Classical: So Percussion founder Doug Perkins moves to Chicago
One of the highlights of the 2012 classical season was August’s performance of the John Luther Adams percussion piece Inuksuit, which took place all over the Pritzker Pavilion grounds despite steady rain. Percussionist Doug Perkins masterminded the concert (as well as a New York performance in February), and it was an auspicious sign for him: he’d just moved with his family to suburban Glenview, where his wife works as a doctor, to begin an open-ended residency with Eighth Blackbird at the University of Chicago.
Previously Perkins and his family lived in rural New Hampshire while he taught at Dartmouth, but he’s no stranger to Chicago. He’s played here regularly with the acclaimed So Percussion (which he cofounded in 1999 and left in 2006), in the Meehan/Perkins Duo, and with Eighth Blackbird and International Contemporary Ensemble. “I really fell in love with Chicago,” he says. “My wife and I would always talk about how much fun it would be to live here, and I think the opportunity to be in residence with Eighth Blackbird at the U. of C. was the final excuse we needed.”
Perkins will take over for Eighth Blackbird’s Matthew Duvall at all the group’s U. of C. events, but neither he nor the group has any local performances scheduled for the near future. On Tuesday, though, he’s releasing his first solo recording, Simple Songs (New Focus), a stunning collection of recent music that includes commissions from Beau Sievers and ICE member Nathan Davis. Some pieces, including Davis’s “Simple Songs of Birth and Return” and Tristan Perich’s “Momentary Expanse,” incorporate electronics; compositions by David Lang and Michael Gordon use dizzyingly complex polymetric patterns. Perkins also has a healthy sense of fun, skipping the usual dry liner notes in favor of a comic by cartoonist Matthew Guerrieri. “I almost never read those booklets, and I sure can’t remember one that was fun or memorable,” says Perkins. The booklet in Simple Songs explains the works via a time-traveling “Drummer Person” who schools a group of Ottoman janissaries besieging a city—he brings peace with the motto “Percussion not plunder!”
INDIE POP: Netherfriends cuts a record (almost) live at Schubas
Shawn Rosenblatt, aka Netherfriends, usually gets filed under “bedroom-pop,” and not without reason: he records ethereal indie pop in his bedroom by himself. But during his upcoming November residency at Schubas—he’ll play every Monday that month—Rosenblatt hopes to make an almost-live album, combining recordings from all four shows with subsequent overdubs. And he wants to get the audience involved too. I talked to the forever-touring Netherfriends during a drive from this city to that city:
The PR describes this as an “experiment in residency.” Explain that. A lot of people who do residencies just play the shows. I’ve been on tour now for three years straight, taking at most a month off. In the last year and a half I’ve figured out how to perform solo. My last record, Middle America, was recorded the same way I’ve always done it. Now I’m interested in the idea of recording a live performance of my solo set, as well as some new material. Plus it’ll give me time to experiment and write new songs.
Are the opening bands for each show going to collaborate or form some rudimentary backing band? I’m going to try. Musicians are flaky [laughs]. They’re all way too busy. Maybe a couple of them that I’m close to and will hang with. That’s the thing—I’ll trick people into coming over, and the next thing they know they’re recording.
How are you going to incorporate the audience? I’ll record a scream before a song, for instance, and eventually use it in that song. I’ll assign loops and samples onto a pad and play them at any point, using a sustain pedal to trigger it.
And there will be overdubs and added instrumentation to round it out? I’m going to do some extra work to it, just to make it sound the best it possibly can. You’re not going to hear the audience. There’s not going to be stage banter, like on Kiss’s Alive! I want to experience something different. I don’t have money to record in a recording studio, so what’s the next best thing?
ART-ROCK: Ono release their first album in 26 years
On Halloween cultishly beloved Chicago art-rockers Ono release their third album, Albino, their first since 1986’s Ennui. Ono got started in 1980, and the current seven-piece lineup includes two founding members: bassist-percussionist P. Michael and front man Travis, who’s also a performance artist and LGBTQ activist. According to Michael, some of the songs on Albino date from 1981.
In 2007 the group was dormant—it never really broke up—when Plastic Crimewave Sound front man and Reader contributor Steve Krakow interviewed Michael and Travis for his Secret History of Chicago Music strip. Krakow invited Ono to play at that year’s 4 Million Tongues Festival, their first show after a long hiatus. They soon appeared on Chic-a-Go-Go, and the gigs started piling up.
Ono played a few times at the Empty Bottle, where Cave guitarist Cooper Crain was working as an engineer; he approached the band about recording an album. “We always liked what he did with our sound,” Michael says. “So we decided to give it a shot.” The group cut Albino in one 12-hour session at Minbal last spring—and started recording a follow-up with Crain this past weekend.
Moniker Records is releasing Albino on just the right holiday: Ono’s extravagantly rowdy, noisily eccentric trance-funk is a perfect fit for All Hallows’ Eve. Ono will celebrate Albino‘s release Wed 10/31 at Quenchers; Mayor Daley, the Hecks, and Famous Laughs open.