Dreamy electronic pop from Binary Marketing Show, Tani Diakite at Eken Park Fest, the brutally honest comedy of Sam Jay, and more events of note in Madison this week.
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.
THURSDAY AUGUST 16
On her 2018 album Donna’s Daughter, Boston-raised comedian and Saturday Night Live writer Sam Jay puts a lot of vulnerability into her stand-up, but not through sheepishness or making herself the butt of every joke. Lots of comedians are self-deprecating, but this is something different. The bits here, interspersed with musical interludes and candid interviews, use scorched-earth honesty to unpack the twists and turns of being a black lesbian in America. A comic has to thread a pretty fine needle to get good material out of a marriage-ending fight that turned violent, but Jay does it by exploring how her ex and the cops interpreted all the scrambled social cues involved in the event (“I may be a wife with dick-holes in my underwear, but a wife still the same, and you hit me, bitch”). Throughout it all, Jay comes is cool and unfazed, comfortably slinging darkly funny truths even when they come from her own raw experience. Elsewhere, Jay holds up carpooling with Uber Pool as an example of the subtle class structures built into technology (“fuck—this is a little bus!”) and explains why she thinks white people are aliens. However outlandish or familiar the subject may be, Jay makes her slyly inventive commentary sound conversational and effortless. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY AUGUST 17
Chicago jazz guitarist Jeff Swanson gently tugs his compositions into varied layers of texture and atmosphere on his project Case-fitter’s self-titled 2018 album. Tracks like “Graham’s” and “Little Big Run” focus on layered, melodic passages that unfold over the course of long and subtly complex structures, giving Swanson plenty of room to converse with a rich cast of collaborators, including Greg Ward on also sax, Greg Artry on drums, and Artie Black on tenor sax and bass clarinet. Swanson’s guitar often hangs back on these tracks, providing a quiet center around which the other musicians can swirl and improvise. Swanson’s warm, sweeping chords move to the foreground on “Let The Children Play,” leading the ensemble in a build toward a radiant up-tempo exchange of concise hooks. At this show, Swanson will play two sets with Ward, Artry, saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi, pianist Paul Bedal, and bassist Matt Ulery. —Scott Gordon
SATURDAY AUGUST 18
The humble but sturdy Eken Park neighborhood in the shadows of the old Oscar Mayer plant has a family-friendly summer festival of its own, and it’s worth venturing over to catch a couple gems of Madison music. Tani Diakite & The Afrofunkstars (3 p.m.) centers around Mali native and longtime Madison resident Diakite using the kamale n’goni, a harp-like gourd-based instrument, to create fleet sprays of melody over the band’s multi-layered percussion and Afrobeat-inspired incorporation of funk elements, as captured on the 2012 album Dalonkan. Cris Plata (1:30 p.m.) draws on his roots as a Mexican-American from South Texas to create a mix of straight-up country and Mexican folk. The festival also includes blues-influenced singer and guitarist Raine Stern (noon), hip-hop band Bird Eye (5 p.m.), and ska-punk smartasses Something To Do. —Scott Gordon
SUNDAY AUGUST 19
Headlining this Tone Madison-presented show is Lykanthea, the wide-ranging project of Chicago-based musician and multimedia artist Lakshmi Ramgopal. Lykanthea’s 2014 EP Migration channeled ideas from ambient music and Carnatic music into rich synth arrangements and layers of Ramgopal’s vocals. Tracks like “Telos” and “Aphonia” have strong, unabashedly pop-leaning melodies that flow right into formidable explorations of space, texture, and delicate yet towering harmonics. Ramgopal has been working on a follow-up release—which she describes as “a study in the search for renewal after loss”—while also pursuing art projects that meld performance, installation, and music (some of it more stripped-down than that of Migration).
The night will open up with a set from Olyvia Jaxyn, a Madison-based musician whose personal, vulnerable songwriting and otherworldly vocals made their debut EP Lyv one of the finest local-music surprises of 2017. Chants, the project of Madison-based electronic producer Jordan Cohen, will close out the night with a DJ set. Cohen’s latest EP of original tracks, 2018’s Carious Motion, captures his deepening interest in creating hard-hitting but rhythmically disorienting club tracks. Tickets for the show are on sale now, and there is a discount for Tone Madison Sustainers. —Scott Gordon
TUESDAY AUGUST 21
Portland, Oregon duo Binary Marketing Show swath their songs in gorgeous melancholy, each track drawing on a slightly different configuration of tenderly warped sounds. Abram Morphew and Bethany Carder’s vocal melodies and sparse electronics also evoke a feeling of resilience—they may put a lot of sadness in the foreground of “The Unknowing,” or an itchy anxiety atop “Days From Now,” both from the new Short-Term Fix For A Long-Term Death, but somewhere in the background there’s a joyous clatter, an exuberance that can be placed at a distance but never quite suppressed. This music comforts and questions in equal measure
Touring alongside Binary Marketing Show here is Bob Bucko Jr., a tireless experimental musician from Dubuque whose work has ranged from explosive dissonant free-jazz to scrappy, introverted electronic pop. The latter predominates on Bucko’s 2017 solo release Decelebrate, which lays wan but catchy vocals over scratchy, shuffling arrangements of synth, drum machine, mysteriously sourced electronic noise, and the occasional banjo or guitar to warm things up. Sharing the bill here are two experimental Madison acts, the multi-faceted psych/electronic solo project Terran and the unpredictable drone duo Woodman/Earhart (which features Tone Madison contributor Emili Earhart). —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 22
Listening to the L.A.-formed, currently New York-based band Sloppy Jane is like watching someone craft a portrait of squalor and mental disturbance in garish shades of highlighter, streaked makeup, hair, maybe a couple detached doll parts from a thrift store. Amid this spectacle, leader Haley Dahl and her 10-piece-plus band create a genuine sense of unease. “Mindy,” from the 2018 concept album Willow, mixes skeletal post-punk with teetering nursery-rhyme melodies in a cracked group vocal arrangement. Dahl can be a menacing vocal section of her own, switching between sugary melody, gruff punk-rock shouts and demonic cackles on many of the band’s songs. “La Cluster” uses slide whistle, violin, and fluttering clean-toned guitars to evoke a carefree sunny day where something is nonetheless bound to go wrong, and “King Mitis” veers into claustrophobic sludge. As a live band, Sloppy Jane has a reputation for being just as over-the-top as the music suggests, and then some. Madison psych-pop outfit Disq and the multi-faceted Post Social open this show. —Scott Gordon