Thursday, March 19, 2009
Still Not There: 2009 SXSW
As last year, I will not be able to attend the music lover's paradise, South by Southwest, and will have to explore the roster of artists from the swivel chair in front of my laptop (if I spin around fast enough every so often, I can attempt to simulate the dizziness brought on by wanting to see so many bands at once). Once again, there are many bands and artists that I already know about and love performing in Austin, including Echo & the Bunnymen, Camera Obscura, The Blue Aeroplanes, Wild Beasts, Mother Mother, Calvin Harris, Bishi, Booka Shade, Boys Noize, Chairlift, The Guggenheim Grotto, Ladyhawke, Okkervil River, MSTRKRFT, New York Dolls, Slow Club, Peter, Bjorn and John, Radio 4, Descartes a Kant, Future of the Left, HEARTSREVOLUTION, Max Tundra, Peter Murphy, Titus Andronicus, Voxtrot, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Peter Broderick, The Duke Spirit, Fight Like Apes, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Shout Out Out Out Out, We Have Band, Primal Scream, Ra Ra Riot, The Twelves, We Should Be Dead, Asobi Seksu, Cut Off Your Hands, and Au Revoir Simone; however, I would rather explore some bands that I'm not familiar with and pass them on to you. After all, among my choices last year were The Indelicates and Bodies of Water, two bands that made it into my Top 40 Albums of 2008. Let's try to find some fantastic ones again, shall we? (As intriguing as they are, we are going to steer clear of Futomoto Satisfaction, a Japanese, all-female trombone band in bikinis - I'm sure you'll understand.)
Kamikaze Queens: Punk. Cabaret. Berlin. How could this band not attract my attention? For those of us who enjoy a spot of dark cabaret like Dresden Dolls, Nina Hagen and Lou Reed's aptly titled album Berlin, but also like the scrappy flavour of New York Dolls and The Ramones, Kamikaze Queens are a perfect fit.
Voluptuous Panic - Kamikaze Queens
M.A.N.D.Y.: Also, from Berlin, electronic duo, M.A.N.D.Y. caught my ears. On the same Get Physical label as their friends Booka Shade, they produce clean, staccato soundscapes with a cool elegance and have produced tight, minimalistic remixes for the likes of Sugababes, Tiefschwarz, Roxy Music and The Knife and a compilation for Fabric. I hope that they soon release a debut of their own.
I Feel Space - Lindstrom (M.A.N.D.Y. Remix)
Parenthetical Girls: Portland, Oregon's Parenthetical Girls are one of those experimental, but accessible, chamber pop bands that I can't help but fall in love with. Having released their debut record three years ago, they have now released their sophomore effort, Entanglements, and they remind me of artists like Simon Bookish, who employ classical compositional theory to create a quirky, intellectually-satisfying pop music. They describe Entanglements as an "orchestral song cycle of grand sonic ambition [...] an eleven-song, linear narrative of ascendancy, adolescent sexuality, quantum mechanics, consent, and other moral ambiguities - all set to an elaborately orchestrated olio of Modern Classical and timeworn, traditional American pop forms." Any band who can inspire the use of "olio" is the band for me.
A Song For Ellie Greenwich - Parenthetical Girls
The Week That Was: If you thought that the description from Parenthetical Girls was impressive, take a look at this one from The Week That Was, the musical side project from Peter Brewis, the brother of School of Language's David Brewis: "The songs are the evidence in this particular mystery and the victims, perpetrators and onlookers raise questions with concerns familiar to us all. How do we deal with the fragments of information we receive through the television, radio, the internet? How do we balance the distrust we feel for mass media with our dependence on it? How does this relationship influence our hopes and actions in our real lives? And finally, what would happen if we decided not to deal with it anymore and switched off the information flow by throwing away our TVs, radios and newspapers? The anger, confusion and sorrow details the week of Peter’s own enforced switch off." What's even more brilliant is that the music effectively carries the narrative and lives up to the philisophical musings. All of this just proves that the Brewis brothers are just as powerful on their own as they are together.
Learn to Learn - The Week That Was
Efterklang: This Danish "folktronica" band lives up to their fanciful name, which rings like magic in my ears (it actually means "remembrance" or "reverberation" in Danish); their music, too, lingers long after you've listened to it. There's something Sufjan Stevens-like about their sound, but there's also that ethereal Scandinavian influence blowing like wind chimes through it. Playful, atmospheric, and whimsical, Efterklang can shift from mincing glockenspiel to fuzzy, muted brass and turn their beautiful fantasy world upside down and inside out with infinite permutations. Flying too close to the clouds must sound like Efterklang.
Mirador - Efterklang
School of Seven Bells: Comprised of Benjamin Curtis of Secret Machines and identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, formerly of On! Air! Library!, School of Seven Bells is a dreamy, pulsing affair. The twins' vocals are mesmerizing and the musical backdrop is built from a skittering, fluid energy that breaks itself apart only to reassemble into self-healed tears of mercury. Drawing influences from various styles, including Eastern and Afrobeat flavours, School of Seven Bells is ranging through a musical palette with a true artist's abandon, producing astounding results.
Half Asleep - School of Seven Bells
SXSW Web site: www.sxsw.com