Friday, February 18, 2011

Chicago Tribune on 2/19

Here is a write up for tomorrow's show, just published in the Chicago Tribune

Bringing back the roar of Chicago's 1990s sonic heyday

By Jessica Hopper, Special to the Tribune

February 18, 2011

The '90s were a veritable heyday for Chicago's underground scene, and while the sounds being pumped out of our fine city were diverse — the mainstays had a particular sort of musical muscularity to them. You could pretty easily divide acts into camps — based on whether they hewed closer to the Shellac model, the terse trio led by iconic producer Steve Albini — or fell in behind the melodic, instrumental all-star group Tortoise. The latter unwittingly spearheaded what became known as "post-rock," a term that meant a lot of nothing but shorthanded eclectic nonrock influences.

Frontier was perhaps the only local band to truly straddle both sounds — serving up as much electronic, ambient drone as it did brutal, squealing noise rock. It was a long-running staple on bills at the Empty Bottle, from when Frontier began playing out from around 1991 until 2003, when the band went on what now appears to be a hiatus. Live, Frontier often went for a performative onslaught that matched the intensity of its sound — using floods of light and a powerful smoke machine that sometimes made shows feel like a community theater staging of "Brigadoon," with all the fog.

After a one-off show last year, the band is returning for a show this weekend, topping a bill of noisemakers that run the gamut from assaultive to merely chaotic. Mid-bill are locals Bloodyminded, who have been omnipresent the past year or two it seems, as a staple of the underground warehouse-shows scene and making their mark at clubs and bars as well. The band possesses a distinctly postmodern frenzy — bearing out a "nothing's shocking" ideal into its sound and aesthetic. Seeing Bloodyminded play for the first time a few years ago, I was put off by a song whose lyrics seemingly advocated anorexia — it's not until you get a few songs into Bloodyminded's performances or albums that you realize that their whole oeuvre is a long, loud, over-the-top tribute to sadism, in all its forms.

On their eight albums, the songs range from 3 minutes to the 10-second range, most of the songs stutter and pulse with manipulated electronics — they often sound like someone has amplified a hyperactive cicada through busted car speakers. Sometimes this is augmented or accompanied by shrieks of feedback that mirrors the squealing of frontman Mark Solotroff. (Solotroff is the eminence grise of the Chicago noise scene, operating the Bloodlust label, doing time in a handful of other bands and generally propelling the scene along.)

It's not for the faint of heart (or, rather, ear) or easily offended. Given how intense Solotroff is when he's performing, it's easy to take the violence of Bloodyminded lyrics seriously, but once you get halfway into an album or show — Bloodyminded evidences itself as essentially an epic performance piece about hate.