Emma Hospelhorn of Ensemble dal Niente releases a scintillating solo debut as Em SpelJ.R. Nelson and Leor Galilon May 18, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Gossip Wolf always likes to hear about a new solo album from a member of Ensemble dal Niente—the long-running local contemporary-classical corps has built a spotless reputation for adventurous programming and technical excellence, and its members often pop up in far-flung musical contexts around town. Among the most prolific is multi-instrumentalist Emma Hospelhorn, who has played flutes, keyboards, and bass guitar on recordings by V.V. Lightbody, Mute Duo, and garage band Hollows, and also maintains duos with cellist Katinka Kleijn (acoustic instruments augmented with homemade circuits) and computer-music specialist Ben Sutherland (an electroacoustic collaboration called the Machine Is Neither, which has created music for a dancer triggering sounds with a motion-capture suit). On Friday, May 20, Hospelhorn releases her debut solo album, The Carillon Towers, under the name Em Spel; its pop-adjacent experimental folk features her lovely, elastic vocals, her flute, and her intricately programmed electronics, along with standout performances by guests such as Kleijn and Lightbody. On Thursday, May 26, Em Spel will celebrate with a record-release show at Constellation, with openers Health & Beauty and Elenna Sindler

Em Spel’s debut features guests V.V. Lightbody, Katinka Kleijn, Eric Ridder, Matt Oliphant, Caitlin Edwards, and Brian Deck.

On Friday, May 20, saxophonist Ernest Dawkins presents the local premiere of an ensemble piece commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago in homage to civil rights activist, historian, and educator Timuel Black, who died in October at age 102. Tim Black: Blacker Than Black will be performed by a dozen artists who work in different genres and mediums: Dawkins’s comrades in this multidisciplinary group include dancer Dominique Atwood, trumpeter Corey Wilkes, pianist Alexis Lombre, saxophonist Isaiah Collier, and beat-scene producer and sound artist Brother El. The Live the Spirit Residency, Dawkins’s arts nonprofit, will host Friday’s performance at Hamilton Park Cultural Center (513 W. 72nd). The concert is free and begins at 6 PM.

Last time the Reader checked in on the Curls, they’d just released 2019’s Bounce House, an album of flamboyant, experimental indie pop. At the time they were a six-piece based here, but on their first full-length since then, they’re down to four members who are spread out across three time zones, living in Chicago, Georgia, and Wyoming. On Friday, May 20, Georgia-based label Truth Zone will drop Smothered & Covered, a busy romp whose shaggy, colorful, loose-limbed songs balance themes of dread with a communal sense of joy. The Curls will take a brief tour next month that includes a homecoming show at Cole’s Bar on Saturday, June 25.

As the band’s new bio puts it, “Curls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

Got a tip? Tweet @Gossip_Wolf or e-mail gossipwolf@chicagoreader.com.

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