BADDIGO 7/14, METRO The back story isn’t promising: the duo at the core of this local quartet moved here from Lynchburg, Virginia, where they played in an “aggressive rock” band reportedly influenced by Tool. Which makes their debut, Come Along (on their own Otis Lee Records), something of a surprise: glimmering, melodramatic prog pop that borrows from Gypsy and Middle Eastern music. Violinist Sam “Savor Faire” Williams, who wowed a HotHouse crowd as part of Roscoe Mitchell’s large orchestra a few weeks ago, plays a key role in making the fusion sound credible; on the recording there’s also help from flutist Niki Mitchell and cellist Hillary Clarke.
DE LA SOUL 7/14, HOUSE OF BLUES They’re not quite up there with Elian Gonzalez or Harry Potter on the media suspense-o-meter, but the buzz for De La Soul’s first LP in four years is still a hard act to follow. With its early records 3 Feet High and Rising and De La Soul Is Dead, the hip-hop trio set new standards in both playfulness and darkness (the latter took on such nonstandard taboos as incest) and established itself as a bridge between rap’s mainstream and its fringes. “Oooh,” the first single from the forthcoming Art Official Intelligence (due from Tommy Boy on August 8), is solid, but it doesn’t live up to the hype. The groove is a slow one that puts most of the emphasis on the wordplay, which won’t stop traffic either.
DIANOGAH 7/14, EMPTY BOTTLE; 7/15, Fireside bowl This show is a release party for Battle Champions, Dianogah’s fourth album and its first for Southern. It takes the local trio’s mostly modest, mostly dour, and mostly instrumental style–if a name must be coined for it, I nominate “long-haul rock”–to a new level of melodious agreeability. Tinkling piano spikes steady rolling riffs, guitars augment the original two-bass format, Jay Ryan affably mumbles a tale of missed connections in “Time for a Game of Stick.” Nothing here to make you drop your Huber, but that’s hardly the point–these guys don’t believe in unseemly waste. Don Caballero headlines.
BRIDE OF NO NO 7/15, EMPTY BOTTLE Those old enough to remember the witty surrealist tour de force that was the Scissor Girls–and young-at-heart enough to prefer it to more serious art-rock units–have followed artist, writer, and multi-instrumentalist Azita Youssefi’s meandering career with interest over the past few years. Her 1997 solo album, Music for Scattered Brains, and her recent contribution to a Bananafish compilation were just enough to keep appetites whetted, but her new band, Bride of No No, is what we’ve really been waiting for. The forthcoming B.O.N.N. Apetit! (Atavistic) gives female confidences and bitchcraft a dadaist resonance (“We have eyeliner wars, eyeliner wars, eyeliner wars…”) amid aggressive, angular dismembered rock orchestrations–and live the four members work even harder to keep the audience guessing, dressing in white veil-like masks, white tunics, and long white gloves.
SALLY TAYLOR 7/15, SCHUBAS I wish I could tell you that the daughter of James Taylor and Carly Simon had wound up playing speed metal, or free jazz, or Sufi devotional music–just about anything other than the conversational folk pop her parents made famous. But whether it’s nature or nurture, tall blond Sally is every inch her parents’ child, with Dad’s knack for lite introspection and Mom’s slightly showbizzy delivery, and her second album, Apt. #6S (on her own Blue Elbow imprint, apparently by choice), will no doubt provide an unobtrusive backdrop for the parlor dalliances and divorce-related confidences of a new generation.
TOTO LA MOMPOSINA 7/16, HOTHOUSE Colombian singer Toto la Momposina takes her stage name from the Magdalena river island of Mompos, where she grew up. Mompos is near the Caribbean coast of Colombia, a region whose culture draws from African, Spanish, German, and native traditions; nearby Cuba also exerts an influence. Toto’s latest release, Carmelina (Indigo), blends a range of rare rhythms, from the primal bullerengue to the busy, sexy porro, using various arrangements of guitars, horns, drums, hand percussion, and gaitas (long, wooden, beeswax-headed reed instruments invented by the region’s native tribes, played in an earthy, repetitive style). As central to Toto’s leadership as her lovely and communicative voice is her charisma: her training under a traditional village cantadora, a wisewoman who dispenses herbal medicine and spiritual advice, gives her a natural glowing authority that comes through loud and clear on record.
HELLCHILD 7/19, FIRESIDE BOWL Language has never proved much of a barrier in underground metal–the genre’s characteristic menacing growl is just another instrument in the mix. Which is interesting because, as in hardcore, the words really do matter–that’s why almost all the records include lyric sheets. The Japanese death-metal band Hellchild sings in English, though you might not recognize it at first, and the lyric sheet that comes with their latest release, last year’s Bareskin, reveals a sort of bleak existential poetry (“Eat up dreams one after the other / You, living dead,” opens the penultimate track, “Single Color of Myself”) that would be striking even if it weren’t brutally loud. Hellchild is on the Howling Bull label, which has an American office in San Francisco; the Howling Bull empire includes two other labels, a magazine, toy stores in both countries, and a popular Tokyo club; other bands on the roster include the devastating all-female trio Yellow Machinegun, who’ll meet up with Hellchild at Milwaukee Metalfest on July 29. –Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Dianogah photo by Marty Perez.