Posted inMusic

Spires That in the Sunset Rise and Michael Zerang blend primitive folk and spacey improvisation

Since forming 16 years ago, Spires That in the Sunset Rise have been blazing their own trippy path, with the group’s two core members, Kathleen Baird and Taralie Peterson, increasingly embracing a more improvisational ethos while retaining homemade folk roots. That shift has never been more pronounced than in their ongoing collaboration with percussionist Michael […]

Posted inMusic

On his charmingly low-key Drag City debut, veteran Chicago guitarist Bill MacKay shows his full range

For years Bill MacKay has soldiered on as one of the most skilled and tasteful guitarists in Chicago, a player who fluidly moves between jazz and rock while making several stops in between. He’s gained attention for his quartet Darts & Arrows—a tuneful fusion band that somehow bridges a gap between Larry Coryell’s early work […]

Posted inMusic

Justin Townes Earle settles into sobriety, marriage, and roots-rock orthodoxy on Kids in the Street

Justin Townes Earle wrote his new album, Kids in the Street (New West), in the wake of a sustained period of stability and happiness thanks to a new marriage and several years of sobriety. Luckily the songs aren’t about kittens and high-fives—the main conceit of opener “Champagne Corolla” is to celebrate a woman who’s cool […]

Posted inMusic

The artists behind both High Plains and Anjou have been crucial in defining the sound of Chicago’s Kranky label

This impressive double bill features gorgeously patient ambient sounds created by a group of musicians long faithful to influential Chicago indie label Kranky Records, where minimalism, new age, and gentle noise have combined in shifting timbres for nearly 25 years. Headlining the evening is High Plains, a duo featuring Vancouver’s Scott Morgan—who’s frequently recorded solo […]

Posted inMusic

Retirement be damned, minimalist composer Phill Niblock is going strong at age 83

The hoped-for paradox of minimalism is that reduced means will result in maximum effect. No artist has accomplished this more completely than composer and filmmaker Phill Niblock, whose music intentionally eschews rhythm and melody in favor of massed, sustained tones. The beats that result when microscopically variant pitches are played at sufficient volume turn unchanging […]

Posted inMusic

With You Are Not One of Us, Buildings advance Minneapolis’s great legacy of noise rock

There’s just something about a noise-rock record from Minneapolis, like a bowl of gumbo from Baton Rouge. Forged among the pillars of the almighty Amphetamine Reptile imprint—and no doubt guided by a trail of dismembered Big Muff pedals—Buildings churn through noise rock loyal to their Twin Cities and North Dakota forefathers (Hammerhead, Godheadsilo, etc). The […]

Posted inMusic

Shambling San Francisco garage rockers experiment with different modes on their new cassette, Gord’s Horse

Since forming in 2011, San Francisco quartet Cool Ghouls have made a virtue of no-frills consistency, doing little to disguise their devotion to 60s garage pop. Loose, chiming guitars ring out over chugging rhythms, but it’s their singing—which borrows from the early Beach Boys without sweating shortcomings in pitch or precise harmony—that makes each album […]