The recent Empty Bottle bill of Container and Mukqs was one such night, of far too many to count: so much so that covering live music in Chicago, even if you’re attempting to narrow the focus down to the umbrella of experimental music, seems like a fool’s errand. On the flip side of that argument, though, is that there’s a ridiculous amount of music and shows not getting coverage, coupled with the fact that I get off to the clicking sounds of my keyboard almost as much as attending said shows in the first place—and so live coverage will remain a function of this page, however incomplete.
Mukqs, the project of Hausu Mountain honcho and general electronics whiz Max Allison, set the groove with a simple and effective setup of an Electro Harmonix 2880 looper, a Korg Electribe EMX-1, a Roland SP 404 looper and a mixer on the floor with one of the Bottle’s cozy tables as he transported observers to another time-space. The set-up and placement fit the vibe and gave more opportunity to see his manipulations in action—for me, it was interesting to watch his use of the 2880 in particular, as that looper is a necessary component of my own live setup, and watching Mukqs’ set feels like we use them in diametrically opposed ways.
Following Mukqs set was another master-class in shredding beats by Container, who’s (thankfully) graced Chicago stages multiple times in recent memory. Residing in Nashville by way of Providence, R.I., Ren Schofield brought out a taut half-hour set that was the most dance-frenzied show I’ve been to the Empty Bottle since Martin Rev in June, with a pulse about 1000 percent more epileptic.
This was the third outing I’ve caught of Schofield in the last two years, and I don’t get out that much. The first time was by chance during Chicago’s Trip Metal fest in 2017 (where he, along with Aaron Dilloway, Twig Harper, Pharmakon et al sounded amazingly destructive on the Metro’s PA, and as a happening that spanned its usual Detroit and Chicago that year, I sure as hell hope comes back the windy city’s way), and then last winter at the Archer Beach Haus with a blasted performance as part of Pool. If either comes back to town, go check.
Not that I left any clearer picture of how Schofield makes them. Pressing close to the stage his Roland MC 909 and one (or two?) Tascam 4-tracks were visible, the former apparently feeding into the latter as he flipped cassettes in and out throughout his just over 30-minute set.
Not that you need to know how it’s being done as long as you know how to enjoy. And that I did. Got it out on a Friday on a couple quick sets, home and asleep before one. To anyone who’s got the chance in the future: next time you see Container’s on the bill, do not pass it up. In the meantime, head to Spectrum Spools’ Bandcamp page for a primer on Container’s work, and check some of Mukqs’ most immediately accessible work on Doom Trip while you’re at it.