.