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Plantasia puts down roots at the Garfield Park Conservatory for its third installment

Bridging the ultrasynthetic and hyperorganic, Mort Garson’s album Mother Earth’s Plantasia is a Moog-powered salve “for plants . . . and the people who love them,” as the cover art notes. Since its 1976 release, Plantasia has become cultural canon, attracting reissues of varying legitimacy and providing grist for several exhaustive cultural critiques. After New […]

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Jonn Wallen of Oui Ennui made a torrent of genre-hopping albums while battling long COVID

In the past year or so, whenever a friend has asked me to recommend music, I’ve pointed them at Chicago multi-instrumentalist Jonn Wallen, who creates omnidirectional experimental electronic albums under the name Oui Ennui. A self-described hermit, he’d already spent decades making music largely in private and for his own satisfaction when COVID-19 hit. After […]

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Sons of Kemet go Black to the Future at Lincoln Hall

Barbadian-British reedist Shabaka Hutchings can’t contain his creativity within a single group—right now he has three. His most expansive is Shabaka & the Ancestors, a sextext featuring several South African musicians rooted in Johannesburg’s freewheeling jazz scene. His tightest, the three-man the Comet Is Coming, brings the same spiritual profundity within a harder-rocking, more synth-saturated […]

Posted inBest of Chicago

Best use of cicadas on a jazz album

The dense, iridescent drone of an untold number of singing cicadas seeps into Now, the 2021 sophomore full-length by Damon Locks’s Black Monument Ensemble. In August and September 2020, 11 of the collective’s members gathered to record at Edgewater’s Experimental Sound Studio, both inside and out back in the garden behind the building—and the environmental […]

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Elastic Arts hosts the fourth annual Afrofuturist Weekend

The fourth annual Afrofuturist Weekend comes to Elastic Arts from Friday, October 22, through Sunday, October 24, with evening programs on Friday and Saturday and daytime programs on Saturday and Sunday. The festival’s organizers describe it as a “celebration of Black artists making forward-looking work that envisions radically positive futures for Black people,” and in […]

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Angel Bat Dawid finds creative kinship in Sistazz of the Nitty Gritty

Brotherhood, meet sisterhood. Those who know clarinetist, composer, and self-described “sonic archaeologist” Angel Bat Dawid from the incisive October release LIVE likely associate her with her stalwart seven-piece band, Tha Brotherhood, which backs her on that album. It was recorded during a fraught, frustrating 2019 European tour, but when the pandemic shuttered venues and stilled […]

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Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble’s Now is an essential album of the moment

Flipping through television channels. Flicking through radio stations. They’re quotidian actions—until they’re not. When you’ve lived through a year like 2020, every frequency delivers the same nightmare from a different angle. On Now (International Anthem), Chicago sound collagist Damon Locks and his Black Monument Ensemble confidently grasp the tuning dial of history. Like 2019’s Where […]