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Monday, 12 May 2014 09:00

Charting the Music: Chicago Underground Duo, 'Locus'

Charting the Music: Chicago Underground Duo, 'Locus'
Written by Travis Dettmann

"Locus" effortlessly flows in and out of structural time constraints with the unlikely combination of cornet, balaphone and the Nintendo Game Boy. If you have any naive assumptions about the Chicago Underground Duo, they are most likely wrong.

Serving as a follow-up to the group's 2012 effort "Age of Energy," "Locus" marks the seventh release by the Chicago Underground Duo. After 17 years together, experimentation is undoubtedly the pair's strong suit, as they merge fragments of Afropop and various forms of electronica with the expansive world of jazz in mind.

88.1 KDHX chart position: #1 Jazz for the week of May 6th, 2014.

Record label, release date and producer: Northern Spy Records released "Locus" on March 25th, 2014; it was produced by John McEntire.

Can be heard on: All Soul, No Borders with Josh Weinstein and Mystery Train with Tim Rakel.

RIYL: Isotope 217, The Vandermark 5 and Exploding Star Orchestra.

Hometown: Jersey City, New Jersey; Tempe, Arizona.

Standout tracks: The eerie opener "Locus" only serves as a taste of what you are about to experience for the next 37 minutes. The Ghanaian classic "Yaa Yaa Kole" features thumb piano and muted cornet underlined by fuzzy electronics, with the last minute being dominated by free-form sticks and skins. The drugged-out nightmare that is "Blink Out" uses avant-garde electronic configurations and eccentric brass that make disorientation the norm.

The artist: As far back as 1988, Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor have performed together in some shape or form. The two experienced five years of separation in the '90s while Taylor attended the New School of Jazz in New York City, where he was given the opportunity to perform with greats like Lou Donaldson and study with legends like Joe Chambers. Reuniting in 1997 with a move back to the Second City, Taylor and Mazurek went to form the first incarnation of the Chicago Underground empire, releasing "Playground" in 1998 on Delmark Records. Whether Duo, Trio or Orchestra, their chemistry is undeniable and irresistible.

The producer: John McEntire was born in Portland, Oregon in 1970. He is most notably known for his multi-instrumentalist work with Chicago's Tortoise and The Sea and Cake, but considering his extensive portfolio, his credentials as an engineer and producer should also be held in high esteem. Owning and operating his own recording haven, Soma Electronic Music Studios, McEntire has engineered and/or produced efforts from Trans Am, Stereolab and Yo La Tengo.

The label: Once former members of ESP-Disk, Adam Downey and Tom Abbs constructed Brooklyn's Northern Spy Records in October of 2010. NSPY takes exploratory work from noise-rockers as well as avant-garde jazz artists, championing them to the fullest by bombarding the mainstream with full intent of exposure. Run perfectly with very little staff, NSPY spawns an ever-expanding community of touring acts, networking artists like Zs and Charles Gayle to those who have not yet had their brains twisted and enlightened.

Play it while: Wandering around aimlessly in an abandoned city block you once knew... or at least thought you knew.

What the critics say: "On 'Locus,' their seventh recording as the Duo, they delve further into disparate traditions than ever before. The session's nine singularly concise tunes encapsulate an all-inclusive world-view, embracing the futuristic innovations of electronica and the primordial allure of ethnic folk forms in equal measure. The titular opener unveils a surging undercurrent of throbbing breakbeats and reverberating synth, drawing salient comparisons to the concurrent efforts of the pair's post-rock peers." Troy Collins, All About Jazz.

KDHX coverage: On June 20, 2013, Travis Dettmann shed light via Charting the Music on the Rob Mazurek Octet album "Skull Sessions."

Discover more new music on all the 88.1 KDHX charts.

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