White Winged Moth

By laying the guitar down, on the table or the floor or whatever was handy, musicians like England’s Keith Rowe and Fred Frith and Chicago’s own Kevin Drumm and Jim O’Rourke have upended familiar notions of what can be done with the instrument. You can add to this small group Dean Roberts, who performs under the name White Winged Moth. The native of Auckland, New Zealand, first came to Chicago two years ago, performing with the avant-rock trio Thela. Back then he laid his instrument on the floor and used a length of wire to excite its strings, summoning resonant drones that stretched between the stark drumbeats like humming power lines between poles. With White Winged Moth Roberts abandons rock rhythms in favor of an even more textural approach. In concert he drums on his guitars–sometimes two at once–which he’s prepared by weaving objects into the strings. The sounds he coaxes from the vibrating instruments range from subliminal whistles and mechanical hums to gamelanlike clangs and muted chimes. Roberts has also forsaken rock’s volume and velocity: the hushed music on his recent CDs Ribbon Arcade and Moth Park/Soundtracks to Utopia (the former is credited to White Winged Moth and the latter to Roberts; both are on his own Formacentric label) progresses at a glacial pace. For White Winged Moth’s Chicago debut Roberts will perform alone and with O’Rourke and Ken Vandermark. Tuesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. He also opens for Sonic Youth next Saturday, May 16, at 7 PM at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine; 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212. Bill MeyeR

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Formacentric.