Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Big Beat 'cast 12

I learned that by living in Austin, SXSW is really a three week commitment: one to prepare, one to execute, one to recover. Enjoy the first post-SX Beat 'cast, featuring a few of my highlights plus the return of that Burial fellow.

FRIENDLY FIRES "Live Those Days Tonight" (XL), from Pala - While I personally prefer their more blatantly funky tunes like "Photobooth" and "Skeleton Boy", the first track from their upcoming second record has a smooth groove similar to "Jump In The Pool" and "Kiss Of Life". Energetic live, the band's poised to make great strides in the US with an 11 date tour starting in Philadelphia on May 24th. (TBB coverage)  

LANTERNS ON THE LAKE "Lungs Quicken" (self-released), from Lungs Quicken EP - Hazel Wilde,  lead singer of the six piece orchestral outfit, delivered one of the quips of SX by introducing themselves being from the north of England "which you can probably tell from our sunburns".  Recently signed to Bella Union, they trade in shimmering dream-pop with a folk undercurrent, conjuring imagery of a pastoral, English countryside.  Seeing them play inside Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, with its superior acoustics, was a treat.  A bit more like a recital than a concert, mind you, but perfect for their at-times fragile sound.  Most promising.

EDWYN COLLINS "A Girl Like You" (Setanta), from Gorgeous George - During SX, I tend to favor bands that rarely tour and otherwise normally wouldn't get a chance to see, thus explaining why I usually end up seeing so many European artists.  That goes ditto for artists those I've never seen and may never have the chance again.  That said, I felt I had to see Edwyn Collins.  It's been six years since a double brain haemorrhage left him seriously debilitated forcing him to, among other things, relearn how to speak.  Yet here he was, playing SX to promote his new record Losing Sleep, recorded with help from Johnny Marr, Roddy Frame, and members of Franz Ferdinand, The Cribs, and The Drums.  So with the opportunity presented, I felt it mandatory to pay my respects.    Seated on a stool at the front of the small stage, he led his band through a set culled from both his solo career and his days fronting the seminal Orange Juice.   In a word, courageous.  I really got to see the extent of his affliction as he left the stage, walking with a cane and a very pronounced limp, his right hand clinched unable to be used normally.  In a second word, inspirational.  This video, shot in Austin, best demonstrates Collins spirit, both in conversation and performing his 1987 single "Don't Shilly Shally".   

THE JOY FORMIDABLE "Whirring" (live), courtesy of NPR. Original on The Big Roar -  At nearly two weeks out, I haven't detected too many bands - no one, really - that caught lightning in a bottle during SX.  The actual music making seemed to take a backseat this year to the crowd problems, overt starfucking of whistle stop celebrity appearances, and the surge in attendance of the Interactive portion of the festival.  One band you could put on a shortlist of possibles, though, would be The Joy Formidable.  Still very unknown in the US, they played to a highly energized crowd on Friday night that provided my longest wait time to get into a show all week.   To me, they have a little of the vibe that Silversun Pickups had a few years back: indie, but with a big rawk sound ripe for crossing over to mainstream alt-radio.  Couple that with an expressive, kewpie-like front woman who happens to be able to shred like a mother, and I'm thinking that TJF will be on a lot of people's lips come summer.  Worth noting was that Mr. & Mrs Joy Formidable, Ritzy and Rhydian, were pressed against the stage at the Edwyn Collins show the night before, Ritzy introducing herself as he exited.  Much respect.      

BURIAL "Street Halo" (Hyperdub), single & BURIAL, FOUR TET, + THOM YORKE "Mirror" (Text), single - Basically, if you liked Untrue, then you oughta like the man's new single and b-side as well as the three-song collab with Four Tet and that Radiohead dude.

WILD FLAG "Future Crimes" (live), courtesy of NPR. Original on 7" single - I work across the street from Austin's Urban Outfitters, and they've always booked solid afternoon lineups during SX. Before heading downtown on Friday, I caught the new band that featured 2/3 of Sleater-Kinney and Mary Timony of Helium. Glad I did. Now, I've read a few reports claiming Wild Flag don't sound anything like Sleater-Kinney and I have to disagree. To the possible relief of many, Corin Tucker and her omnipresent shriek aren't part of the band but with Brownstein on gtr/vox & Weiss on drums, it's not like they all of sudden sound like Warpaint, a'ight? If anything, Wild Flag is a little more riff-rock friendly, as if they're allowing their secretly collective classic rock influences to come to the fore. This single serves as a teaser to their Merge debut later in the year. Their "Racehorse" may have been the best new song I heard all week.

LAS ROBERTAS "Back To The End" (Art Fag), from Cry Out Loud - Girls (Vivian and Dum Dum) inspired fuzz pop from Costa Rican trio. Read my SXSW review and catch earlier TBB coverage. CAPSULA "Hit 'n' Miss" (BCore), from In The Land Of Silver Souls - I don't think I saw a band as happy as this Spanish trio to be playing SX all week. A simple, no frills rock band, they were a refreshingly unhyped discovery. (TBB coverage)

THE WEEKND "What You Need" (self-released), from House Of Balloons (via Mu-sique) - From Toronto, this trio is the latest to go from obscurity to the toast of the blogosphere in a few short months weeks days. With a free 'mixtape', yours for the download, their nocturnal R&B is equal parts sexy and sinister. A convergence of styles: hip-hop & trip hop, dubstep and electro-pop, it's a fascinating debut. Siouxsie fans will dig the sample of "Happy House" that provides the framework of the record's title cut.

LOWER DENS "Hospice Gates" (Gnomonsong), from Twin-Hand Movement - I'm late to the party on this Baltimore based band, receiving an extra bit of notoriety here in Texas since lead singer Jana Hunter's a Houston native. I'm unfamiliar with her previous solo work (can't win 'em all) but I'm diggin' this track in particular from their debut. A nice exercise in restraint, it's a perfectly executed 4:06 of ringing guitar, a slippery bass line and a silky vocal, all the while gazing squarely at your shoes. Currently on tour in Europe through mid-April.

  [STREAM] Lower Dens, 'Hospice Gates' by guillerninia  

STILL CORNERS "Parallels" (self-released), from Remember Pepper - When I charted my course for SX, my must-see acts were Psychic TV, Friendly Fires, The Joy Formidable, and Still Corners, with the last two coming on the same night. Recently signed to Sub Pop, I caught the London-based 5-piece (boasting Australian singer Tessa Murray and American guitarist Greg Hughes, also the main songwriter) outdoors at Club de Ville in what initially seemed an odd setting. Surely, I thought, here was a band that should be playing at one of the acoustically pristine churches that were doubling as venues. Instead, they were on a short stage set on asphalt next to the back of a bar. Hmmm...well, it's SX.  Let's get on with it.

(Photo by Sebastien Dehesdin ) 

With all credit to the tech team, the mood and lighting actually turned out to be pretty great. The warm Texas evening yielded a comfortable breeze, and the film projection was set against a wall of exposed rock behind the stage, making for a soft-focus visual treat.  Even though I've been big upping the band for a while, I came away even more of a fan after seeing them live.  Beach House seems an easy comparison, but Still Corners  is the creamier of the two.   A more girly Beach House, perhaps.  The unexpected delight was hearing more of a authentically psychedelic sound, as if someone in the band's favorite album is Pink Floyd's Meddle.   You'll hear a bit of that in this track from their debut Remember Pepper?, which slipped out 3 years ago to almost no one's notice.  That'll change.         

ANNA CALVI "Suzanne & I" (Domino), from Anna Calvi - Despite a wealth of positive reviews, I can't help but feel a lot of folks are letting this disc pass them by. Her hand injury forced her to cancel SXSW and postpone US dates until May. A real missed opportunity. I almost wonder if her sound is bit too mature and simply not indie enough for a strong enough embrace from the Pitchfork (7.8) crowd?  It ain't no Panda Bear, youknowwhatI'msaying? In any event, I hope Domino takes the long view on promoting her and her record. The fact that she's a really fine guitarist should earn notices from those who appreciate the craft. If you doubt she can shred, I'll offer up this clip from her days fronting the band Cheap Hotel. This is one of the go-to cuts on her debut, my favorite CD of the year to date.

1 comment:

  1. Great show as usual. The only thing that might've made it better would be an outro. $0.02USD. Great music!