Wide-ranging improvisation from Sun Of Goldfinger, expansive pop from Kilo Kish, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Edwanike Harbour and John McCracken
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THURSDAY MARCH 14
Kilo Kish, real name Lakisha Robinson, has built a fluid universe around a vocal style that skips between silky hooks and prickly cadences. Robinson’s experience in fashion design and art enriches the music itself, both in her sonic choices and in the visual accompaniments she creates for her music. She’s directed or co-directed all her own music videos so far, and the best are surreal and daring: For “Locket,” from the 2014 EP Across, she portrays herself listlessly enduring a party in a cheerful apartment, and at one point packing peanuts begin to rain down. The video for “Elegance,”[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuBbsHb8ya4] from 2018’s Mothe EP, follows Robinson on a debauched night out with a group of people in wacked-out animal costumes. Both videos have a narrative backbone and lead Robinson to moments of solitary reflection. And then there’s the one for “Existential Crisis Hour,” from 2016’s album Reflections In Real Time, a sort of long dark food fight of the soul. These aren’t just novel videos, but fitting accompaniments for the ambitions in Kilo Kish’s actual music, where elements of R&B, hip-hop, shimmery electronic music, and impeccable pop instincts combine to give us the simmering melancholy of “Taking Responsibility” and the gnarly but stately “San Pedro.” Robinson is just tricky enough to pin down that it’s taken her a while to get the recognition she deserves, despite some higher-profile collaborations, including several tracks over the years that find her sparring playfully with Vince Staples (“remember how we used to fight in pre-K?”). But it’s worth taking the time to unpack her delightfully head-scratching solo work. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY MARCH 15
Perennial mumblecore favorite Andrew Bujalski’s second feature, 2005’s Mutual Appreciation, is about as good as an introduction to the genre as any other film. Using a hand-held camera and shooting cinema verité style in black in white, Bujalski also plays a lead on-screen role in this slacker comedy about three young adults in New York City who are trying, kind of, to go about their daily lives and not cross invisible boundaries with one another.
Alan (Justin Rice, also of the band Bishop Allen) is a recent transplant to New York City trying to get his band back together again. Andrew Bujalski is Lawrence, Alan’s friend, who is dating Ellie (Rachel Clift). A love triangle does not fully ensue as both Ellie and Alan acknowledge there is something between them, but opt not to act on it. The naturalistic style and dialogue are reminiscent of kitchen-sink realism (think 1959’s Look Back In Anger or 1963’s The Sporting Life).
The turbulence of American life has not upended the timeliness of this film and it still holds up today. Don’t expect heart-pounding drama or scathing takedowns à la Alex Ross Perry, a beautifully understated gem that will pair nicely with UW Cinematheque’s March 28 screening of Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha (2002), for which the director will be visiting in person. —Edwanike Harbour
SATURDAY MARCH 16
Rosanne Cash has come a long way from the boot-tapping, steel guitar-twanging country of her 1981 hit “Seven Year Ache,” creating a body of work that’s personal, poignant, and precise. On her newest album, 2018’s She Remembers Everything, Cash dons a new shade of black to create a set of meditative and melodic songs that reflect on life, career, and family. Tracks like “The Only Thing Worth Fighting For” and “She Remembers Everything” are slow-moving, almost dream-like looks at anger and violence against women through the eyes of a mother. Cash is noted for her gun control activism, and Remembers track “8 Gods Of Harlem” confronts the issue with a story about gun violence. “Everyone But Me” tackles death and grief, all while grappling with the conflicted imprint having a famous family can leave on a person. Cash released a short film to coincide with this newest release, featuring acoustic version of tracks off the album played by Cash and her spouse and frequent collaborator, John Leventhal. Cash’s work has spanned from narrative-driven albums to more commercial takes on country, and Remembers finds her working as deftly as ever with country music’s essential driving forces of rage, love, and loss. —John McCracken
Chicago band Toupée balances filth with allure in its approach to noisy post-punk. On “Glitter Roach,” from the 2015 album Leg Toucher, bassist-singer Whitney Allen escalates from a cooed vocal melody to hoarse, gibbering screams, pushing and pulling against the tension of her bandmates’ churning drums and fragmented guitars. (Allen, Nicholas Hagen, Mark Fragassi, and Sid Frigo all switch among different instruments, though Allen always forms the band’s charismatic center, both live and on record.) What keeps me coming back to this release is that Toupée finds so many ways to make noise and melody wriggle together, building up atmospheric little goth-rock suites on songs like “Constrictor” and “Mommy Is A Mummy” but starting at full tilt on the 38-second “The Spider That Lives In Your Hair.” Toupée’s live shows tend to add an element of cracked spectacle to its expertly warped sonics, and the band shares the bill here with standout Madison instrumental-rock trio Czarbles and experimental electronic project Noxroy. —Scott Gordon
TUESDAY MARCH 19
Guitarist David Torn has long used electronics and effects to coax his instrument into misty drones and wriggly warps, developing a style that blends the ethereal with gut-level instinct. In the new group Sun Of Goldfinger, Torn joins two other musicians who work on the cusp between jazz and avant-garde textural explorations, percussionist Ches Smith and saxophone player Tim Berne. The group’s self-titled debut album for ECM, released this January, comprises three 20-plus-minute improvised pieces. The first, “Eye Meddle,” creeps in from the atmospheric edge, as both Torn and Berne electronically layer themselves into the sonic equivalent of a granite-colored cloud and Smith gradually nudges everything into a bare rhythmic structure. Over time, this eerie mist bunches up into harsh, circular sax phrases and rampaging outbursts. Throughout the record, all the extremes of improvised music are on the table, from gorgeous restraint to punishing dissonance, and you can expect to get pulled between those poles a few times over at this show. —Scott Gordon
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