Lovers Lane
Rialto Square Theatre
Avondale Music Hall
ATT Internet 75

Three Girls And A Guy

| October 7, 2011

It’s not the increasing gender disparity at colleges nationwide, it’s our early-week preview with Sims, Dessa, Hindi Zahra, and Zola Jesus!

Minneapolis, home to Rhymesayers and Doomtree, has its own floor in the backpack-rap hotel — though that reputation isn’t always a good one. While Atmosphere have grown into a thriving concert draw, 90-percent of the collectives’ rosters are championed and abandoned by the mainstream press in the time it takes for Lil Wayne to drop another mixtape. P.O.S, Dessa, Brother Ali, Jake-One, and Chicago’s Psalm One all have game, but the public has shown time and again it’ll take a greasy beat and ‘hood swagger over deft, thought-provoking wordplay. (Take heart: the Eagles sold way more records than Bob Dylan.) Given a decent push, Sims might capsize that mindset. Bad Time Zoo (Doomtree) brings the beats and hooks like a Trojan horse, and before you know it you’re bouncing to good vibes. (Good vibes that don’t eventually make you vomit, BEPs style.) Barring momentum missteps in the middle (“In My Sleep,” “When It Rolls In”) and then at the very end, the tracks roll you and roll you like being trapped behind an open tractor-trailer full of Goodyear radials on a mountain highway. Sometimes people need to bug — and sometimes that’s all they want to do. (Monday@Bottom Lounge with Lazerbeak and Cecil Otter.)

Like Psalm One is for Rhymesayers, Dessa is the rare female among the Doomtree crew and she takes advantage of it. For Castor, The Twin, she revisits a number of old tracks and dips some new ones in a full-band blender rife with ominous standup bass, cello, and piano accents, but what sets her apart is her ability to sing. While a skilled rhymer with a spoken-word artist’s flow, tracks like “Kites” and “The Chaconne” soar with crossover potential. She shares the bill with Hindi Zahra, who sees Dessa’s mix of polar vocal styles and finds she has the opposite. Confronted with the unusual asset of her Moroccan/Parisian heritage and the desire to reach an Anglophilic audience, she either mixes them beyond distinction or not enough on Handmade (Naive). With elements of Berber and postcard French jazz in the cupboard, she focuses her efforts into a coffeehouse folk-pop base that dulls what should excite. “Set Me Free” and “Stand Up” boast intriguingly syncopated rhythms that are turned into ornamental scarves. One gets the feeling that live she’s a little less conventional. (Tuesday@Lincoln Hall with Ion.)

As expected, Zola Jesus‘ freshly released Conatus (Sacred Bones) hovers like an overcast blanket, full of gusty winds and nature’s fury. And, as expected, it’s difficult — in a Bjork or Jeremy Enigk way — to decipher the lyrics. Like a seaborne Enya engulfed in a storm, Nika Roza Danilova keeps a firm grip on the helm, with the crew uncertain she’s yelling port or starboard. It’s a shame that album sales and royalties aren’t what they’re supposed to be: bringing this tempest on the road will shave some of its mystery. Just try not to do any lip-reading. (Wednesday@Lincoln Hall with Xanopticon.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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