“If you build it, they will come,” goes the famous line from “Field of Dreams.” But the Chicago electronica duo known as Male found that the opposite also holds true; if you tear it down, they’ll come, too.
Jonathan Krohn and Benjamin Mjolsness had been making music together for several years, and felt they had reached an endpoint. So they thought a great way to go out would be to invite all their friends in the Chicago free-jazz and art-rock scene into the studio for a final recording experiment.
“The thinking was that we should make a record that documents this thing that we’ve doing, and then just call it a day and quit, and not do music in this capacity anymore,” Krohn said in a phone interview from Champaign-Illinois, where he’s spending the year teaching graphic design at the University of Illinois.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion. The resulting album, aptly titled “All Are Welcome,” attracted the notice of a Portland indie rock label called Other Electricities, who agreed to release and promote it. Now, Male has another album called “German for Shark” set for release next summer, and is doing some touring outside Chicago, including a stop at the Project Lodge on Saturday, Dec. 19.
“With Other Electricities being so supportive and very great on their side of things, we’re like ‘Well screw it, let’s continue doing this,’” Krohn said.
Krohn and Mjolsness bonded primarily as fans of music, particularly the art-rock/free jazz scene that began flourishing in Chicago in the 1990s around bands like Tortoise. They began making their own music, and found that many of the most talented players in Chicago were also very collegial and eager to collaborate with them and others.
“Ben and I are just two fans who became friendly with a bunch of jazz dudes because we all went to the same bar,” Krohn said. “That’s how it started, I don’t know where in the world where this kind of scene is happening. To have this pool of musicians in Chicago that are constantly collaborating with each other, it’s mind-blowing.”
For “All Are Welcome,” Male invited some of those friends into the studio one by one for an unusual and completely improvised recording session. Krohn and Mjolsness would create tracks and then the musicians would just start improvising over top of them as the tape rolled.
“It was all pure overdub, there was no editing,” Krohn said. “The person who came in, we’d say, “This is in whatever key, and do you want to hear it first or do you just want to go?’ And I think mostly people just said, ‘I’ll go.’”
A reviewer for PopMatters.com found the result to be totally captivating: “It can teeter on anxiety for what seems like an eternity, then suddenly the lighting changes and you’re in a whole new world of hope and peace. This is not music for grooving; it’s music you let happen around you, to drift in and out of as the feelings move you to where ever you are meant to be.”
Male has always tried to indulge that improvisational philosophy in concert, inviting whatever musicians happen to be available on stage with them and just seeing what happens. Now that the duo has a new album out, they’ll use those songs as the foundation for the show at the Project Lodge, but will then experiment from there.
“If we rehearse more than twice, it would be a lot,” Krohn said. “That’s not because of laziness, it’s because in a lot of ways that’s what is the point here. Let’s work in the room together, and what happens in that live environment.”
IF YOU GO
w/ Rabid Rabbit, All Tiny Creatures
When: Saturday, Dec. 19, 7 p.m.
Where: Project Lodge, 817 E. Johnson St.
Tickets: $5 at the door