Critic's Choice for the week of May 23-29, 2007 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

An Entropic Epic

Degenerate Art Ensemble dedicates itself to the notion of performance — multi-instrumentalist, genre-busting, Dada-inspired, modern-dancing, costumed performance with a capital P. The former incarnation of Bay Area freak-scene leaders Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, the ensemble's sophisticated yet whimsical soundtracks and songs, which draw from avant-garde jazz, Saturday morning cartoons, and trashcan punk, complement the surreal onstage antics with an edgy polish that's striking, entertaining, and not a little head-spinning. At 21 Grand Saturday, May 26. 9 p.m., pay what you can. (Sam Prestianni)

Entrancing Rock

Too often, attempts at hybridizing Eastern melodies with contemporary rock come out as new-agey Cheez Whiz. But New York-born, Iranian-American songwriter Haale Gafori (known simply as "Haale") resists the slippery hippie slope with her psychedelic Sufi trance-rock. Raised on Jimi Hendrix and famed Iranian pop singer Hayedeh, Haale naturally meshes Persian melodies with psychedelic rock for a sound that — like Sufi music — is entrancing, luminescent, and clearly outstanding. She has released two EPs this year so far, and collaborated with the likes of Sean Lennon, Tchad Blake (Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman), and Dougie Bowne (Cassandra Wilson, Iggy Pop). Catch her with Samvega and the Hobbyists at the Starry Plough on Thursday, May 24. 9:30 p.m., $10. (Kathleen Richards)

Umbilical Chords

The Del Sol String Quartet, feted for its focus on contemporary music, now turns its attention to women composers and the creative process. Featuring music written over the span of three centuries, Wednesday's concert at Berkeley's Ashby Stage will include music by Linda Catlin Smith, Teresa Carreño, Sally Beamish, and Ruth Crawford. The concert also includes a world premiere by our own Mark Fish, inspired by the life and work of Ruth Crawford. 8 p.m., $7-$20. (Jason Victor Serinus)

Pangaea Pop

Manu Chao has been making impossible-to-pigeonhole music since his days with his Latin reggae band Mano Negra. His blend includes rock, Arab, reggae, flamenco, various African styles, samba, funk — the list is endless. He sings in English, Spanish, Wolof, and several other languages and is a superstar just about everywhere in the world but here. His stage shows are known for their wild, unpredictable vibe: since he seldom tours, this is a show not to miss. At Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco Wednesday, May 30. 7:30 p.m., $30. (j. poet)

Beautiful Vue

San Francisco indie-rock trio Bellavista — singer Rex Shelverton, bassist Jeremy Bringetto, and drummer Cary LaScala — almost made it big in the garage-rock band Vue. They signed to Sub Pop and garnered rave reviews in major music mags, but ultimately got dropped by RCA and disbanded in 2004. Now, renamed as Bellavista, the three show they've still got plenty of dark and dirty allure on their 2007 self-titled debut: brash guitars and a raw sound. With the Flesh and the Front at the Uptown on Thursday, May 24. 9 p.m., $5. (K.R.)

Jazz Hands, Throats

New York jazz singer Kate McGarry comes to Yoshi's with her band Tuesday to celebrate the release of her new CD The Target. She was last seen in San Francisco two years ago in pianist Fred Hersch's brilliant large ensemble jazz production of Walt Whitman poems, "Leaves of Grass." Her own vocal style comes out of a New England childhood, Irish folk roots, study of African rhythms, and a drive to make each song, no matter how traditional, her own. She's an exciting young musician to keep an eye on. With Gary Versace (piano, accordion, organ), McGarry's husband Keith Ganz (guitar), bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Jason Lewis, at 8 p.m. ($16) and 10 p.m. ($10). (Larry Kelp)

Peeling Wallpaper

Berkeley bedroom beatmaker Eric Frede ric, aka Wallpaper, concocts supersynthesized pop beats by overexploiting mainstream clichés. He turns his pitch-corrector to eleven and takes his lyrical maturity cues from MTV (DJ, don't try to resist a total beat, it's so mean/I made this song five minutes long for extra dancing, his layered digivoice proclaims on "The Remix"). It's a gimmick that could easily wear itself out if not for the surprisingly thoughtful instrumentals he crafts, as in "I Love a Girl." Wallpaper headlines a show with Electric Soft Parade and Gavin Castleton at Bottom of the Hill on Sunday, May 27. 9 p.m., $8. (K.R.)

Cheat Sheet

Foley Room mate Amon Tobin from the UK's Ninja Tune label at SF's the Mezzanine; the Bay Area's Moe!kestra turns ten, destroys another piano at the Lab in San Francisco; and blind albino Muslim homie of MF Doom, Midwestern MC Brother Ali, plays Slim's (Friday). CDs out this week: If Danny Elfman had a metal band, it might sound like Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (Oakland) which releases In Glorious Times; Les Claypool releases his Fancy DVD; new music from the National, Battles, and Ozzy Osbourne.


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