Slicker, Chisel Drill Hammer, Illium, and Ghosts and Vodka

Friday, July 16; Rocket Bar

Chicago's Hefty Records, the object of this showcase, prefers that its members shut their mouths and let the music speak: No lyrics means no insipidity, at least in theory. The label is the brainchild of one John Hughes (yes, relation: son), whose vision of a label consists of throwing a lasso around the vibrant instrumental-rock scene going on up there, gathering like-minded — but not too like — musicians under an umbrella collective. Tortoise is the template for the Hefty vibe (is no one untouched by them up there?), and you'll get a lot of it at the Rocket Bar.

Ghosts and Vodka resemble said inspiration the least; featuring ex-members of Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc and Tetsuo, they create skewed, guitar-based instrumentals that flow from jangle to roar, precisely examining a melody without actually ever enunciating it outright. Illium is a wandering three-piece — guitar, bass, drums — and though they're at times tedious (it's often tough to find a foothold in their music), they're smart enough to leave loads of room to breathe. Brainiac music, sure, but nonetheless fascinating. Chisel Drill Hammer offer a music that's cinematic and expansive; melodies wander and rarely find a center — there's a lot of Tortoise in their sound. Slicker is the best of the bunch, Hughes' synthetic, rapid-fire, beat-based creation. Written glimpses, of course, don't do the music justice. But taken as a whole, the Hefty showcase offers enough inspired variety to make it a worthwhile use of time and cash.

 
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