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Music Picks: Batusis, Interpol, Minus the Bear 

Also, Taj Mahal, Shakira, Sufjan Stevens and others

Thursday, Oct 21 2010
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FRIDAY/OCTOBER/22

MINUS THE BEAR AT THE WILTERN

Who knew math rock could be sexy? When Seattle's Minus the Bear emerged in 2001, it was almost as a corollary to Dismemberment Plan's back-to-back classics Emergency & I (1999) and Change (2001). Playful and proficient, the quintet burned through an impressive debut, Highly Refined Pirates, that despite its goofy song titles ("Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!") dealt in some serious post-punk riddims, angular shredding and emotive wail. The next few years found the band refining and tightening its sometimes ethereal sprawl. Things stayed quirky but got less experimental on 2005's Menos el Oso, and more melodic still with 2007's Planet of Ice, but then came this year's Omni, the band's first for Dangerbird. Something of a relaunch, the album finds Minus the Bear breaking out the synthesizers, digging into some thicker, feel-good grooves and, well, getting a bit randy. To wit, the first words uttered by Jake Snider are, "Turn off the lights." "My Time" could almost be a Chromeo song, but it's MtB, so it's a lot more interesting. (Chris Martins)

click to enlarge Azure Ray
  • Azure Ray

Location Info

AZURE RAY AT THE TROUBADOUR

It wasn't until Azure Ray broke up in 2004 that it really sank in just how unique the musical collaborations of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor really were. The Omaha duo purveyed a gently sleepy, mellow brand of folk-pop that may not have seemed flashy in comparison to the louder, brassier bands of the early 2000s, but there was also a sly intelligence to their songs that elevated them beyond other alterna-folkies. Taylor and Fink went on to separate but productive solo careers, but there's an undeniable magic that occurs when they blend their voices and melodies together. After a brief reunion in 2008, they've joined forces again on their new CD, Drawing Down the Moon (Saddle Creek Records), where they slow down the pulse of the modern world with sweetly romantic, timeless idylls like "Don't Leave My Mind," which linger softly in the memory with an aftertaste and smell that evoke the first rain of the season. (Falling James)

JAIL WEDDINGS AT BOOTLEG THEATER

There's a way, way, way over-the-top passion ("unbridled," as the rock critics would say) about Jail Weddings, that 10-person community of souls under the stewardship and throbbing warble of singer Gabriel Hart. The band's buoyantly bombastic teen-trauma anthems run roughshod over that long-forgotten '60s sound where Roy Orbison wailed like he was hurting so bad he was, well, just about ready to die! (Then there was Scott Walker's after-the-fact kind of hurt, where he sang as if straitjacketed in a padded cell.) Jail Weddings' brand-new Love Is Lawless (White Noise/Tru-Vow) is like that, to the 10th power — just such a big, fine mess of weepy, quavering, hiccupy hurtin' hurt, plowed through with a way-tough punk-rock theatricality and welcome good humor. (John Payne)

TAJ MAHAL, VIEUX FARKA TOURÉ AT ROYCE HALL

Although Taj Mahal was born in Harlem, he has a deep, longtime connection to the city of Los Angeles. He first came out West in 1964, settling in Santa Monica, where he formed the ahead-of-its-time multiracial combo the Rising Sons with a then-unknown Ry Cooder. Taj Mahal was a mainstay at the legendary club the Ash Grove, developing a unique music style that combined traditional American blues and folk music with more experimental strains of African roots influences. While in L.A. in the late '60s, the former gentleman farmer palled around and collaborated with the Rolling Stones, becoming adept at both full-band workouts and stripped-down acoustic blues, which are distinguished by his unusual fingerpicking on guitar. Now this iconic figure, named after one of the world's architectural landmarks, returns home to the similarly grand and classic old shack Royce Hall. Making the night even more special is an opening set by the Malian singer-guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, whose multilayered music draws upon the impressive legacy of his father, Ali Farka Touré, but also is infused with newfound strains of polyrhythmic African grooves and nimbly spun fever-dream enchantments. (Falling James)

RECOIL AT EL REY

Alan Wilder joined Depeche Mode in 1982, replacing keyboard boffin Vince Clarke as the resident mad genius/sonic manipulator. Responsible for some of the more experimental (and just plain odd — oboe?) arrangements for the synth-pop giants, Wilder soon developed a sideline gig as Recoil, a depository for his more abstract ideas and compositions. Wilder focused on Recoil after leaving the Mode in 1995, and has just released a career retrospective of his stranger project. Those who think Depeche Mode jumped the shark when Wilder left, or those without a sweet tooth for the obviously anthemic, are in for a treat. (Gustavo Turner)

Also playing Friday: MARK SULTAN, KELLEY STOLTZ, MY PET SADDLE at Spaceland; OWEN PALLETT, LITTLE SCREAM at the Echoplex; CALIFORNIA E.A.R. UNIT at REDCAT; CONJURE ONE, ARCHITECT, SONOLO at El Rey; DUTOIT CONDUCTS ROMEO AND JULIET at Disney Hall; ELECTRIC SIX at the Key Club; VINCE GILL at Club Nokia.

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