Three Must-See Acts This Week

The Chemical Brothers on Friday at Bill Graham, Lydia Ainsworth on Friday at Great American, and Skeletonwitch on May 23 at the Independent.

Electronic

The Chemical Brothers

7:30 p.m., Friday, May 17, at Bill Graham Civic Center. $65; billgrahamcivic.com

Arguably one of the most influential electronic dance acts of all time, The Chemical Brothers returned last month with their excellent new album, No Geography. While they evoke nostalgia for the heyday of ’90s big beat, they still sound one step ahead of other artists in their forward-thinking approach. The acclaimed Manchester production duo, comprised of Ed Simon and Tom Rowlands, are veterans of Europe’s early-’90s rave scene, and would immediately make an impact with their 1995 debut album, Exit Planet Dust. The Brothers revolutionized the big beat genre and any preconceived notions of live electronic music with 1997’s intense, rock-influenced Dig Your Own Hole, following it up with Surrender, an equally magnificent album from 1999 that is more polished in sound and more psychedelic in nature. Both Dig Your Own Hole and Surrender are landmarks in electronic dance music, and appear heavily in the duo’s bombastic live show. No Geography hears the duo tap into a headspace similar to what their classic albums explored, and the result is some of the most aggressively stimulating work the Chemical Brothers have ever released.

Art pop

Lydia Ainsworth

(w/ TR/ST) 8 p.m., Friday, May 17, at Great American Music Hall. $25; slimspresents.com

Cleverly subverting pop music with dreamy vocals and minimalist production, singer-songwriter Lydia Ainsworth has created her most fully realized album to date with the recent Phantom World. The Toronto native is a classically trained cellist who studied music composition at McGill University, where she composed the eerie score for the 2011 film The Woods. Ainsworth later completed a master’s in music composition at N.Y.U., releasing her debut studio album, Right From Real, a percussive and sublime piece of avant-pop guided by soft harmonizing vocals reminiscent of Enya. Ainsworth’s next album, 2017’s Darling of the Afterglow, saw the musician embrace a darker, heavier synth sound that’s more immediately recognizable as pop, but which retains the unique aura that Right From Real radiated. But Phantom World is arguably the musician’s most ambitious album to date, tackling themes of environmental consciousness and dystopian technology, as heard on standout single “Tell Me I Exist.” The album’s ambitious themes compliment Ainsworth’s natural talent for crafting thought-provoking yet blissful doses of emotionally tuned pop.

Metal

Skeletonwitch

8 p.m., Thursday, May 23, at The Independent. $20; theindependentsf.com

Always viscous and uncompromising throughout their career, Skeletonwitch has gone to hell and returned as a band stronger than ever before, a true testament to one of metal’s most resilient groups. These Ohioans began performing in 2003, drawing inspiration from Bay Area thrash, death, and black metal. Skeletonwitch’s earlier material is aggressive and unfiltered thrash metal, but they crystallize their multifaceted sound on their 2007 sophomore effort, Beyond the Permafrost, which sounds like a love letter to metal’s past even as it established Skeletonwitch’s singular style. The band went on to release further critically and commercially successful albums, like 2013’s Serpents Unleashed, before the exit of original vocalist Chance Garnette. Last year, with new vocalist Adam Clemens, they returned with the dark and often majestic album Devouring Radiant Light, which hears the band turn up black metal for a compelling listen.

 

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