with Mind Over Mirrors & 75 Dollar Bill
Wed March 16th, 2016
Minimum Age: 18+
Doors Open: 7:00PM
Show Time: 8:00PM
Event Ticket: $20
Day of Show: $25
This is a general admission, standing event.
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Simply put, Tortoise has spent nearly 25 years making music that defies description. While the Chicago-based instrumental quintet has nodded to dub, rock, jazz, electronica and minimalism throughout its revered and influential six-album discography, the resulting sounds have always been distinctly, even stubbornly, their own.
It’s a fact that remains true on “The Catastrophist,” Tortoise’s first studio album in nearly seven years. And it’s an album where moody, synth-swept jams like the opening title track cozy up next to hypnotic, bass-and-beat missives like “Shake Hands With Danger” and a downright strange cover of David Essex’s 1973 radio smash sung by U.S. Maple’s Todd Rittmann. Throughout, the songs transcend expectations as often as they delight the eardrums.
Tortoise, comprised of multi-instrumentalists Dan Bitney, John Herndon, Doug McCombs, John McEntire and Jeff Parker, has always thrived on sudden bursts of inspiration. And for “The Catastrophist,” the spark came in 2010 when the group was commissioned by the City of Chicago to compose a suite of music rooted in its ties to the area’s noted jazz and improvised music communities.
Tortoise then performed those five loose themes at a handful of concerts, and “when we finally got around to talking about a new record, the obvious solution to begin with was to take those pieces and see what else we could do with them,” says McEntire, at whose Soma Studios the band recorded the new album. “It turned out that for them to work for Tortoise, they needed a bit more of a rethink in terms of structure. They’re all pretty different in the sense that at first they were just heads and solos. Now, they’re orchestrated and complex.”
“All of the songs went through a pretty intensive process of restructuring,” adds Parker. “We actually had quite a lot of material that we ended up giving up on. Oftentimes, we’ll shelve ideas and come back to them years later.”
The album’s single “Gesceap” embodies the transformation of the original suite commissions, as it morphs from two gently intersecting synth lines into a pounding, frenzied full-band finish. “To a certain extent it’s more of a reflection of how we actually sound when we play live,” says McEntire of Tortoise’s heavier side. “That hasn’t always been captured as well on past albums.”
Elsewhere, “Hot Coffee” resurrects an idea abandoned from the band’s 2004 album “It’s All Around You,” gliding through only-on-aTortoise-album sections of funktastic bass lines, straight-up dance beats and Parker’s fusion-flecked guitar bursts. “It’s progressive experimental music with pop sensibilities,” says Parker.
“Rock On,” which McEntire says he and McCombs simultaneously had the idea to cover after having remembered hearing it on the radio all the time as kids, isn’t the only vocal moment on “The Catastrophist.” Also included is the bittersweet, honest-to-goodness soul ballad “Yonder Blue,” sung by Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley. “We’d finished the track and decided it would be good to have vocals on it,” recalls McEntire. “Robert Wyatt was our first choice, but he had just retired and politely said no. We were discussing asking Georgia to do something, but not that track in particular. Then we realized it would totally work.”
Tortoise is planning an extensive world tour in support of “The Catastrophist.” Admits McEntire, “figuring out how to reproduce these songs live will be a bit of a challenge. But I also feel like it might be time to dip into the back catalog a bit. The pool we draw from has been really consistent for quite awhile.
As ever, Tortoise has conjured sounds on “The Catastrophist” that aren’t being purveyed anywhere else in music today. There’s a deeply intuitive interplay between the group members that comes only from two decades of experimentation, revision and improvisation. And at a time when our brains are constantly bombarded by myriad distractions, “The Catastrophist” reminds us that there’s something much greater out there. All we have to do is listen.
Mind Over Mirrors
Mind Over Mirrors, the evolving project of Jaime Fennelly, deploys modest acoustic constituent materials—an Indian pedal harmonium and the human voice—to produce roiling, meditative music that both simulates the swells and troughs of synthesized electronics and conjures the ceaseless rhythms of tidal surges. While we can point out referential sonic compass points—G.I. Gurdjieff’s harmonium improvisations; certain particularly harmonically viscous recordings of Sacred Harp singers; Edward Artemiev’s soundtracks to Tarkovsky film —in its prayerful patience, its simultaneously formal and folk aspects, and its unabashed (if intermittently anxious) beauty, it doesn’t sound much like anything else being made today. There is an easy, and unusual, confluence of praise and play at work in Jaime’s music that catalyzes heady reverie. This sense of simultaneity, of braided traditions, recalls Henry Flynt’s fusion of Appalachian traditions with avant-garde tactics, an acknowledged influence.
Fennelly buttresses his simple harmonium foundation with an assortment of oscillators, tape delays, and synthesizing processors that belong to the world of classic analog electronic composition. The choice of the harmonium—a 19th-century pump and pedal-operated reed keyboard instrument that once featured prominently in North Indian and European classical and religious canons as well as the vernacular music of Scandinavia, the American South, and seagoing vessels—is significant for its historical, cultural, and folkloric associations as much the self-imposed compositional or technological limitations. But make no mistake—despite the academic and abstract valences, Mind Over Mirrors is body music. In live performance, Jaime’s feet are constantly pumping the harmonium’s pedals, and the music’s essential corporeality (in the sense of Harry Partch’s designation of “corporeal music”) has fostered a close collaborative relationship with acclaimed choreographer and dancer Miguel Gutierrez since 2001.
Though Fennelly now resides in Chicago, Mind Over Mirrors emerged during a three-year period during 2007 2010 while he was living on a remote island in the Salish Sea of Washington State. Since then, he has released recordings on Immune as well as Digitalis, Hands In the Dark, and Aguirre/Gift Tapes. In the early 2000’s, Fennelly co-founded the iconoclastic group Peeesseye (with guitarist and fellow PoB artist Chris Forsyth and drummer/visual artist Fritz Welch) in Brooklyn. While Mind Over Mirrors emerged along a decidedly solo axis, in 2014 Haley Fohr of Circuit des Yeux began accompanying him on select recordings and performances, supplementing his solitary reeling and gorgeous, woozy speechlessness with her incantatory singing and contributing a new textual dimension with her occasional, elliptical lyrics.
Working together, Fennelly and Fohr created The Voice Calling (2015), another masterful and singular Mind Over Mirrors album—as challenging and enveloping as ever, but achieving a more immediate emotional and psychological register—that garnered new audiences and earned rapturous praise from the likes of Pitchfork, SPIN, Impose, BOMB, and NPR, who described it as “an out-of-body experience.” The music of Mind Over Music has always been humane, but now it is also resolutely human—seeking, speaking.
In 2017, Paradise of Bachelors will release a new album by Mind Over Mirrors.
Fennelly will be touring in his solo Mind Over Mirrors incarnation this March, supporting legendary fellow Chicagoans Tortoise.
Mind Over Mirrors official site
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Mind Over Mirrors on Twitter
75 Dollar Bill
Che Chen: electric guitar, quartertone electric guitar, alto saxophone
Rick Brown: percussion, alto saxophone
75 Dollar Bill formed in New York City in 2012; the singular music of this instrumental duo draws various sources from around the world and across disciplines, everything from Mauritanian guitar to raw minimalism and blown-out urban blues, yet sounds unlike anything we’ve heard before. Wooden Bag is their debut vinyl release (after various cassette and digital EPs) and first for Other Music Recording Co., packaged in a limited-edition hand-stamped sleeve, download included. The band will be touring the US throughout the winter and spring.
Che Chen has recorded and toured playing violin, guitars and other instruments, with a diverse set of artists including True Primes, Jozef van Wissem, Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Che-Shizu and Robbie Lee. His guitar work explores a variety of influences, including Mauritanian guitar, Indian music, North Mississippi guitar boogie, Sun Ra, Led Zeppelin, the Velvets, Henry Flynt, and DNA.
Rick Brown has been playing drums and percussion on the downtown New York scene since the early ‘80s, and has recorded and toured with numerous bands, including V-Effect, Run On, Timber, Fish & Roses, and Chris Stamey, and has collaborated live or in the studio with Tortoise, Matmos, Yo La Tengo, Charles Hayward, Fred Frith, Malcolm Mooney, Elliott Sharp, Jean Smith, Mark Cunningham and many others.
In The New York Times, Ben Ratliff wrote of the duo’s live show: “Che Chen’s guitar: a cut-rate Japanese model sketching looped figures inside old Arabic modes, pushing jagged sound through a small amplifier. But as Mr. Chen stood playing hypnotic guitar repetitions, moving with the stresses of the riffs, the drummer Rick Brown sat on a square wooden box, open in the back, and attacked it from above. Sometimes he used his heel to bounce on a kick-drum pedal, pointing backward toward the box; mostly he was striking the sides of the box with his hands and a homemade mallet, hard, finding different pitches in different places. He cued transitions in the music, building odd or compound rhythms, turning them around and blurring distinctions between downbeats and upbeats. On the surface, the rhythms were only secondary to the guitar lines; deeper down, they were enfolded. One couldn’t do without the other.”
75 Dollar Bill on Bandcamp
75 Dollar Bill on Other Music Recording Co.