Darken the Corners

With the release of The Hoop, Crime in Choir is poised to become your new favorite scary instrumental band.

Of the body of players that have shared the stage with the band, Wrenn explains simply, "We find somebody we think would do a good job and just ask them to do it." Reiner adds, "As the band continues to develop different aesthetic directions and grow musically, we hope good musicians will continue to collaborate with us and experiment with new sounds. There are several bands we like that have done this well -- the Flaming Lips, Talking Heads -- where a core group of musicians collaborates with others to realize interesting ideas."

Custom tailoring of the lineup to suit the interesting ideas du jour has made Crime in Choir's heretofore infrequent live engagements unique happenings -- stylized must-see sequels to their premiere two years ago as an opening act for Creeper Lagoon. The roster of players who fill out the band's orchestration remains in flux, but the familiar characters that bind the group's sound are Hopper's Rhodes piano, Wrenn's baritone guitar, and Reiner's electronics.

"The instrumentation does do a lot to shape the sound of the band," Reiner admits. "The interplay between the Rhodes and the synths does seem to catch people's attention as unique. Combined with the loud drums, intricate guitar and bass, it creates a kind of dramatic presence we like. We'd like to keep that intact as players and instrumentation varies over time." Just don't hold your breath waiting for a singer.

"We have people come up to us after almost every gig and say, 'Hey, have you ever thought about adding a singer?'" Hopper says coyly. It's clear from the half-scoffs around the table that Crime in Choir's message has little to do with a pining vocalist.

"It's rare that I care what songs are about," Wrenn says. "To me they often evoke visual or emotional responses, and those will certainly be different for everybody. I guess I would suggest unlearning how to listen to or approach music, to listen with a clean slate and expect aural rather than story-based engagement."

"I guess it depends on the person's relationship to music," Reiner explains. "A lot of people really listen to lyrics and respond to them emotionally. I've always responded more to sounds."

It's a comment that almost brings the conversation full circle, back to Don Coscarelli's nightmare on celluloid. The real thrills during Mike's crusade against the forces of evil aren't found in dime store one-liners like "Let me release you from this imperfect flesh" or in spurts of fake blood. Any lasting excitement springs from the dark, more shadowy corners of the imagination.

Into the Woods

A Minor Forest: 1992-1998.

WHAT: This local trio had a knack for dense, math-rock instrumentals that were akin to many mid-'90s Chicago exports. It's aggressive, sinister, and constantly surprising.

LISTEN TO: Flemish Altruism (Constituent Parts 1993-1996). Recorded by Steve Albini and Bob Weston, A Minor Forest's debut LP was therecord of 1996, released by Chicago's Thrill Jockey.

WHAT BECAME OF THEM: They split after a final gig at the Great American Music Hall in November of '98. Guitarist Erik Hoversten pursued a love of avant-jazz with the Threnody Ensemble. Bassist John Trevor Benson and drummer Andy Connors continued to play together for a handful of projects, including Ticwar.

The Fucking Champs: 1995-present.

WHAT: When the Darkness was still in grade school, this S.F. trio was preaching an unfettered adoration of metal riffage that was way ahead of the curve. The Champs specialize in unapologetic, unironic Judas Priest-isms and unforgiving guitar wank.

LISTEN TO: V. If you can't tell by the cheeky Roman numeral name, this is the fifth LP by the trio, and probably their best. They lighten up their power-rock head bangers with cutesy synthesizer interludes and display good humor and lots of technical prowess by taking on Bach's Air on a G String.

WHAT BECAME OF THEM: Fucking Champs guitarist Tim Green appears on Crime in Choir's debut The Hoop and spends a lot of time recording area bands at his studio, Louder.

Tarentel: 1998-present.

WHAT: Specializing in sprawling, ambient ballads, Tarentel has quietly been turning out cult collectibles for the better part of a decade. Their sleepy, Eno-influenced compositions put them on the forefront of the "post-shoegazer" movement, if there is such a thing.

LISTEN TO: Ephemera, a near-epic retrospective of five instrumentals that drones along for well over an hour, giving nods to luminaries like My Bloody Valentine and Mogwai.

WHAT BECAME OF THEM: The original quintet has slimmed to a trio, which continues to play locally, tour, and release new music. Later this spring, Temporary Residence will release a compilation titled Thank You, with new material from Tarentel, and the band recently announced plans to release its next full-length in the fall.

Natural Dreamers: 2003-present.

WHAT: An art-damaged supergroup with two parts Deerhoof and one part Dilute. They might be likened to Trout Mask-era Beefheart, but Chris Cohen (guitar), John Dieterich (guitar), and Jay Pellicci (drums) are better regarded as a trio of rock dudes trying their hand at the experimental free jazz of the early '70s.

LISTEN TO: Natural Dreamers. The self-titled debut is a twisting ride of tangential musical spazzing and warbling chaos. Sound awful? It can be, but if you're in the mood, the Natural Dreamers' inspired experimentations can be a good trip. Think of it as James Blood Ulmer for people who have never heard James Blood Ulmer.

WHAT BECAME OF THEM: While Deerhoof is busy winning the hearts of indie America, the Natural Dreamers are currently on the back burner.

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