Part of the artsy Chicago post-rock scene that includes Tortoise, Trans Am, and all those Gastr del Sol refugees kicking around town, Isotope 217 has slowly started to gain the attention of more than just students of the minimalist school of John Cage. The group, along with the rest of the Windy City's experimentalists, was recently featured in a cover story in Wire
, the esoteric British rock mag that boasts coverage of all things marginal. The three core members of Isotope -- guitarist Jeff Parker, percussionist John Herndon, and percussionist Dan Bitney -- split their time with Tortoise, while cornetist Rob Mazurek also plays in the Chicago Underground Duo, which is sharing this bill at the Beachland with Isotope. It's one incestuous cesspool of crossbreeding indie rockers with higher aspirations (that would be jazz, don't you know). And Isotope's latest album, Who Stole the I Walkman?
(yes, the "I
Walkman," whatever that is), is the equivalent of listening to the noises your washing machine makes while handling a heavy load -- especially the track "Moonlex," a series of barely audible humming sounds that occasionally burp and twitch into something melodious, but never really coalesce. They call this stuff "improvisational jazz," but it's geared toward kids who don't know anything about jazz, but think it's punk to play instrumental rock on their college radio shows and see the practitioners perform in the unlikely setting of an indie rock club. With the exception of two tracks, mysteriously titled "«" and "»," even Matt Lux, a bassist who used to rock out with the neopsychedelic hippie mindfuck outfit called Tranquility Bass, gets the funk squeezed out of him by these passionless posers.