Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld, Litüus, a local hip-hop fest, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY AUGUST 4
Ukrainian quartet DakhaBrakha combine textured hand percussion, layered group vocals, and droning cello and accordion in a simultaneously minimalist and expansive approach they call “ethno-chaos.” In their effort to reinterpret Ukrainian folk music with a host of other reference points—from African polyrhythms to Western pop music—DakhaBrakha come off as both stately and playful. They play here at an installment of Central Park Sessions dubbed the “Small World Session”: Also on the bill is New Orleans-based singer Sasha Masakowski and her band, and New Hampshire flamenco/gypsy-swing hybridizers Ameranouche. —Scott Gordon
Between his infectious garage-punk canon with The Spaceshits, his mighty multi-tasking as the BBQ half of the King Khan & BBQ Show, or just being a one-man garage-rock tour de force in his solo work, Montreal-based multi-instrumentalist Mark Sultan has been refining his dirty, bare-bones guitar-pop for over 25 years. His latest BBQ EP, Mark Sultan, dropped in late 2015 and its four tunes are packed with the same infectiously nasty and highly influential pop-rock tunes that so many contemporaries take a crack at and can’t quite imitate. “The Other Two” rides on a few jangly chords and a stripped-down rhythm, as Sultan’s melodically yearning vocals wail above. Closing tune “Rock Me” touches on the charms of soulful doo-wop without the backing harmonies, as his mighty voice shakes and quivers convincingly through hook after hook. —Joel Shanahan
FRIDAY AUGUST 5
Bearing witness to a live performance from Pennsylvania-based percussion experimentalist Tatsuya Nakatani is brain-bending, to say the least. We’re grateful that he keeps cruising through Madison, as we could never tire of Nakatani’s seemingly peerless expansion of both the traditional sonic and physical possibilities of a percussion performance. He twists up elements of organic drone and free jazz into something totally pure, and leaves no corner of any piece in his arsenal of instruments unbowed, untapped, or un-battered. The dynamics of every dimension in the avant-percussionist’s moves feel both entirely deliberate and completely spontaneous, as his limbs constantly work in a tasteful frenzy, with one foot working the kick drum, one hand bowing a gong, and the other hand both bowing and spinning an array of harmonizing singing bowls. Cymbals are bent and slammed, as they sing and screech and are rubbed abrasively over the head of his tom drum, gongs growl and sing, and a floating and shape-shifting groove somehow keeps soaring through the backdrop. It’s a constant conversation where every word means something—and you can hear more voices in one of Nakatani’s performances than you probably would from an ensemble of synthesizers. —JS
The Madison Public Library’s Bubbler program opens three new art shows and kicks off a new artist residency at this loosely but intriguingly themed event. Artists Brandon Norsted, Kandy Watson, and Mackenzie Reynolds all explore memory and left-behind artifacts, from Reynolds’s hauntingly modified family photos to Norsted’s photos of cars in a junkyard. During the evening, the Bubbler’s newest artist-in-residence, Danika Brubaker, will lead attendees in an experiment incorporating found art and social media. —SG
The newest Madison ensemble to celebrate Brazilian music, Wolbaianos, will make their debut here with a performance of the album Acabou Chorare, released in 1972 by a band called Novos Baianos. Followers of Brazilian music treasure the album for its rich weave of samba rhythms and its nods to contemporary styles of pop and psychedelic rock. Fellow Madison outfit Metabaque offers another perspective on Brazilian music, combining the Afro-Brazilian maracatu genre with hip-hop rhythms. Madison jazz sextet Lovely Socialite, while not explicitly focused on Latin music, are rangey, strange, and playful enough to fit in here. —SG
The Sugar Maple Traditional Music Festival generally tries to offer a window into American roots music—from Cajun music to bluegrass to ragtime—and highlight younger artists who are trying to keep the old-timey stuff relevant and lively. It doesn’t usually aim for the “alternative country” part of the spectrum, but Jay Farrar of Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo will be there in a trio format Saturday, performing songs from Son Volt’s 1995 debut album, Trace. Seems like a bit of an outlier, but based on videos and reviews from the trio’s performances earlier this year, even more rocking numbers like “Drown” and “Route” will get a sparse treatment here, with just two guitars, pedal steel, and fiddle. More typical of Sugar Maple will be Friday’s set from young Nashville western-swing duo Music City Doughboys, and a Saturday set of traditional Cajun and Creole music from Jesse Legé, Ed Poullard and Charlie Terr. —SG
SATURDAY AUGUST 6
Local Hip Hop Fest: Chaos New Money, Red, Charles Grant, Trebino, DJ Pain 1, Rich Robbins, Broadway. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m. (free)
It’s been a productive summer for Madison hip-hop, with campus-nurtured artists and young Madison natives releasing new albums and EPs and a respectable string of singles, and this show is as good an introduction as any. Broadway, an MC studying in UW-Madison’s First Wave program, has dropped two singles recently (“StageFace” and “Make Me Rich”) that showcase her intricately structured and brilliantly slippery flows. This is in preparation for a project she’s said will come out sometime this summer, so we’re hoping for some more solid new material in her set here. Fellow First Waver Rich Robbins recently released an ambitious second album, and young Madisonians like Red and Trebino have been offering a grittier vision in their singles, while Charles Grant contributes a downtrodden but spirited voice in recent songs like “Dope Man Guilt.” The lineup here is a varied and admirable effort to bring together hip-hop acts of different backgrounds and stylistic bents. Their (relative) elder DJ Pain 1 will be presiding over it, after a year that’s seen him collaborate with artists including Royce Da 5’9″ and Sole. —SG
Say what you want about Def Leppard in all their cringe-worthy cheese, goofy hooks, and overall hair-metal bombast. In their partnership with producer Mutt Lange, they wrote some of the most compelling, memorable, and sonically interesting pop tunes of the 1980s. Some folks will only argue for the role they played in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and their work with ex-guitarist-vocalist Pete Willis, but this writer would rather argue for the era when tasteful guitar stylist Phil Collen joined the band and Rick Allen learned how to play a drumset with one fucking arm. Seriously. Just listen to “Animal,” from 1987’s Hysteria: Those gorgeous, chorus-laden guitars in the verses, the endearingly tinny guitar hooks in the chorus, and vocalist Joe Elliott’s swaggering hooks hold up. Not to mention all the weird synth bits and atmospheric production of “Love Bites.” Plus, there are all of those bizarrely reverberated electronic drum sounds that pummel throughout the album. With the hits in particular, it’s tough to ignore the meticulous attention to detail that plays out in the tiniest sonic flourishes of not just the anthemic choruses and verses, but even in the tiniest corners of every intro and pre-chorus. I mean, yeah, it’s still Def Leppard and there are probably moments in every tune that feel borderline embarrassing to listen to, but this somehow doesn’t really take away from how expertly crafted those tunes are on every level. —JS
MONDAY AUGUST 8
Once a fixture in Madison’s tiny but remarkable experimental scene, Chicago-based sound designer and synthesist Connor Camburn began crafting his distinctive and murky voice with the raw, pulsing railroad electronics of his former Slag Heap moniker. As the years have passed, Camburn has further refined his bleak and distant vision in his work under the name Litüus. On his latest EP, 19805.-_1990, which dropped in 2015 through avant-techno producer Shifted’s Avian imprint, Camburn zooms in on a series of unsettling pulses that linger in the air like a ghostly installation—relying more on subtle alterations and tweaks than traditional movement. Every slight shift in the core synth patch for each piece—be it the filter, resonance, or delay—makes each gritty anti-tone slither through the listener’s skull a bit differently, The haunting stillness of Camburn’s tunes should provide the perfect counterpoint to the more immediate industrial-pop stylings of Hide, the other Chicago-based act on the bill. Hide’s latest 12-inch —2015’s Flesh For The Living—offers a nostalgic nod to Wax Trax-era EBM, but strips away much of the kitsch in favor of something a bit more polished and sinister. The title track barrels in with a hammering four-on-the-floor kick, as a pulsing, droning bassline stutters under ominous vocals of Heather Gabel. Madison’s own psychedelic goth-pop voyager Samantha Glass will fill out the bill. —JS
Space Jam is that strange film that seems to exist in the limbo-like pop-cultural state of existence between “holding up” and “not holding up.” It’s just barely insane enough to be worth rewatching, but it’s simply not a good enough film where the act of watching it is that much more enjoyable than simply contemplating the possibility of watching it. Believe it or not, getting Michael Jordan involved in a basketball game alongside the Loony Tunes in space against a team of aliens who call themselves The Monstars requires more suspension of disbelief than most adults are able to muster. Then again, maybe I’m just the grump raining on everyone’s parade. For those of us with enough childlike sense of wonder to enjoy it with zero irony, I say go with God. For everyone else, enjoy it for the 1996 time-capsule wild ride of an absurd train wreck that it is. —Chris Lay
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 10
Minneapolis band Posh Lost make post-punk songs with a tasteful balance of Joy Division austerity and sleek, gloomy melody. The band’s recent self-titled EP stands out for guitarist Jeff Cornell’s earnest (if very Ian Curtis-channeling) vocals and its sharp grasp of arrangements and dynamics: “Impulse” begins with a chugging, distorted bass line and martial drum pattern that hint at aggression, but instead the band deftly layers on soulful overdriven guitar leads and shimmering synth pads. And for all those lush elements, Posh Lost retains a poignant sense of coldness and restraint. —SG
OK, so there was that whole Jazzcat fiasco, but the annual Jazz At Five series deserves some credit here for managing to include a few of Madison’s fresher jazz acts in its lineup. One is Major Vistas, playing the 5 p.m. set at this installment. The trio recently released its debut album, Minor Anthems, which finds guitarist Chris Bucheit, keyboard player Mike Weiser, and drummer Geoff Brady crafting surprisingly moody tunes informed by both pop structure and jazz improvisation. Bucheit and Weiser talked with us about the album on a recent podcast. —SG
On the 2015 full-length Never Were The Way She Was, violin artisan Sarah Neufeld and reed explorer Colin Stetson (who are both Arcade Fire collaborators) join forces for a series of enveloping compositions that flutter adeptly between the lushest highs and growling, discombobulating lows. Album-opener “The Sun Roars Into View” never seems to stop ascending into the heavens, as whirling and colorful reed lines climb up columns of galloping violin work. The duo traverse some serious Reich-ian territory on “In The Vespers,” as lightning-quick counter melodies between sax and violin bounce off each other wildly before dropping into a freefall of rippling, bowed notes and screeching drones. The journey takes a couple of beautifully unexpected twists in the creepy, growling, (presumably) bass-clarinet-led trudge of “With The Dark Hug Of Time” and the asymmetrical groove of “The Rest Of Us.” On the latter song, the rhythmic backbone seems to be processed by the externally mic’d and processed keys of Stetson’s sax, as Neufeld’s hypnotic bowing patterns circle overhead. —JS
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