BLACK ANGELS Austin’s Black Angels have the rare power to make me regret not owning a car—their music, which channels the Doors, the Velvet Underground, the 13th Floor Elevators, and Spacemen 3, would be perfect for a nocturnal road trip. They’re so good at finding a nice eerie groove and falling into it that you start to suspect they approach recording like a long-haul trucker approaches his job: the goal is to stay on the road and watch the odometer roll. So it’s jarring to realize that their third full-length, Phosphene Dream (Blue Horizons), is only about half an hour long, which won’t eat up much of Nebraska at all. The band seems to be trying much harder this time to write actual pop songs, and sometimes it works—Alex Maas’s flat-affect singsong vocals take on a weird, catchy-as-hell Grace Slick edge amid the hippie arabesques of “True Believers.” Sometimes, though, it just makes the songs sound unfinished—shouldn’t “Telephone” be about 20 minutes longer? Still, I’m still glad it isn’t; dilating a tune that way is much more effective live than on disc, and it’s onstage that the Black Angels’ orgiastic quality really comes through. Black Mountain headlines; DJ Erik opens. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $19, 18+. —Monica Kendrick
DAWN OF MIDIDawn of Midi didn’t record their remarkable debut, First (Accretions), until three years after they started playing together, and it shows. Indian bassist Aakaash Israni, Pakistani percussionist Qasim Naqvi, and Moroccan pianist Amino Belyamani were all students at CalArts when they formed the group in 2007, and they would meet in a windowless practice room late at night and play in pitch darkness—a habit that sharpened their ears and fostered their collective approach. Lots of musicians freely improvise these days, but it’s rare to find a group with such a strong ensemble identity—though protean in form and lacking a clear leader, Dawn of Midi is elegant, slithering, and melancholy in sound. Belyamani generally sticks to a tight range of notes in each piece, creating a dazzling variety of phrases from that limited vocabulary in a way that reminds me of Chris Abrahams of the Necks, except without Abrahams’s clear forward movement; rather than morphing from one shape to another, his oblique melodies emerge and dissolve like waves lapping at the shore. Naqvi and Israni keep up an exquisitely exploratory scrabbling that never veers into mayhem, and each member displays tightrope-walk sensitivity—they apparently developed some high-level intuition in those lightless rehearsals. This is the trio’s Chicago debut. See also Saturday. 10 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, $10 suggested donation. —Peter Margasak
FRANKIE ROSE & THE OUTS Over the past few years drummer Frankie Rose has become an important figure in New York’s rock underground, playing in Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts, and in September her own band—where she sings and plays guitar—released its self-titled debut on Slumberland Records. The album doesn’t venture far from the retro-pop of those other outfits, but it does delve deeper into dreaminess, with Rose piling reverb onto guitars, organ, and girl-group harmonies like a low-rent Phil Spector who’d just mainlined Talulah Gosh’s discography. Even at its most exuberant—the hard-stomping “Little Brown-Haired Girls,” the Cramps-derived “Don’t Tred”—the music maintains a pervasive, washed-out melancholy, and Rose deserves extra credit for noticing the sadness and simpatico tone of Arthur Russell’s “You Can Make Me Feel Bad.” Woven Bones headline; Frankie Rose & the Outs, Radar Eyes, and Sleepovers open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, $8 in advance. —Peter Margasak
PLANES MISTAKEN FOR STARS The late-90s output of Planes Mistaken for Stars might fairly have been called “emo,” but with their second album, 2001’s grungy, unflinching Fuck With Fire, this Denver-by-way-of-Peoria outfit shook off that epithet for good. Sinister, gravelly, and coated in sheets of sonic raunch, Fuck With Fire is planted firmly in the burgeoning early-aughts posthardcore scene, with one foot in the anthemic beard-rock of Hot Water Music, Small Brown Bike, and Against Me! and the other in the blistering metalcore of Converge and Botch. Planes Mistaken for Stars reached their evolutionary peak on 2004’s Up in Them Guts, a better-developed, more thought-out album; the strangled growl of vocalist-guitarist Gared O’Donnell helps keep the tension high on the handful of acoustic tunes and leads the charge on full-on brick-through-the-window numbers like “Glassing,” with its repeated group shout of “We’re all getting fucked now!” The band released one more album, 2006’s underwhelming Mercy, before calling it quits in 2008. PMFS have reunited to play the Fest 9 in Gainesville, Florida, on October 30 (they’re part of a 25th-anniversary showcase booked by No Idea Records, which released Fuck With Fire and Up in Them Guts), and this Chicago show is their only other date so far. Wolves Like Us, Big Science, and the Swan King open. 9 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Kevin Warwick
VADER On last year’s Necropolis (Nuclear Blast) the iconic Polish death-metal band Vader introduced an almost completely new lineup—once again guitarist and vocalist Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek, long the only remaining original member, was the sole survivor of the shakeup. But it’s conceivable that some of their fans might not have noticed. Wiwczarek provides the band’s sonic fingerprint with his spitting-up-lung-tissue growl, and after 27 years on the boards—yes, Vader took that name the same year Return of the Jedi hit theaters—he knows how to keep his minions in line. Necropolis is brutal and compact, full of blistering guitar licks and gore-splattering blastbeats from the new members. The album’s few midtempo songs—which is as slow as this band gets—give listeners a bit of breathing room without departing from the feel of the faster stuff, and the occasional interlude provides a break from the furious density. On the two bonus tracks—covers of Venom’s “Black Metal” and Metallica’s “Fight Fire With Fire”—Vader also demonstrate something resembling a sense of fun, playing the songs so straight that it’s clear how shamelessly they love ’em. Yonkers death-metal lifers Immolation, touring in support of this year’s Majesty and Decay (Nuclear Blast), headline; Vader, Abigail Williams, Lecherous Nocturne, and Pathology open. 6 PM, Reggie’s Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $23, $20 in advance. —Monica Kendrick
VASELINES The Vaselines reunion started quietly in 2008 and went full-time last year, when Sub Pop gave the deluxe treatment to their scant complete recordings on Enter the Vaselines. At this point it’s hard not to be cynical about 80s and 90s indie bands getting back together, but Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee are self-conscious enough about what they’re doing that it redeems them somewhat. Their new album—the first since the Vaselines split in 1989—is called Sex With an X (Sub Pop), and several of its songs address the dangers of hooking up with an old lover, which can’t help but take on an extra layer of meaning in this context. The title track is full of lines like “Feels so good it must be bad for me,” and on “Poison Pen” McKee sings, “My mother told me don’t go back to where you’ve been,” then gives in on the chorus: “I’ll take you on again.” “Mouth to Mouth” is a last-ditch plea for physical connection—and desperation sure seems like the number one cause of band reunions. The spot-on takedown of clueless DayGlo revivalists in “I Hate the 80’s” reveals the band’s curmudgeonly side, and “My God’s Bigger Than Your God” is an embarrassingly (or perhaps intentionally) juvenile critique of religion. Backed ably by guitarist Stevie Jackson and bassist Bob Kildea (both of Belle & Sebastian) and drummer Michael McGaughrin, Kelly and McKee sing much better now than they did the first time around, but by and large their simple, succinct, and dangerously catchy indie pop doesn’t sound
too different. At least they don’t seem to be taking it too seriously. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $22, $20 in advance. —Peter Margasak
BOOKS On The Way Out (Temporary Residence), the recent fourth album by the Books, Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong don’t alter their formula much: their meticulously produced music embeds warm melodies and gentle rhythms in a careful collage of samples and found sounds, and though they use structures that could be generously described as amorphous, everything is assembled so carefully that the tracks have the emotional impact of pop songs. Zammuto and de Jong sing on a few of the new tunes, but the “vocals” mostly come from elsewhere. They lift some material from self-help tapes, which is too predictable to feel like anything but arch, detached commentary, but there’s also personal material—the over-the-top fantasies of violence exchanged by a young boy and girl in “A Cold Freezin’ Night,” the emotionally raw answering-machine messages in “Thirty Incoming”—that makes the music feels organic and whole. Black Heart Procession opens. 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 866-448-7849, $25. —Peter Margasak
SHAKIRA It’s a bit hyperbolic to claim—as some writers have—that Colombian singer Shakira has returned to her roots with her frothy new album, Sale el Sol (Sony Music Latin/Epic). True, most of the lyrics are in her native Spanish, in contrast to last year’s English-language She Wolf, but despite some jacked-up electronic merengue and cumbia and an overcooked adaptation of the Golden Sounds’ mid-80s Cameroonian smash “Tasmina” (“Waka Waka,” the official anthem of this year’s World Cup), Sale el Sol sure sounds like a mainstream pop record. That said, its mixture of approaches suits her better than the generic polish of She Wolf—I don’t know another arena-level star who can pull off such a global aesthetic so naturally. And her club thumpers are as irresistible as ever, especially the bass-heavy merengue “Loca”—the English-language version includes a killer Dizzee Rascal cameo, which just edges out the great Spanish rapping by Dominican star El Cata on the original. 8 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim Road, Rosemont, 847-635-6601 or 866-448-7849, $14.80-$162.75. —Peter Margasak
CHROMEO In the immediate wake of their 2004 debut, She’s In Control, electro-funk duo Chromeo seemed destined to be remembered by a subset of dance-oriented hipsters for the novelty of their preferred instruments (talk-box-enhanced synth and Plexiglas guitar), their clashing sartorial directions (doo-ragged thug and 80s motel-bar pickup artist), and the killer single “Needy Girl.” Their 2007 follow-up, Fancy Footwork, rescued the band from that fate with a handful of singles solid enough to wedge themselves firmly into DJ
sets for years, and they went from playing bottom-tier slots at festivals to headlining
theaters. On their new Business Casual (Atlantic) Chromeo once again scuff together a tidy pile of vintage house, funk, and pop R&B and hit it with a massive dose of unabashed lasciviousness, but their formula is so much more focused this time that the songs make their earlier efforts sound like trial runs. Expect to hear “I’m Contagious” at dance clubs for the next gajillion years. A-Trak, Kid Sister, Theophilus London, Midnight Conspiracy, Gemini Club, Zebo, Alex Zelenka, Gun Love vs. Mettle, Kool Hersh, and the Wolf Pack open. 7:30 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 773-598-0852, $35, 17+. —Miles Raymer
JOOST BUIS, EDOARDO MARRAFFA, ALBERTO BRAIDA See European Jazz Meets Chicago on Wednesday. Trombonist Joost Buis, saxophonist Edoardo Marraffa, and pianist Alberto Braida—all in town for the Umbrella Music Festival—play a prefestival gig with two locals, bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Mike Reed. 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested.
LIL B THE BASED GODLil B is a rapper, but his raps—slurred freestyles delivered with all the focused intensity of someone checking mike levels while distracted by several other tasks—demand to be judged by standards all their own. Though he falls short on most points of technique, there’s something hypnotic about his druggy delivery, and it’s weirdly compelling that he only raps about getting high, the ladies who give him blow jobs despite his addiction to skinny jeans, and the extent of his “swag”—a term he seems to have singlehandedly rescued from early obsolescence. That he often compares his swag to that of Paris Hilton and Ellen Degeneres (and refers to himself as a “pretty bitch”) only adds to the intrigue. So far radio has had no use for him, but he seems to have even less use for it—with his hyperactive presence on YouTube, Twitter, and other social networks, he’s earned a large and devoted fan base. A bunch of those fans will no doubt be right up front at this show, doing his signature “cooking” dance, getting buck to his bangtastic “Wonton Soup,” and not giving a shit what a guy writing for some last-century newspaper has to say about it. Phil Ade, Black Orchard, the Basix, Rockie Fresh, Vyle, SG, and Prez open. 8 PM, Wild Hare, 3530 N. Clark, 773-327-4273, $15, 17+. —Miles Raymer
MISFITS Between 1977 and 1983 the Misfits recorded enough great material to secure them a spot on any sensible person’s list of the Top Ten Rock ‘n’ Roll Bands of All Time (and fill the four CDs in the coffin-shaped box set that came out in 1996). Following their breakup, front man Glenn Danzig recorded with Samhain, released three albums as Danzig, and then disappeared in a puff of smoke, never becoming a walking punch line or releasing rote, uninspired albums like this year’s Deth Red Sabaoth (Evilive/The End). And the rest of the band disappeared forever in an even bigger puff of smoke, never turning into a Creedence Clearwater Revisited-style quasi-Misfits (with, say, longtime bassist Jerry Only taking over as front man) or putting out crappy records that it’s hard to imagine anybody actually buying. If someone tries to tell you different, he’s probably just trying to get you to go to this show. Juicehead and Turbo Vamps open. 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 866-448-7849, $22.50. A —Miles Raymer
MONARCH There are at least a couple active bands called Monarch (which is why you sometimes see an exclamation point after this one’s name), but if you like it sludgy and heavy, this four-piece from the south of France is the one you want. They’ve just issued the long-delayed CD version of their fifth full-length, Sabbat Noir (Heathen Skulls), which has already attracted a fair number of slavering reviews thanks to a beautiful but expensive vinyl release in April. Their first album with drummer Robert McManus, late of Melbourne’s Grey Daturas, it consists of one half-hour song (split into two parts for the LP) that begins with a creepy insectoid whisper of electronic noise and feedback, then slams into a slo-mo nod fest—though the drums, which manage a few more impacts per minute than the rest of the band, beat you about the head and neck and make it impossible to relax too much. The uncanny wailing of vocalist Emilie Bresson is buried so deep in the mix that she sounds like a banshee you might hear in a nightmare on the edge of sleep—only to bolt awake and find she’s still there. Her eerie keening and wheezing adds a skin-crawlingly ethereal dimension to the band’s grainy, glacially churning murk, transforming its canyonlike spaces into haunted grottos. Indian headlines; Monarch and Rabid Rabbit open. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Monica Kendrick
WET HAIR Iowa City noise-damage duo Wet Hair sound like a real product of their environment—the most “normal” places have a way of bringing out the fucked-up extremes in people. Shawn Reed and Ryan Garbes take the wizard licks of their previous outfit, the psych band Raccoo-oo-oon, and toss them overboard into a sea of tape loops and rotten scuzz and scary-voiced singing. (Though “singing” might be pushing it, as Reed’s vocals sound like someone told him to do an imitation of Ian Curtis working at a haunted house.) The songs are filled out with whinnying organ drones, slow-chugging walls of sludge, and occasional free-rock solos. Think chopped-and-screwed Chrome without the paranoia or Zola Jesus for guys addicted to cold medicine and you’re halfway there. The Fabulous Diamonds, Pigeons, and Running open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8, $5 in advance. —Jessica Hopper
EUROPEAN JAZZ MEETS CHICAGO The fifth Umbrella Music Festival kicks off today with the first half of European Jazz Meets Chicago, a sort of mini festival that for the first time will last two nights instead of one—musicians from ten European countries are participating, compared to six in each of the past two years. The music starts at 6:30 PM tonight and 7:15 PM on Thursday, and all shows are in the Chicago Cultural Center: Preston Bradley Hall on Wednesday, Randolph Street Cafe on Thursday, and Claudia Cassidy Theater on both days. The highlights I discuss below are from Wednesday’s bill only; in next week’s paper I’ll have coverage of the rest of Umbrella, which runs through Sunday.
It’s not always easy to be sure which XAVIER CHARLES you’ll get when you show up to a concert. The Frenchman has often worked as a sound and installation artist, especially with the long-running group Silent Block, and he’s also well-known as a virtuoso clarinetist—in that capacity he’s been involved in several noisy electroacoustic projects and done quite a bit of transcendent free improvisation. Charles is especially fluent in his horn’s extreme upper register, and on the 2008 duo recording Difference Between the Two Clocks (Textile) he meticulously follows the wavering, levitating guitar feedback of Japanese experimental musician Otomo Yoshihide, creating gorgeous sustained harmonies. In acoustic projects like the excellent quartet Dans les Arbres or his trio with John Butcher and Axel Dörner, Charles demonstrates impressive sensitivity and intelligence whether enmeshed in the composite buzz of massed musicians or negotiating delicate give-and-take interactions. He’s been to Chicago before, backing Getatchew Mekuria as part of the expanded lineup of the Ex in summer 2008, but this is his first appearance under his own name; he’s joined by two locals, bassist Nate McBride and drummer Tim Daisy.
Over the past few years Italian pianist ALBERTO BRAIDA has worked with a lengthening list of European heavies, among them John Butcher, John Edwards, and Wilbert de Joode. Unlike many pianists from his country, who tend toward either puckish humor or romantic melancholy, he prefers abstraction and dissonance, borrowing heavily from contemporary classical music; in his improvisations he makes generous use of silence and a dynamic range that runs to the extreme at either end. He’ll play in a duet here with Italian saxophonist EDOARDO MARRAFFA, whose name was new to me when this year’s Umbrella schedule was announced. What I’ve heard from him since, though, has made me a fan—his wonderfully tart, biting tone would remind me of Roland Kirk even if he weren’t also skilled at playing two horns at once. Marraffa and Braida recently released Redshift (Setola di Maiale), an improvised session whose harmonic explorations ripple with controlled energy and burst with the joy of spontaneous discovery.
Over the past decade pianist AGUSTÍ FERNANDEZ has emerged as arguably Spain’s preeminent free improviser, his stormy playing imbued with a deep knowledge of jazz history. As a teenager in the late 70s he was heavily influenced by Cecil Taylor—you can hear it in his ferociously percussive runs and phrase-capping clusters—and studied contemporary classical music with Iannis Xenakis, and the style he’s developed combines an acute rhythmic sensibility with thoughtful exploration of harmony and density. He’s at his best on the 2009 trio album Un Llamp Que no S’acaba Mai (Psi), with bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders: the session was improvised freely, but its surges of gorgeous, turbulent melody and coruscating color arrive with an electric urgency, as though the trio were speeding along a familiar racecourse and knew every twist and turn. This solo set is Fernandez’s Chicago debut.
Wednesday evening’s music ends with a performance by Dutch trombonist JOOST BUIS, who also made his previous visit with the expanded version of the Ex; he leads an octet with six Chicagoans and one fellow Dutchman, saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra. On the superb recent album Zoomin (Data), cut with his tentet the Astronotes, Buis arranges his pithy original tunes with a looseness and sense of space that recalls Duke Ellington and complements the improvisational style of his excellent band—which is distinctly Dutch, teetering gracefully on the edge of chaos.
Charles, McBride, and Daisy play at 6:30 PM in Claudia Cassidy Theater; Braida and Marraffa play at 7:15 in Preston Bradley Hall; Fernandez plays at 8:45 in Preston Bradley Hall; and Buis, Dijkstra, and their Chicago ensemble play at 9:30 in Claudia Cassidy Theater. Buis, Marraffa, and Braida also have a prefestival gig Sunday, October 31, at the Hungry Brain with bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Mike Reed; see separate List item. 6:30 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. —Peter Margasak