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Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Sen Morimoto, Son!

  • High Noon Saloon 701 East Washington Avenue Madison, Wisconsin 53703 (map)

Three artists let pop and hip-hop flow together in colorful and personal ways. Info/tix

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Chicago songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Nnamdi Ogbonnaya's solo records, including last year's Drool, show us what pop sounds like to someone who never learned to fuss too much about the borders between different genres and influences. Or, more likely, understands a lot of different kinds of music very well—from hip-hop to R&B to post-punk to experimental electronic music—and doesn't see why they shouldn't all just melt and warp together in ever-changing ways. Ogbonnaya makes something cohesive and touching from the wild musical bleed of Drool, thanks to his gift for writing tight, brain-sticking melodies and an earnestly overstimulated persona. And his vocals are just as versatile as the instrumentation and production choices around them, often jumping from nimble raps to playful baritones in the space of a few measures.

On "Should Have Known," an arpeggiated synth skitters around Ogbonnaya's drums and the short but indelibly mournful refrain of "you should know," capturing a compelling mix of sadness and restlessness. "Hop Off" is a little more firmly in the hip-hop vein, with a smooth, slow-rolling hook, fritzy percussion, and rapid-fire verses threaded through with off-kilter melodies. The opening track, "Cindy," features contributions from fellow Chicagoan Sen Morimoto, who joins him on this bill and creates a charming pop/hip-hop hybrid of his own on this year's album Cannonball. Madison-based Son!, the similarly wide-open project of rapper/singer/songwriter/keyboard player Daniel Kaplan, kicks things off. —Scott Gordon