Critic’s Choice for the week of April 19-25, 2006

Droning world, booty-shaking protest music, and yet more wanton experimentation.


Cheap technology sometimes makes it easy to forget that some of the best music is simple and stripped-down. The Oakland female duo Pillows practices this aesthetic wonderfully, and East Bay listeners are beginning to take notice of this just-right mix of pretty harmonies, country accents, and noisy rock flourishes. Former members of the Run for Cover Lovers, Pillows’ 2005 debut, Two Step, is optimal for driving a beat-up car kicking up dirt on a country road, or as the soundtrack for realizing your lover has abandoned you at a motel. It’s not precious or sweet, but the prettiness lies in the clarity of their sound. Pillows plays with Loop!Station and the 30-member a cappella Leonard Cohen cover group Conspiracy of Beards Saturday night at Berkeley’s Starry Plough. $7, 9:30 p.m. (Kathleen Richards)


The distinguished gentlemen of Väsen began their career in the late ’80s, paying homage to the drone-heavy folk music of their native Sweden. The trio’s sound is built around Olav Johansson’s nykleharpa, a sixteen-string instrument played with a bow to produce a warm droning sound that’s part hurdy-gurdy and part fiddle. Fiddler Mikael Marin and guitarist Roger Tallroth add their inspired touches to these intricate, fun-filled arrangements of original compositions that blur the line between past, present, and future. Sunday night at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage. $19.50 advance, $20.50 door. 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 or (j. poet)


Despite a week that also includes Berkeley Opera’s world premiere of Chrysalis and pianist Krystian Zimerman at Cal Performances, do not miss Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra‘s Ode to Joy. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nic McGegan’s tenure as musical director, the Saturday (8 p.m.) and Sunday (7:30 p.m.) concerts at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church culminate with an authentic instrument performance of Beethoven’s final Ninth Symphony, performed on the scale Beethoven expected. $28-$62 415-392-4400. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Just when it seemed that SF’s boundary-breaking Kronos Quartet had tried every experimental conceit possible, the group jumps into some weird collaborations Friday and Saturday night at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Returning from its six-concert series at Carnegie Hall, Kronos will offer tunes arranged by such artists as Sigur Ros and Xploding Plastix. But the real treats will be two collaborations, one with indie scavengers Matmos (who craft electronic sounds from such sources as amplified crayfish nerve tissue) and another with Walter Kitundu, who’ll be playing stringed instruments he built from turntable record players. $18-$30, 8 p.m. each night. 415-978-2787 or (Larry Kelp)


Some musicians hem and haw over producing their musical masterpiece, but British songwriter Billy Childish doesn’t have any pretenses. The 49-year-old punk-inspired garage rocker and admitted dyslexic is known for his prolific songwriting — according to his Web site, he’s been in six bands, recorded a hundred albums, created two thousand paintings, two novels, and volumes of poetry. He first made a name for himself by making fun of the music that initially inspired him with a cheeky version of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK” titled “Fun in the UK.” Childish’s brand of irreverence may have never gained him icon status, but maybe that’s the point. Saturday at Oakland’s Mama Buzz Cafe. $5 to $10 sliding scale. 7 p.m. (K.R.)


Besides their wicked-cool name, San Francisco’s Bonedrivers possess a certain gumption that allows long-haired white dudes from the city to play hellbent jukebox blues and Southern boogie. Featuring Keith Karloff of ’90s hard-rockers Gone Jackals, the group formed nearly five years ago and has yet to release its long-promised debut; fortunately, blues-rock is all about live chops, and the Bonedrivers will have plenty in tow Saturday night at Mr. Pickwick’s Pub in Concord. $3, 9 p.m. (Nate Seltenrich)


Spicy Sea Adventures is the title of the debut album from Carne Cruda (“Raw Meat”), a resident Caribbean-based Latino alternative band. Performing Saturday at La Peña, the group includes Camilo Landau (guitar, tres, vocals) and Ayla Davila (bass), who are apparently “dedicated to creating booty-shaking grooves for the purpose of rocking down the Global Capitalism that oppresses us all.” Call it potent protest music presented by a seasoned young cast saying something in response to trying times. $7, 9:30 p.m. 510-849-2568 or (Jesse “Chuy” Varela)

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