Jim Elkington and Nathan Salsburg
Jim Elkington and Nathan Salsburg

FOLK | Jim Elkington and Nathan Salsburg debut as a duo

Guitarist Jim Elkington met Nathan Salsburg through his future wife, publicist Jessica Linker, about a year after he started dating her in 2004—she and Salsburg had been childhood friends in Louisville, Kentucky. Elkington, a native of London, moved to Chicago in 2000 and formed a band called the Zincs, which he led for many years; Salsburg works for the Alan Lomax Archive and runs the Drag City subsidiary Twos & Fews, whose releases include archival material from rural southern singers Nimrod Workman and Hamper McBee. Elkington has always been aware that his friend was obsessive about music, but it took him a while to realize Salsburg was also an accomplished guitarist.

After they’d known each other about three years, Salsburg dumped a bunch of music onto Elkington’s hard drive, including a few tracks of his own. Salsburg plays fingerstyle guitar a la John Fahey, but at the time he’d yet to release anything—even now, the only commercially available evidence of his talent is “Bold Ruler’s Joys,” a fluid, almost jazzy miniature found on the 2008 solo-guitar compilation Imaginational Anthem Volume Three (Tompkins Square). “When you find out that a friend is really good at something,” Elkington says, “it’s natural to want to do something together.”

The two soon began collaborating on an instrumental record; Elkington would send MP3s of sketches he’d composed that left space for Salsburg’s input. Two years ago they got together at the Chicago home studio of Jonathan Schenke, cutting six tracks during their first session, but it would take them another year and a half to finish the 13-track album—including time for mixing and adding overdubs by Wanees Zarour (violin, buzuq) and Nick Macri (bass).

On Tue 8/23 Tompkins Square will release the result, Avos, on vinyl and as a digital download. The duo’s meditative, carefully braided acoustic guitars lean toward the rustic, rather than toward Salsburg’s usual ornamental fingerstyle approach, and the brief, tightly constructed songs combine British and rural American guitar traditions.

“I have a short attention span,” Elkington says, “and although I love solo guitar, I didn’t feel confident enough to write long-form pieces.” The duo will perform live for the first time at the Hideout on October 8, and Salsburg’s first solo album, Affirmed, is due November 15 on No Quarter.

—Peter Margasak

Selva Oscura

ELECTRONIC | A first taste of Selva Oscura’s sample-based electro-pop

Last week east-coast cassette label Chill Mega Chill released the debut EP from a sample-based electronic-pop act called Selva Oscura, aka 21-year-old Columbia College student Ray Levinson-Fort. He’s been using the Selva Oscura name for three years, but As/Is/Was is his first formal solo release.

A native of Austin, Texas, Levinson-Fort began producing his own music at 16. In 2008, inspired by Panda Bear’s solo work, he bought a Roland SP-404 digital sampler. “I was really into experimental stuff like that,” he says. “I was using it with the idea of recording my guitar into it and making really weird noises.”

Soon Levinson-Fort began to to dissect samples of other people’s songs, a technique he brought into an electro-funk party band called Sip Sip, whose loosely defined lineup has as many as 17 members. Levinson-Fort wasn’t in the group long before moving to Chicago in summer 2010 to study audio production, but he says the experience helped him make As/Is/Was.

Once here, Levinson-Fort focused on his solo work, employing what he refers to as J. Dilla’s “weapon of choice,” an Akai MPD32. “All the songs that I’ve sampled wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for that machine,” he says. He chops up, pitch shifts, and just generally fools around with those samples—Slowdive, R&B, vintage soul, Stevie Wonder, Fleet Foxes—which give an extra kick to the club grooves, sumptuous hip-hop, and lush, ambient pop on As/Is/Was.

Chill Mega Chill seeks out up-and-coming, indie-leaning electronic acts, and Selva Oscura qualifies on both counts. As/Is/Was is also a homecoming of sorts for Levinson-Fort: earlier this summer, the same label released the debut EP by Corduroi, aka his good friend and Sip Sip bandmate Cody Wilson.

—Leor Galil

CLASSICAL | The CSO does The Fellowship of the Ring at Ravinia

Local percussionist and writer Doug Adams was a graduate student at Roosevelt University’s music school the first time he interviewed composer Howard Shore for Film Score Monthly. “I was nervous, just cutting my teeth as a music journalist, and Howard was tremendously friendly,” Adams says. The two quickly found common ground, and in 2001, after Shore signed on to compose the scores for the Lord of the Rings films, he invited Adams to document the project. The resulting 416-page book, The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films, beautifully illustrated and accompanied by a CD of music that didn’t make it into the films’ final cuts, was published last year. Shore won three Academy Awards for his epic Lord of the Rings work, and Adams has steeped himself in its anthropological network of styles (which correspond to different peoples, homelands, and characters) and its quasi-Wagnerian use of a mind-boggling number of themes (the book lists 91).

On Thu 8/18 and Fri 8/19, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform the score for The Fellowship of the Ring while the film (with the music digitally removed) plays on huge lawn and pavilion video screens at Ravinia Festival. Swiss conductor Ludwig Wicki, who specializes in this gig, will wield the baton; vocalists include Kaitlyn Lusk (she’s also touring with the film) and the Chicago Children’s Choir. Adams will sign his book starting at 6:45 PM outside the main gift shop. Performances are at 7:30 PM both nights; the park opens at 5 PM. Lawn admission is $25, and pavilion seats are $50; parking at the grounds is $10. Call 847-266-5100 or visit ravinia.org.

—Deanna Isaacs