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In the music spotlight: Disappears

BY JEFF ELBEL | FOR THE SUN-TIMES

Chicago-based masters of darkwave Disappears categorize their music as “abrasive, contemplative and paranoid.” It’s a perfect summation of unsettled songs like “Interpretation” from 2015’s “Irreal” album. “Anything could happen,” sings Brian Case hypnotically.

It’s often an optimistic phrase. In this case, it suggests wrestling with what might have been. “With memory, you can put yourself back into a situation and see it from four different angles,” Case says. “If you alter one detail, everything changes. I think about that a lot.”

Contemporary bands mining related territory include The National, Editors and Interpol. Having crafted their stylish gloom for eight years, Disappears color their icy moods several shades darker. The claustrophobic title track to “Irreal” brims with threatening doom. Noah Leger’s drumming shapes the song into a counterpart to darkwave figureheads Bauhaus’ “Double Dare.”

Jonathan van Herik’s guitar slashes and clatters on “Ultra” from 2013’s “Era” album, unfolding sheets of industrial noise. The steady pulse of Leger’s kick drum and Damon Carruesco’s throbbing bass conspire to create an eerie dance groove on songs like the mesmerizing “Elite Typical.” Joined by Case’s brooding baritone and guitar, the result on fare such as “Another Thought” is a goth-pop fan’s dream of shadowy perfection. “We’re lucky to have found each other,” says Case. “I go to rehearsal knowing that whatever we do, it’s a sound only the four of us together can make.”

Songs like “Replicate” from 2012’s “Pre Language” album suggest affinity for iconoclastic acts including Joy Division, the Krautrock of Can, post-wave groundbreakers Gang of Four and Wire, shoegazers My Bloody Valentine and the prototypical alternative rock of Velvet Underground and Berlin-era David Bowie.

Last fall, Disappears honored Bowie’s forward-thinking work with Brian Eno by performing 1977’s “Low” album in celebration of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s “David Bowie Is” exhibit. “Low: Live in Chicago” was released in November, reimagining the album’s innovative synthesizer textures with urgent guitar. Bowie passed away on January 10, and Disappears will play a few more “Low” shows outside of Chicago.

“All of these shows were booked before Bowie died,” says Case. “So far, playing it doesn’t feel different. That may change when we’re in a room full of people bringing their own experience with his music.”

Fans can get a last, wintry dose of “Irreal” and a preview of things to come at the Empty Bottle before the band disappears into studio work.

“We’ll spend most of the year writing,” Case says. He mentions a song called “Silencing” in addition to other fresh tracks to be road-tested.

* Disappears, with Negative Scanner and Hide, 9 p.m., Feb. 12, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western. Tickets $15 (ages 21+over); emptybottle.com.

Spotify playlist: http://bit.ly/DisappearsSPOT

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.