It's been nearly 10 years since Durham rapper Phonte Coleman and Dutch producer Nicolay Rook released Connected, their pristine futuristic R&B excursion as the transcontinental, file-sharing duo The Foreign Exchange. At that point, you'd have been hard-pressed to find many to think that Coleman's future lay with The Foreign Exchange and not with Little Brother, his major label hip-hop group, let alone that this strange soul circuit would have created an empire. But they have, with a label and production house and a defiantly independent approach to the marketplace.
One of their chief sergeants, Detriot producer Zo!, visits to celebrate his new Manmade, a guest-heavy and bass-blessed collection. Zo!'s productions are exquisite and complicated, stuffing rhythms with kaleidoscopic keyboards and cascading harmonies until they open for audiences like rainbows. Expect a panoply of guests (Phonte and Jeanne Jolly are among those who contributed to Manmade) and the support of instrumental powerhouse The Hot at Nights. Thursday, July 25, at Casbah. $15–$20/8 p.m.
Hiss Golden Messenger
Since releasing the wonderful Haw, one of the year's most widely acclaimed releases from an American singer-songwriter, Durham's Michael Taylor, better known by the name Hiss Golden Messenger, has been nesting. He and his wife, Abby, had their second child earlier this month, and they spent the first half of the year buying, decorating and modifying the first home they've ever owned. That attempt to reconcile domesticity with one's own younger, wandering ways serves as a sometimes-implied thread throughout Haw, a record that challenges the functions of faith, family and even music itself in the struggle for personal fulfillment. Taylor seems to have found something of a rarified balance, and his even, keening croon serves as a well-adjusted testimonial. Here, he plays only his second full-band show since releasing Haw, backed by a veteran team of standouts such as sideman extraordinaire James Wallace and banjo player Nathan Bowles. Wednesday, July 31, at Duke Gardens. $10–$12/7 p.m.
Field Report is a clever anagram of Porterfield, that being the last name of the husky-voiced and calmly speak-singing frontman Christopher. The group's self-titled debut arrived last year, having survived a particularly long gestation period; Porterfield comes from the same songwriter nexus that has spawned the bands Bon Iver and Megafaun, turning them into relative stars in the interim. But of the bunch, Porterfield is the best line-for-line songwriter, articulating turmoil with a white-knuckled emotional lucidity that suggests Ernest Hemingway. During the devastating "Circle Drive," piano and guitar traipse beneath a forlorn narrative of a slow hospital death, as seen by the survivor. "They've got you wrapped up in guilt like an after-market cancer quilt," he offers, his voice clenched against the worry he's forced to stare down. Woody Pines headlines. Wednesday, July 24, at Local 506. $8/9 p.m.
Ed Schrader's Music Beat
Baltimore scene magnate Ed Schrader stands erect above a single tom drum, a drumstick in each hand and a microphone shoved in front of his face. A few feet away, bassist Devlin Rice confronts Schrader at an askance angle, another microphone at his mouth and his 10 fingers at the ready. When they start playing, they don't really stop, blasting maniacally through a series of No Wave paroxysms about distress and disorder, conviction and caring. Rice's tweaked, bulbous bass tone, Schrader's unrepentant drum abuse and their instantaneous gang vocals make the entire enterprise sound much larger than a minimal duo. Think Suicide on a James Chance rage, and then get out of the way. Lilac Shadows and Naked Naps open. Sunday, July 28, at Kings. $7/9:30 p.m.
The 11 tracks of Skopsi, the debut album of Bloomington, Ind., trio Fluffer, contain some of the more ebullient and ambitious indie pop you'll hear in 2013. They swivel like Vampire Weekend and get as stately as The Walkmen, build with an expansive toolkit like Of Montreal and sing with the slightly sour sweetness of The Oxford Collapse. It's pastiche perfected, full of external references but delightfully full of itself, too. If these songs coalesce onstage half as well as they do on record, expect four minutes of unexpected magic at a time. Tuesday, July 30, at Slim's. $3/9 p.m.
Oak City 7
Oak City 7 is a series of sponsor-driven concerts in Raleigh's downtown City Plaza; each four-or-five-band bill pogos between genres, so that salsa sidelines alt-country and staid bluegrass neighbors lascivious funk. Of all the shows, tonight's offering is the one not to miss. Southern Culture on the Skids—a band as identifiably North Carolinian as the barbecue, trailer parks and stock cars that populate their wild-eyed country-surf-blues-whatever-rock inclusiveness—headlines. Hammer No More the Fingers take the slot directly in front of SCOTS; despite the band's relative silence in the last two years, their razor-wire, high-harmony indie rock remains one of the region's benchmarks. Metal-plated Greensboro pop-punks Unifier and affable country crooner Brent Cobb take the middle. Show up early for Jessica Long & the New Kind, a delightful and bracing pop sparkle. Thursday, July 25, at Raleigh City Plaza. Free/5:55 p.m.
Nuala Kennedy, John Doyle
Both flautist Nuala Kennedy and guitarist John Doyle press against expectations of Irish music. Kennedy incorporates world rhythms into her tender ruminations, finding space for soul and a bit of South American flair in her pieces. The busy canter of southpaw John Doyle is a marvel of clarity, each note springing from the instrument's neck like a tiny confession. He's a singer and a songwriter, too, suggesting Bert Jansch with his measured presentation. Saturday, July 27, at The ArtsCenter. $12–$20/8 p.m.
Empire, Drag Your Chains
Greensboro's Empire embeds recalcitrant, hoarse vocals in songs that spring between gutter-crawling ferocity and post-metal glory, like Isis forever forced to record only seven-inch singles. Durham five-piece Drag Your Chains yammer fuck-mouthed vitriol over hardcore punk that's trapped inside a pinball machine, shifting velocity as it bounces between the walls. Vultures open. Wednesday, July 24, at Slim's. $5/9 p.m.
The tunesmiths gathered in this round—The Tender Fruit's Christy Smith, former Chocolate Drop Justin Robinson, Squirrel Nut Zipstress Katharine Whalen and Humble Tripe's Shawn Luby—are distinguished and strong. But what's most alluring about this particular circle is the variable perspectives the writers bring: Robinson, for instance, is a married, gay black man and Grammy winner living in a currently oppressive political climate, while Smith is a devastatingly voiced siren who has watched as a former boyfriend writing about their breakup became a Grammy winner himself. These conversations, like the songs between them, should be magnetic and charged. Thursday, July 25, at The ArtsCenter. $6–$14/8 p.m.
Craver, Hicks, Watson and Newberry
Sure, the name suggests a small-town law firm, but Craver, Hicks, Watson and Newberry are a Tar Heel institution of another sort—education and entertainment. Four walking and talking roots-music lexicons, the members of this eponymous quartet are frenetic performers, uproarious entertainers and seasoned players all. They're a vital wellspring of regional heritage, a living library that delights from the stage. Sunday, July 28, at The ArtsCenter. $8–$16/7 p.m.
Charlotte quintet Matrimony is a family band, anchored around the belt-it-out, husband-and-wife nucleus of Jimmy and Ashlee Hardee Brown. There's a banjo, but they're not that kind of Tar Heel family band. Rather, their Columbia Records debut, the EP Montibello Drive, is a conspicuous attempt to catch up with the orgiastic folk-pop of The Lumineers and Delta Rae. The stuff's so overstated that the roots music strains—the banjos and handclaps, mostly—seem computer-generated, as if spliced into a radio hit mash-up by an expert remixer. With Roseland, Nikol and E-S Guthrie. Friday, July 26, at Local 506. $10/7:30 p.m.
The three members of the trio The Aristocrats—bassist Bryan Beller, guitarist Guthrie Govan and drummer Marco Minnemann—are better at what they do than I (and maybe you, for that matter) will ever be at anything. And their résumé of gigs, from Steve Vai to Trey Gunn, is impressive enough, too, in that unfettered instrumental way. But spending money and a weekend night to take in their fetid, instro-masturbatory-complicated-and-grinning, D-grade-fuck-movie jams? My inferiority issues just won't allow it, I reckon. With The Hell No. Friday, July 26, at The Pour House. $17–$20/10 p.m.