Empty Bottle; Mon 4
Having already cut a frighteningly intense swath with his work in local jazz ensembles Herculaneum and the Hats, as well as post-everything sonic explorers Michael Columbia and Icy Demons, multi-instrumentalist David McDonnell takes a surprising solo turn as the Diminisher with his new full-length, Imaginary Volcano (Unsound). Relying more on his elegant string arrangements and plainspoken Eno-esque vocals than his usual wailing sax and manic pulsing synths, McDonnell has produced one of the most engaging and gorgeously layered records since Andrew Bird’s Mysterious Production of Eggs.
Growing out of his teenage four-track experiments, what began as an attempt at straight-ahead Kinks-minded pop took a twist when McDonnell struck a deal with the music director of his parents’ church. In exchange for tuning up a dusty and neglected harpsichord, he was able to record the delicately baroque instrument after hours. Overdubbing on these skeletal foundations back at the South Side’s Shape Shoppe (studio HQ for a dizzying array of forward-thinking local bands), he crafted a remarkably organic and unified whole, drawing obliquely on his past work in jazz, art rock and modern composition while maintaining an exhilaratingly melodic buoyancy.
For this Labor Day record-release show, McDonnell won’t be hauling out the harpsichord. He’s sticking instead to organ and electric piano, but he will be augmented by the album’s string quartet (including 1900’s violinist Andra Kulans) and local heavyweight rhythm-section ringers: drummer Dylan Ryan—McDonnell’s partner in crime from Herculaneum and Michael Columbia—and bassist Griffin Rodriguez. Locals Voltage headline.—Ben Taylor