If any Chicago musician embodies David Bowie’s knack for invention via reinvention, it’s Tim Kinsella. The indie-rock vet has had a hand in countless recordings by various Chicago bands, including his own experimental act Joan of Arc, the newly reunited Owls, and his posthumously seminal teen punk group Cap’n Jazz.
But Kinsella also writes novels, and makes films, and runs local indie press Featherproof Books, so it’s no surprise that when the Museum of Contemporary Art asked him to cover a David Bowie album as part of its ongoing retrospective, he went the laborious route. "Without thinking I picked Hunky Dory,’cause it’s one of my favorite records ever,” says Kinsella. “But I couldn’t make it click. I learned half the songs, but it just seemed like a one-trick kind of thing. So I decided to make a new Hunky Dory out of instrumental samples.”
If a project like that sounds utterly crazy-making, that’s because it is: “I went through the entirety of Hunky Dory and isolated every second without vocals,” says Kinsella. “It ended up being 350, 400 samples. It was intimidating—I needed a template to base it on. So I decided to use one of my other favorite records, Propellers in Love, by this sort of obscure, minimalist composer, Arnold Dreyblatt, as a guide.”
As for what a voiceless remix steered by a minimalist composition will look like on stage, Kinsella promises a few tricks up his sleeve. “I made a video to go along with it,” he says. “I don’t want to give away what it is or how it works. There’s also a live element that I’m doing along with the record. So it’s half put together and half happening live.” And out comes the inner Bowie fan: “Because, y’know, shows with somebody standing at a laptop aren’t particularly exciting.”
GO: Tim Kinsella performs Hunky Dory TK at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Edlis Neeson Theater (220 E. Chicago) at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 16. Free with museum admission. More info here.