Chicago Cultural Center; Fri 20; Green Mill; Sun 22
At least half the blame for the queasy feeling induced by Richard Linklater’s paranoid thriller A Scanner Darkly should go to soundtrack composer Graham Reynolds. Nervous and perpetually off-balance, the music uses shifting volumes and wild textural juxtapositions—drum ’n’ bass electronic beats skittering over accordions, for example—to evoke Philip K. Dick’s proverbial bad trip.
The Austin, Texas–based Reynolds, also a gifted drummer and pianist, composes and arranges for an awe-inspiring range of mediums and styles: modern dance, children’s choirs, a Duke Ellington repertory band, incidental music for theater and numerous soundtracks. Reynolds never roams as freely as some of his colleagues in the jazz-rock frontier (Claudia Quintet, John Zorn), but that’s not necessarily a criticism. His ordered, writerly approach best recalls the spirit of cartoon composer Spike Jones, who concocted a specific idea of chaos in his send-ups of improvised jazz and ethnic music.
Reynolds comes to Chicago for two shows: His Golden Arm Trio performs an original score to the landmark silent film Battleship Potemkin (Potemkin’slinear march and Scanner’sdiffuse hysteria couldn’t be more dissimilar narratives). And two days later, Reynolds sits in as guest of the Accessible Contemporary Music outfit as part of the Green Mill’s afternoon classical show. The local chamber group will perform several Reynolds compositions, including a Shostakovich tribute and a reduction of his elegaic, Samuel Barber–esque fourth symphony for string quartet. If you can’t stomach his film scores, this should be just as interesting—and go down easier.—Matthew Lurie