Toupee, Lykanthea, Ra’Shaun, and more events of note in Madison this week. | Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Joel Shanahan, Mike Noto
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THURSDAY MARCH 17
Benoit Pioulard, Norwei. Frequency, 9 p.m.
With the releases of albums Sonnet, Stanza, and Stanza II (in addition to some EPs and collaborations) Seattle-based songwriter and veteran explorer of lush, textural ambience Benoit Pioulard (née Thomas Meluch) enjoyed an unusually prolific 2015. And much like the three albums Meluch dropped last year, his current live show finds the guitarist backing away from the baritone crooning and pop-folk song structures that weaved in and out of his previous efforts, instead building warm, zone-out vignettes through distant vocals, guitar, and what resembles (but may not be) some field recordings and synth textures. The effect of jamming tunes like Sonnet’s “So Etched In Memory” or “Upon The Break Arch” is similar to that of staring into a blurry, damaged Polaroid that has been cooking in the sun for days, as their slow, yearning melodies drift in and out of focus. Read more this week in our interview with Meluch. —Joel Shanahan
Soy Cuba. Union South Marquee, 7 p.m. (free)
Boasting the stamp of approval from none other than Martin Scorsese himself and membership in A.V. Club’s “new cult canon,” 1964’s Soy Cuba features stylistic maximalism that is matched only by its pro-Castro political potency. The one-time long-lost film’s four distinct stories unspool in the last days of Cuba’s Batista regime, and eagle-eyed film nerds will likely spot camera moves that numerous directors have lifted in the years since. UW Madison professor and artist Faisal Abdu’Allah will introduce the film. —Chris Lay
Legalize it! DJ Night. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
FRIDAY MARCH 18
Lykanthea, Julian Lynch And Daniel Wyche, Mid Waste. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 7 p.m.
On 2014’s Migration, the most recent EP from Chicagoan experimentalist and songwriter Lakshmi Ramgopal’s Lykanthea project, Ramgopal glues together her spacious, chanty tunes with moody and cinematic of layers drifting vocals, soaring textures, and washed out synth lines. The subtle, more traditional pop pulse of opening tracks “Telos” and “Hand And Eye” eventually melt down into the ominous and swirling fever-dream atmosphere of beatless closers “Aphonia” and “Partition.” We’re stoked to see how Ramgopal manipulates her fortress of gadgetry to reconstruct her songs in the live setting, and we’re also eager to hear if she’ll debut some new material. —JS
Short And Rare + Bread And Chocolate. Vilas Hall, 6 p.m. (free)
In another brilliant double-dip from the UW Cinematheque programmers, Franco Brusati’s 1974 broadly satirical immigrant comedy Bread & Chocolate will be preceded by a collection of mid-century Italian documentary short subjects ranging in topic from Shakespeare to amateur athletes to WWII bombing victims to animal testing to experimental art. Both the shorts collection and the feature are recently restored prints from the Cineteca di Bologna. The documentaries will be introduced by Guy Borlée, Coordinator of the Cineteca’s annual Il Cinema Ritrovato festival. —CL
Jorrit Dijkstra. Mother Fool’s, 8 p.m. (free)
Netherlands-born and currently Boston-based saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra has spliced together many strands of jazz, electronic music, and avant-garde composition in various group and solo settings since the mid-1980s. The solo setup he’ll bring to Mother Fool’s for this show uses alto sax, analog synths, effects pedals, and a wind-synth called a lyricon to craft disorienting and cleverly layered improvisations. Dijkstra’s 2015 album, Never Odd Or Even, wrings surprising variety from this setup, from the slow-building ambient absorption of “Ooze” to the playfully percussive noise of “Talking Pads” to the the needling reed-squeakery of “Tickly.” —Scott Gordon
Brennan Connors And Stray Passage. Audio for the Arts, 7:30 p.m. (also March 19)
We’ve mentioned Madison free-jazz trio Brennan Connors And Stray Passage a few times recently in this calendar, but their two shows this weekend deserve a special note. Saxophonist Connors, drummer Geoff Brady, and cellist/bassist Brian Grimm will be playing here in the live room of downtown recording studio Audio for the Arts, inviting an audience to watch while they lay down their first recordings as a group. This space has served as a cozy but serviceable venue for many jazz and avant-garde shows in recent years (there’s room for about 30 seated audience members in there in addition to the performers), and this arrangement will hopefully let the trio make a studio recording that captures the fierce and wide-ranging energy of their improvised live sets. —SG
Ra’Shaun, Trapo, Lucien Parker, CRASHprez, Trebino, Riel Prophet, Red. Lothlorien Co-op, 9 p.m.
Ra’Shaun and Trapo are two young singer-MCs from Madison who rapidly built up followings and landed some press from outlets like Pigeons And Planes before many people here in town took notice. They’re friends an occasional collaborators, and make good foils for each other: The gravelly-voiced Trapo displayed a conceptual, narrative bent on last year’s Black Beverly Hills EP, and Ra’Shaun’s songs so far have tended to be a lot more bouncy and fun, especially last month’s exuberant single “What’s Up.” Both play here as they tease new releases, Trapo’s She EP and Ra’Shaun’s Orange Wall EP. —SG
SATURDAY MARCH 19
Kitsch-As-Kitsch-Can IV. Lothlorien Co-op, 5 p.m.
Kitsch-As-Kitsch-Can is a somewhat-annual gathering organized by Madison musician Chris Joutras (Coordinated Suicides, Dumb Vision, The Momotaros) and named for his Kitschy Manitou label[http://kitschymanitou.com/]. This year’s 13-band lineup reaches into some lesser-known corners of Midwestern punk and noise-rock, and perhaps the biggest attraction is Chicago band Toupee, whose 2015 album Leg Toucher veers through several brilliantly mangled interpretations of post-punk, from the volatile and slashing “Glitter Roach” to the spacious and ominous “Constrictor.” Other highlights here include a rare set from Madison’s grimy yet lovable Dharma Dogs (another of Joutras’ bands), and primal Columbus punk outfit Raw Pony. —SG
Josh Harty, Old Soul Society, Sarah Lou Richards. High Noon Saloon, 8:30 p.m.
North Dakota native Josh Harty has spent much of the past few years on the road and living for brief stints in various cities around the U.S., but before that spent a long time in Madison, earning a local following for his understated, folk-rooted songs and considerable guitar prowess. He plays here with a full band to celebrate a new album, Holding On. The songs here often portray people contemplating the moments when life seems like too much to handle—especially the title track and “Ballad For A Friend”—and Harty’s back-of-the-throat baritone voice lends it an air of good-natured stoicism without dampening his characters’ sadness and frustrated hope. —SG
The Crosses, Sinking Suns, Pay To Cum. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
Sinking Suns have been around on the edges of Madison’s music community for years and don’t play live that often, but the band’s tight, disciplined, and well-wrought noise rock doesn’t sound like anyone else in town. Guitarist Scott Udee’s glassy, noirish leads lend a splintered, jagged unease to the songs, and there’s a hint of Public Image Ltd’s Keith Levene in the ringing, polished dissonance that characterizes his guitar tone and technique. But Sinking Suns doesn’t go in for the overwhelming low-end and troublingly persuasive paranoia that characterized PiL. Instead, they have a sinister, slightly warped melodic feel, precisely deployed dynamics and concise song construction, tied together with rasping singer Dennis Ponozzo’s endlessly uncoiling bass lines. The band’s been working on an album ever since their self-released 10-inch EP Songs Of Revenge came out in 2014. —Mike Noto
Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
One of the most notorious films ever made, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom, finds its roots in Dante’s The Divine Comedy but contorts itself into a deeply grotesque allegory about Fascism and, sporting a variety of gruesome degradations, is decidedly not for the squeamish. —CL
SUNDAY MARCH 20
Mount Moriah, Elephant Micah. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
North Carolina trio Mount Moriah’s third album, this year’s How To Dance, consists of firmly swaying country songs with an undercurrent of grandeur. Opening track “Calvander” fits into a warm and rootsy comfort zone, but also looks beyond it with Heather McEntire’s stately vocal phrasing and McEntire and Jenks Miller’s restrained but bright guitar hooks. And the band strikes that balance on the other highlights here, including “Davis Square” and “How To Dance” (OK, basically all the slow-ish ones)—you can get plenty that’s familiar and reassuring from these songs, but the band’s suspenseful and elegant songwriting rewards those paying closer attention. —SG
Wild Strawberries. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m.
Bookended by his two best known masterworks The Seventh Seal in February and Wild Strawberries in December, you could say that 1957 was a banner year for Ingmar Bergman. Following an aging professor on a long road trip and using the dream world as its modal setting, Wild Strawberries is a meditation on death and mortality, but in a much smaller and decidedly more humane fashion than the film that came before it. —CL
TUESDAY MARCH 22
Super Serious Singer Songwriter Series: Chris Joutras. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
WEDNESDAY MARCH 23
The Tone Cluster: Wendy Schneider. High Noon Saloon, 5:30 p.m. (free)
The documentary The Smart Studios Story has been in the works ever since the long-running Madison recording studio shut down in 2010, and it will get its local premiere next month at the Wisconsin Film Festival. Director Wendy Schneider, fresh off the film’s world premiere at South By Southwest, will join me and a live audience for an in-person discussion, and not just about the documentary. Schneider has spent many years in Madison as a musician, recording engineer, and filmmaker, and curates the monthly Maria’s show series. Of course, I’ll also be asking her a lot about the film, which encompasses the bigger acts that passed through Smart (Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, etc.), but just as importantly the less-appreciated hordes of great punk, noise-rock, and hip-hop acts who recorded there over the years. —SG
Nerd Nite Madison. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
This month’s Nerd Nite Madison will feature Heather Kopec detailing the cultural history of Mason jars, UW Geology Museum curator Carrie Eaton making a case for the awesomeness of mastodons, and Aaron Campbell discussing the finer points of marksmanship. As usual, we’ll be recording the talks for our Tone Madison/Nerd Nite audio series. —SG
LakeFrontRow Cinema. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
Our friends at Madison film website LakeFrontRow have been partnering up with the Madison Public Library recently to put on free screenings focusing on the work of Wisconsin’s independent filmmakers. This shorts program spans one film apiece from Milwaukee’s Ryan Klassa and Madison’s Eli Steenlage, and four from Milwaukeean Spencer Ortega. All three filmmakers will be on hand for discussion after this varied program, and LakeFrontRow is promising a few additional surprises as well. —SG
No Hoax, Chives, The Smells. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m.
Indianapolis band Chives play art-punk adorned with eerie vocals and charred shreds of dub, psych-rock, and Krautrock rhythm. They play here ahead of the April release of a new EP, Porcelain. —SG
Buffalo Gospel. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 6:30 p.m.
This show from Milwaukee band Buffalo Gospel will also serve as the 2016 season-announcement party for beloved Spring Green venue The Shitty Barn. The Barn’s annual lineup usually balances accessible folk and pop stuff with a good number of left-field curveballs, and we’ll be posting about the highlights of this season after it’s announced. —SG