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Do This: Kranky Twentieth Anniversary Shows

By Matt Byrne in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 11, 2013 7:00PM


Kranky, one of Chicago's most beloved and consistent purveyors of experimental music, is celebrating its 20th birthday this weekend with a run of four shows across the city, featuring a sampling of some of the best artists on its roster. Kranky has released nearly 200 albums from electronic, experimental, and drone musicians since 1993, including bands like Low, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and Deerhunter.

The festivities kick off Thursday night at the Empty Bottle with three Chicago-based acts: murky, dream-rockers Implodes, Robert A. A. Lowe's (90 Day Men, Om) improvisational solo project Lichens, and headliners Disappears, who, over four LPs and a handful of singles, mined the depths of post punk and krautrock to unearth a creeping, irresistibly sinister sound.

Friday and Saturday, the recently-opened experimental music haven Constellation plays host to two of the strongest lineups of the run. Friday night finds Grouper and Benoit Piolard, two of the most pop-oriented musicians on Kranky's roster sharing a bill. Grouper is the moniker of solo performer Liz Harris, whose melodic, dreamlike compositions come wrapped in dense layers of gauzy haze; her landmark third album, the soundscape-y pop cult hit Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill was recently reissued by Kranky and remains one of the best albums released in the 2000s. Writer/photographer Thomas Meluch's four albums with Kranky as Benoit Pioulard filters his pleasantly folky tunes, usually based around just guitar and vocals, through the trappings of lo-fi and found sound art pieces, dexterously blending the accessible and the experimental. Opening the show are Electronic Valve Instrument virtuoso Justin Walter and ambient sound artist Christopher Bissonette.

Saturday's lineup draws heavily from the experimental drone side of the Kranky family, anchored by the label's breakout artist, Tim Hecker, who specializes in noisy, dissonant sound sculptures, blending the electronic and the organic into composed ambient tracks that vacillate between delicate beauty and despondent horror. Joining Hecker are Pan American, a post-rock collective that has been regularly releasing albums on Kranky since 1998, modern electronic music composer/guitar-and-computer drone master Keith Fullerton Whitman, and Ken Camden, whose latest LP of heady guitar pieces boasts one of the most perfectly descriptive titles: Space Mirror.

Sunday night at Lincoln Hall, the mini-festival is capped off by a wildly anticipated set from Stars of the Lid, playing their first US show in over five years. SOTL are genius crafters of the droney soundscapes most commonly associated with the Kranky name, distilling modernist classical-influences into an unbelievably minimalist, narcotic hum. The Wordless Music Orchestra, a twelve piece classical collective will be joining this wildly influential duo onstage to flesh out their ambient arrangements. Loscil, Scott Morgan's (drummer for worldly indie rock English professors Destroyer) pseudonymous electronic project Loscil opens.

Kranky Twenty runs tonight, Thursday Dec. 12, through Sunday Dec. 15, more information and tickets available here.