The Day Two lineup of Chicago’s Pitchfork Music festival is crowded with the strange, the obscure and the innovative. Union Park will be the stage for multiple acts that are doing things on their own terms – bands that are not interested in being crowd-pleasers. Being bizarre and trying new things does not always equate to good music, but there are a few artistic minds on Saturday’s roster that are deserving of some attention.
Mas Ysa – “Worth EP” – 3:45 on the Blue Stage
Mas Ysa, pronounced “Maas ee-sah,” is the experimental electro-pop project of Canadian-born Thomas Arsenault. “Worth EP,” released in February, is Arsenault’s first-ever album, but it is already receiving attention for displaying huge diversity in only 26 minutes of music. At one point, “Worth” crams fast-paced drum programming into the hit track, “Why,” but then quickly counteracts with atmospheric synthesizer and piano-led ballads in following tracks. Shining through the ever-changing soundscape of the album are the two constants that hold the EP together. Arsenault’s artistic flair — surely brought on by his history as a visual artist — and his melancholic, stressed-to-the-limit style of writing and delivering lyrics make “Worth” worth a listen.
4 out of 5 stars Similar to: M83, Colin Stetson (of Bon Iver and Arcade Fire), Autre Ne Veut Must-listen Track: “Why” Upcoming local shows: July 15 at The Luminary in St. Louis.
The Range – “Panasonic” – 4:45 on the Blue Stage
It’s hard to pinpoint what makes James Hinton’s beats, created under the moniker The Range, so fun to listen to, but sometimes it’s better to just accept something for what it is rather than to question it. “Panasonic,” Hinton’s March 2014 release, is a short EP that demonstrates slow-progressing, synth-heavy dance beats that ride alongside punchy vocal samples from the catacombs of the internet. Simply put, European house meets contemporary dance music in Hinton’s most recent project. “Panasonic” is deceptively simple, but it’s a wonderful respite from the frequently cluttered sound of modern dance music. It’s a fun album that goes by quickly, and while not strikingly intense or innovative, The Range proves that simplicity still holds a place in the dance music universe.
3.2 out of 5 stars Similar to: Purity Ring, Darkside, Disclosure Must-listen track: “Ed Reed Jersey” Upcoming local shows: none
tUnE-yArDs – “Nikki Nack” – 5:15 on the Red Stage
At face value, “Nikki Nack” is a quirky, confident album with great production value and solid continuity from track to track. When you dive into Merrill Garbus’ tUnE-yArDs project’s three-album discography, however, you realize that her May 6 release marks a point of exceptional growth. Garbus’s first two releases, “Bird-Brains” and “w h o k i l l,” are low-fi, loop-crazy, hodgepodge albums that leave many people a bit overwhelmed. “Nikki Nack” moves beyond those first two albums and synthesizes unique bang-clap-bang percussion with high-energy loops to exude a remarkable amount of confidence that, until now, was not in Garbus’s repertoire. The tempo of “Nikki Nack” never stops (d)evolving, and it demands active listening over all thirteen tracks. TUnE-yArDs has finally established a listener-friendly sound without losing her absurd and quirky edge, which marks “Nikki Nack” as a tremendous success.
4.1 out of 5 stars Similar to: St. Vincent, Yellow Ostrich, Sisyphus Must-listen track: “Water Fountain” Upcoming local shows: October 7 at The Ready Room in St. Louis