CLASSICAL: The Empty Bottle broadcasts the first Thirsty Ear Festival
On Sat 8/11 at 5 PM, the Empty Bottle will broadcast a show live on the radio for the first time in its history—but the music won’t be the sort of underground rock the club usually hosts. The occasion is the first Thirsty Ear Festival, a two-hour concert of contemporary classical music featuring local ensembles and artists. It’s organized by Seth Boustead, who hosts the hour-long radio program Relevant Tones on WFMT 98.7 FM every Saturday at 5 PM.
The program began airing on WFMT in April after five years on WLUW, and it’s one of very few in Chicago devoted to contemporary classical music. Boustead emphasizes local composers and ensembles, a task that’s become easier over the past few years as new-music groups have proliferated in Chicago. He’s a composer himself, as well as the executive director of Access Contemporary Music, an advocacy organization whose activities include concerts, educational programs, and “Weekly Readings,” where ACM members and freelancers record themselves working through submitted scores so that the composer can hear what the music actually sounds like.
Relevant Tones likewise attempts to be educational but nonpedantic. It airs music by and sometimes profiles of important local artists such as Eighth Blackbird and internationally acclaimed composers such as Alvin Lucier and Henryk Gorecki, and it examines movements and trends in new music, among them spectralism and remixing. Saturday’s concert features the meditative free improvisation of clarinetist James Falzone (see Soundboard), works by established composers Iannis Xenkais and Shulamit Ran, and a slew of music from up-and-coming voices, including Chicagoans Brian Baxter and Kyle Vegter. Each act gets a 30-minute slot, and the order of performers is Palomar (the performing arm of ACM), Falzone, the Maverick Ensemble (playing a composition by member Jason Raynovich), and the Chicago Q Ensemble (a relatively new string quartet).
At 4:15 PM, after doors open but before the concert and broadcast begin, all of the day’s musicians will spread out throughout the Bottle to perform Liminal Bends, a work in progress by former Chicagoan Ben Vida. And because Boustead has enlisted the participation of the Active Transportation Alliance, concertgoers who present a helmet or other proof that they biked to the show can get in for $5 rather than $10.
METAL: Master delivers another lesson from the old school
Up until fairly recently, Chicago wasn’t a great place to catch touring metal acts, but it’s always had a strong base of homegrown talent—and lots of people (and bands) who were around 20 or 30 years ago will still sit you down and school you. Last year the Onion‘s A.V. Club produced a terrific four-part oral history of Chicago metal, and Paul Speckmann looms large in it—he only has a few lines, but sometimes it seems like the other folks talk more about him than about themselves. Front man and bassist for pioneering death-metal band Master, which he formed in 1983, Speckmann spent the 80s further tangling the incestuous lineages of the vibrant south-side scene; aside from Master, he played in War Cry, Abomination, Death Strike, and Funeral Bitch, among others. His restlessness may have been a factor in Master’s failure to achieve the success they deserved in their early days—the man couldn’t sit still.
In the 90s he lived in Arizona, California, and the Netherlands, and in 2000 he moved to the Czech Republic, where he joined the now defunct Krabathor and put together a new Master lineup. He hasn’t forgotten where he came from, though, and he blows through town periodically to flatten us again. This week Master release their tenth album, The New Elite (Pulverised), and it doesn’t get artsy or avant-garde or fuck around with the formula Speckmann perfected years ago: that is, start punching at the first bell and never let up. It’s on a straight line running through 2010’s The Human Machine; if you liked that, you’ll probably like this, and Speckmann is as charismatic as ever. His oily growl has a sly, rubbery quality (he doesn’t seem to care about the arms race to sound as inhuman as possible), and the way he thrusts it through the riffs and seems to wrap it around his own bass lines helps create Master’s distinctive signature sound.
HIP-HOP: DJ Tony Trimm gets a reason to finally finish his debut
This week local producer and DJ Tony Trimm (aka Tony Kim) releases his debut solo album, Sugar Via Motor, a mostly instrumental collection filled with warm, spaced-out synths and punchy, even bombastic drum samples. It also includes contributions from Why? multi-instrumentalist Josiah Wolf, Pelican bassist Bryan Herweg, and eccentric MC Serengeti (aka David Cohn).
Serengeti has played a pivotal role in Trimm’s career; though Trimm had been DJing since 1996, he’d never tried his hand at producing when he befriended the MC in the mid-aughts. They soon began performing together, and after they split the cost of a MIDI keyboard to use at shows, Serengeti encouraged Trimm to work on some original instrumentals. Trimm has since collaborated with Serengeti on 2010’s Conversations With Kenny/Legacy of Lee, and in 2011 their side project Yoome released its debut, Boredom of Me.
Trimm has been working on Sugar Via Motor for years, in part because he’s a perfectionist and can’t stop tinkering with his songs in the engineering process. An upcoming tour with Why? and Serengeti forced his hand: “I was like, ‘I gotta have something. I can’t just go on the road empty-handed.'”
Trimm is self-releasing the album, which came out digitally on Tue 8/7. It’ll be available on CD at his record-release show on Sat 8/11 at the Whistler; Serengeti and Advance Base (aka Owen Ashworth) will DJ.