There is some irony in the first band I saw at South by Southwest being a reunion band. Coachwhips, John Dwyer’s scrappy, noise-garage band from the mid-00s, had decided for whatever reason to play SXSW. Not to say they weren't great. Setting up on the ground rather than the stage, and plugging into their own amps rather than the venue's, the band immediately clicked into action and started rattling off song after song thanks, no doubt, to each one being usually less than two minutes. It probably wasn't the ideal situation to see them, a grassy & sunny field rather than a dark & dank bar basement, but it was fun and noisy nonetheless, especially when Dwyer got decent portion of the crowd to sing along and throw their hands up into the air when the band closed on “Peanut Butter and Jelly”.
Sophie’s performance was an indication that almost every producer/DJ should be seen indoors during SXSW. He was good, actually performing a set, changing and remixing his tracks so they emerged rather than it feeling like he just hit “play” on his rig. Unfortunately, his gooey club tracks didn't mesh with the setting, and his minimal set up and lack of lights/visuals just left everyone to stare at the kid with orange hair onstage. Though props to everyone in the crowd who danced super awkwardly during the whole set; you all very much made the set.
I wound up seeing Perfect Pussy several times over the course of South By, largely because of the standard they hit with their first show. Over the four months since I had first seen them, they had gotten even better; more frantic, more intense in every aspect. Guitarist Ray McAndrew and drummer Garrett Koloski played their instruments with a jubilant but fierce furry, and bassist Greg Ambler & keyboardist Shaun Sutkus just flailed behind their respective gear. Vocalist Meredith Graves easily matched her bandmates intensity; her movements onstage feeling both precise and wounded at the same time while she screamed the lyrics with a menacing desperation that could be felt by everyone, no matter how obstructed they were in the mix. The band was so loud they would up blowing have the speakers on stage three songs in and had to pause for a moment. Not that it mattered; once the power clicked back on they launched right back into the same burst of energy they started with. It was 18 very glorious minutes.
Springy. If you had to describe Ex Hex in one word, that’s the one I think a lot of people would go for. Which says something, as everyone in this band, particularly frontwoman Mary Timony of Helium and more recently Wild Flag, are practically veterans of the indie music world. Yet here they were, having fun as they played their chewy, power-pop tinted guitar rock, being indulgent as all hell, and loving every minute of it. You could tell how much this band was just friends finally getting together and playing some songs right; it leaked immensely into their songs and their stage craft.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Obviously, there is some gull in Slow Pulse's decision to use "Hardware" as their "introduction to the world" track. It's nearly six minutes long. It's a cold, distant, and detached piece of electronica, with Xander Harris' beat feeling almost like a series of mechanical clicks. The only humanity of the track comes from Nicolas Nadeau's vocals, which are buried, hazy, feeling as if they are coming in from another dimension. The song locks into its groove fairly quickly and rarely alters it during its entire length. Yet, at the same time, "Hardware" is pretty memorizing. It occupies that trance like space that LCD Soundsystem's "Get Innocuous" did, when the club's music has gotten overwhelming and the drugs have just gone bad, transporting you to a precisest between euphoria and panic. The brief flourishes of wailing noise that float in and out of the song only add to the tension. "Hardware" maybe cold, but it is truly alive as well.
Slow Pulse's Facebook
Pre-order the s/t cassette here, from Mirror Universe Tapes
Monday, March 3, 2014
I remember the first time I heard Yohuna's music. I was visiting New York City during the summer of 2012, and my friend Tom took me to Shea Stadium for FMLY Fest. I knew few of the acts, and so each one's performance was its own surprise. However, when Yohuna took the stage it was something else. Almost a silhouette because of the dark lighting, her music unfolded and bloomed, growing bigger and more beautiful in the near nothing. I stood in awe to it all as I let it wash over me.
It says something that her recorded music has the same effect, her songs feeling just magical on first listen. Or maybe that's largely due to how sparingly Yohuna releases new songs into the world. making each one feel like a treasure. "Badges" certainly has that quality, one of many incredible tracks that will soon be released on the ever impeccable Orchid Tapes' third compilation Boring Ecstasy. Know that this song is very much alive, especially with Yohuna's vocals now ringing out crystal clear, no longer encased in a protective shell of reverb. The sadness is palatable while she's singing, but so is the trace of hope within it, especially in the chorus of "I’m not pretty/I’m not nice/I am radiating light". There is something truly earnest in a phrase like that, especially with the way Yohuna sings them so delicately. All of this behind the utterly beautiful, tinkering pianos and delicate beat that gives the song it's pulse. At least that's how "Badges" feels; like a softly glowing gem that quivers & fades like a heartbeat.
Pre-order Boring Ecstasy soon here, from Orchid Tapes