Experimental musician Jordan Reyes has dipped his fingers into many genres. His early works display his devotion to the modular synth, but he’s increasingly branched out in unpredictable directions, like flood waters overflowing a creek. The Chicago-based musician (and occasional Reader contributor) delved into dark ambient on 2020’s Fairchild Soundtrack + Border Land (a score for a disturbing indie film combined with an unrelated but similar-sounding EP), while his 2020 full-length Sand Like Stardust is a masterpiece of western gothic.
In addition to his own musical projects, Reyes runs the eclectic American Dreams label and performs as a member of long-running, brilliant Chicago avant-garde band Ono. In recent years, he’s also battled anxiety that’s left him with a crippling dread of death—just in time for a lethal global pandemic. Reyes’s struggles to regulate and direct the impulses and phantasms of his own mind led him to explore Zen, and that practice infuses his new release, Everything Is Always. Though he usually records solo, this album features a large ensemble, including cellist Lia Kohl, pedal-steel guitarist Sam Wagster, and vocalist Ambre Sala (who’s married to Reyes). “The Tide” introduces the album’s themes with a rhythmic, repetitive chant that recalls the mindful breathing that can calm a panic attack while also suggesting the torment of experiencing one.
On the long-form spoken-word piece “Tralineation,” Ono cofounder and front man Travis takes center stage among mounting drones as he shares a campfire story of Black resistance to violent industrialization and capitalism set in a metaphoric landscape. “Kraken” is a massive, metallic incantation to primal fears of the unknown—and to how fear itself can lead to enlightenment. “Maybe I’m the Dust” is a quieter, more intimate song of acceptance. In the haunting world of Everything Is Always, fear must be confronted, and the record suggests that sometimes the best way out is through.
For this concert at the International Museum of Surgical Science, Reyes will play with an ensemble billed as Jordan Reyes’s Ark of Teeth. It includes Travis, Sala, Will Ballantyne, Patrick Shiroishi, and Eli Winter, though Reyes says the lineup will shift for future performances. Their set will consist of material from Everything Is Always as well as some new songs, and Reyes tells me that they’ve created a theatrical production, complete with handmade art, that will enhance the atmosphere of the already dramatic setting.
Jordan Reyes’s Ark of Teeth Reyes leads an ensemble that includes Travis, Ambre Sala, Patrick Shiroishi, and Eli Winter. Fri 11/4, 7:30 PM, International Museum of Surgical Science, 1524 N. Lake Shore, $22, 18+