Pretty Monsters Credit: Peter Gannushkin

EXPERIMENTAL | Peter Margasak

Bassoonist and composer Katherine Young left Chicago in 2006 for Middletown, Connecticut, where she studied with Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan and earned a master’s in composition. In the fall she moved back to pursue a doctorate at Northwestern, and on Sunday she’ll present her own music for the first time since her return.

Young first came here in 2003, upon graduating from Oberlin; she soon got a job at the Reader and started several projects to explore the intersection of improvisation and composition, including chamber group Till by Turning and a free-improv duo with violist Amy Cimini (a fellow Oberlin grad) called Architeuthis Walks on Land.

Young moved to New York after finishing at Wesleyan in 2008 and promptly shifted into high gear. She continued with Till by Turning and Architeuthis Walks on Land, played in various Braxton projects—including the Diamond Curtain Wall Quartet and the Tri-Centric Orchestra, which performed his opera Trillium E—and joined indie-pop band the Fancy, as well as developing a stunning repertoire of solo bassoon music, some of which appears on her 2009 album Further Secret Origins (Porter). Throughout this time her interest in composition grew. “Composing is really challenging, and I felt like I had certain gaps in my abilities,” says Young. “I loved that there was more stuff for me to learn, but I felt like I could learn more in a focused, concentrated program.” (Wesleyan’s program, she says, is relatively intuitive and loose.) She continued to study composition in New York, taking classes here and there, but she also had to keep up with a constant whirlwind of gigs and day jobs just to pay her bills.

“I felt like I had to pull back and assess things,” says Young, and because Chicago is slower paced and less competitive, she figured living here would help. She’s played out a few times since moving back, and Sun 1/22 at the Whistler she’ll lead a Chicago version of her quartet Pretty Monsters, with guitarist Jeff Parker, drummer Tim Daisy, and Cincinnati violinist Erica Dicker (who also plays in Till by Turning). She founded the group a couple years ago to play ensemble versions of the solo pieces on Further Secret Origins, and since then she’s started writing for it specifically. Pretty Monsters’ debut album, due in May from Public Eyesore Records, was recorded by the New York version of the band: Dicker, drummer Mike Pride, and guitarist Owen Stewart-Robertson.

ELECTRONIC | Leor Galil

Local psychedelic R&B duo The-Drum are halfway through releasing their first two EPs. On Fri 1/6 they posted The-Drum vs. Sich Mang, a collaboration with wurkstep originators Sich Mang, to Bandcamp; on Tue 1/31 Portland label Audraglint will put out Heavy Liquid on vinyl and through iTunes.

Jeremy Chrome (of electronic acts Clique Talk and Valis) and Brandon Boom began working together as The-Drum in fall 2010, after an aspiring singer whose name Chrome has since forgotten approached him to produce some R&B songs. “I was really interested in doing that,” Chrome says, “and Brandon was the person I thought of doing that with.”

The collaboration with the singer didn’t work out—according to Chrome, he decided he was tired of R&B and wanted to make Italo tracks. But Boom and Chrome kept working, and last spring they settled into their current sound: trippy, gauzy synths and sporadic breakbeat pileups capped with haunting, pitch-shifted vocals. They began uploading tunes to SoundCloud about a year ago, but didn’t try to publicize them; they finally starting e-mailing people about their music in late summer, after posting the song “Omar,” which caught the ear of Audraglint.

Of The-Drum’s partnership with Rand Sevilla and Eric Lee Gale of Sich Mang, Chrome says, “I felt like they were trying to do a similar thing to juke that we were trying to do with R&B.” Their six-track joint EP contains three tracks from each duo—two originals and a remix of an unreleased cut from the other band.

Boom and Chrome planned to give The-Drum vs. Sich Mang a physical release themselves, but they’re still ironing out details for the launch of their label, Crime. Catholic Tapes will put it out on cassette instead; copies will be on hand at the release show, Fri 1/27 at the Empty Bottle.

FOLK | Miles Raymer

Credit: Dogs

The kunstlerroman is a specific type of coming-of-age story that deals with an artist transitioning into maturity. The term is generally applied to novels, but it works equally well for Dogs, a new cassette EP by local singer-songwriter Aaron Osbourne, who records (sometimes with a band) under the name Life Partner. Over a series of low-key releases, many of them through micro-indie Sophomore Lounge (also home to weirdo-cool acts like Animal City and Fielded), Osbourne has proved himself an idiosyncratic, confessional lyricist. Throughout the seven songs on Dogs he focuses with even more intensity than usual on a period of upheaval in his personal life—including a short move back to his childhood home in Louisville—that seems to have provoked him to contemplate everything from his artistic goals to that old standby, the inexorable passage of time.

It’s heavy subject matter, but the record’s not a drag. Osbourne has a Sebadoh-like talent for channeling bummer vibes into engaging, straightforward indie rock. He also shares some of that band’s taste for murky sonics—though Dogs is by far his most polished and accessible release, it still falls firmly on the lo-fi side of the fence.