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Shane Parish brings electrified sea shanties and improvisational explorations to Elastic Arts

There’s no pinning down Shane Parish. On acoustic guitar, he spins webs of bright, densely packed notes; plugged in, he dips into a deep well of jagged rhythms, gnarled chords, and elongated ribbons of humming sound. Stylistically, he seems equally at home meditating upon American folk tunes, negotiating high-speed hairpin turns with mathy combo Ahleuchatistas, […]

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Matchess draws music from the resources of memory on Sonescent

For roughly a decade, Chicago multi-instrumentalist Whitney Johnson maintained a fairly steady developmental arc with her solo project, Matchess. Her songs, which comprised layers of viola, organ, tape loops, drum machine, and voice, progressively materialized out of a murky, analog fog; the hooky, propulsive tracks on the 2018 release Sacracorpa glided like a lucid dream […]

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Basque musician Elena Setién makes sense of a changed world on Unfamiliar Minds

Basque singer and multi-instrumentalist Elena Setién began working on her latest English-language recording, Unfamiliar Minds, just as the first wave of COVID shut down Europe down. She uses both sound and language to get its pandemic-times message across: the echoing piano chords on the opening song, “2020,” evoke the numbness wrought by accumulating uncertainty, while […]

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Chicago’s Black musical visionaries charted paths for their communities in the 1950s and ’60s

Since the 1950s, Chicago has hosted a succession of visionary Black musical groups and societies. They’re best known as purveyors of avant-garde jazz, but that characterization sells short Sun Ra and his Arkestra, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and Phil Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble. Each was—and in some cases still is—a […]

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Violist Jessica Pavone brings good vibrations to the new When No One Around You Is There but Nowhere to Be Found

About a decade ago, back trouble forced Jessica Pavone to stop playing viola for nearly two years. Since her return, the impact of music upon the health and well-being of both performers and listeners has been one of the New York-based artist’s essential concerns. When she was composing the material for her most recent ensemble […]

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Percussionists Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang return to in-person performance for their annual solstice concerts

Six years ago, I characterized Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang’s winter solstice concert series as “an anchor, a beacon, and a seasonal tradition in its own right.” The two drummers began performing as a duo at Links Hall in 1990; surrounded by percussion instruments from around the world, they would begin by candlelight, then play […]

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AACM repertory ensemble Artifacts establish their own sound

Flutist Nicole Mitchell, cellist Tomeka Reid, and drummer Mike Reed initially formed Artifacts as a repertory group; the music on their 2015 debut album, Artifacts (482 Music), includes compositions by founding or early members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, among them Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Amina Claudine Myers, and Roscoe […]

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Chicago joins seven other cities on two continents to host the Catalytic Sound Festival

Avant-garde jazz musicians have been uniting to better control their opportunities to perform, record, and engage with their communities at least since the 1960s, when the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) first convened in Chicago and the shorter-lived Jazz Composers Guild (which included Carla Bley, Sun Ra, Bill Dixon, and Archie Shepp) […]

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Byron Westbrook blurs the boundaries between natural and man-made environments on Mirror Views

There’s more than one way to immerse yourself in sound, and electronic musician Byron Westbrook seems to be working his way through as many options as he can. He’s run the soundboard for Phill Niblock, the loudest man in minimalism; under the name Corridors, he’s conducted concerts for absent instruments that involved audience members passing […]