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Chicago experimentalists Mako Sica find a sweet spot with master percussionist Hamid Drake

Since I first encountered it nearly a decade ago, I’ve repeatedly tried to engage with the music of Chicago trio Mako Sica. The determinedly exploratory ensemble couches improvisational impulses within meditative, expansive prog-rock modes more concerned with using chants, texture-rich guitar, and spacious rhythms to carve out space than with displaying hollow virtuosity. Unfortunately, their […]

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Round Robin offers improvised duets from Chicago jazz, rock, experimental, and hip-hop musicians

In 2010 Adam Schatz, a New York musician who’s been one of the driving forces behind his city’s sprawling Winter Jazzfest, launched Round Robin, a program focused on free improvisation where musicians with disparate approaches and backgrounds improvise in a steady stream of five-minute duos. The evening begins with a solo performance by one of […]

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Prolific Chicago indie-rocker Jason Balla expands his catalog with his new solo project, Accessory

Chicago indie rocker Jason Balla divides his time between Britpop-inflected four-piece Ne-Hi, atmospheric postpunk three-piece Dehd, and reverb-drenched duo Earring, all of which have made prominent places for themselves in the local underground rock scene. I can’t imagine Balla has much time on his hands, so when he starts a new creative endeavor, it’s likely […]

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Sophisticated Norwegian pianist Håvard Wiik debuts a new project with a group of Chicago improvisers

Pianist Håvard Wiik, a Norwegian native who lives in Berlin, is best known for his key role in the Scandinavian free-bop quintet Atomic, for which he writes much of the material. In that context he’s exhibited a strong interest in 20th-century classical music (you can’t miss his love for Morton Feldman), but his roots are […]

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Scorched Tundra Festival celebrates heavy sounds from Chicago and beyond with plenty of beer

This two-night metal festival, curated by metal and beer enthusiast Alexi Front (also the beer director for Kuma’s Corner restaurants), operates in both Chicago and Gothenburg, Sweden. In just seven years it has racked up an impressive ten installments. This year’s Chicago edition represents the heavy music of our hometown along with plenty of visitors. […]