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  • Photo Recap: South By Southwest (Day 3)

    Mon, 17 Mar 2008 12:14:38

    Photo Recap: South By Southwest (Day 3) - A Swedish serenade, hometown heroes and little black metal for sweet dreams

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    • The Soundtrack Of Our Lives - Sister Surround

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    Since most of yesterday's energy was spent on worshipping six-figure producers (the Neptunes' arena-ready rock band, N.E.R.D.), solid but safe indie rockers (Yo La Tengo, My Morning Jacket, Mark Kozelek), and a shriveled, cantankerous punk icon (Lou Reed), I thought I'd spend most of today exploring what South By Southwest is really about: new music, as well as artists we haven't heard from in a while. Artists like The Soundtrack of Our Lives, who played their first SxSW set at Village Voice Media's day party. While three years have passed since the delayed domestic release of their last LP, Origin Vol. 1, you wouldn't know it from the way these Swedes still strut across the stage. Led by a hulking Cheshire Cat of a man (Ebbot Lundberg, still dressed like a Tolkien character between his flowing robe and mystical symbol sleeves) and two scissor-kicking, knee-dropping guitarists (Mattias Bärjed, Ian Person), the band tore through a number of new songs, including an epic, riff-raking "Welcome to the Future" and the swirling psych of "Ego Delusion." Closing with an extended version of "Sister Surround" only sweetened the deal. Now, who's going to put out this new album of theirs in the U.S. (T.S.O.L. are signed to Warner Sweden, but have no stateside home), and when?

    The Soundtrack of Our Lives | ...Trail doing some afternoon easy-listening | by Andrew Parks

    ...Trail's Conrad Keely | by Andrew Parks

    Speaking of unsigned rock bands that still put on an eyebrow-singeing live show, a recently dropped (by Interscope) …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead made their sole SxSW appearance at the Village Voice party. Frontman Conrad Keely, a hometown hero right up until his 2006 move from Austin to Brooklyn, was clear about the band's intentions from the start, saying, "This is an afternoon show, so we're going to keep things mellow. Don't expect us to break anything."

    True to his word, Keely refrained from fighting his guitar or his bandmates (it's hard to throw temper tantrums when no one's paying to pick up your mess), choosing to focus on a preview of the in-progress album Trail is working on in Austin. Both "Gargoyle" and "Bells of Creation" showed promise and a sense that this next album could be the band's nastiest in years, but a packed club of fans clearly came here for a headlining set full of favorites such as "Relative Ways," "Will You Smile Again For Me," and "Another Morning Stoner." A muddy mix nullified Keely's keyboard textures, but it didn't matter in the end—Trail excels when they avoid the prog-rock angle and focus on power tool chords and seize-the-day songs like "Caterwaul," which was turned into a veritable anthem by drummer/vocalist Jason Reece.

    Pissed Jeans gettin' Philly | Crystal Castles parade electro-goth | by Andrew Parks

    Even more impressive in terms of stage presence and sheer Pixie Stick-popping energy was Alice Glass of Crystal Castles, who was the second act at Biz3's nighttime showcase. First things first: The blog-generated buzz around this Toronto-based duo is clearly working. Believe it or not, kids were crazier at Crystal Castles' set than they were at any previous showcase I'd seen this week. Like rush-the-stage crazy, or trample-your-18-year-old-best friend crazy. Which is impressive considering Crystal Castles came off like an art-damaged version of what electro-clash originally represented—a tangled mess of palpitating beats (twisted and tweaked by Ethan Kath, who looked content hidden in the background) and pitch-shift vocals, delivered in fine form by Glass, a bouncy, mascara-smeared byproduct of basement shows and gothic chic-ness. Never mind the fact that they ended their set after just 15 minutes or so (how punk!); very few SxSW acts felt as alive as these Atari-sampling indie stars in waiting. Pissed Jeans came close, though, albeit in a completely different manner. Clearly the black sheep on Sub Pop's roster, this crusty Philly quartet brings back scarring images of a half-naked David Yow, decimating stages from the frontline of Scratch Acid and the Jesus Lizard. Mostly because of P.J. frontman Matt Korvette—dude acts like he just escaped from a mental hospital between all of his rubbery face contortions and exaggerated strong man poses. Sludge-draped and unflinching in their attack, Pissed Jeans aren't for everyone, but they do provide some hope to those of us who miss the glory days of hardcore and the Melvins.

    Fuck Buttons | by Andrew Parks

    Fuck Buttons' set at the Kranky showcase was noisy on a whole 'nother tip—caught somewhere between Black Dice and drone sculptors like Growing. Several people mentioned what a must-see this duo is and, well, every single one of them was right. The Buttons setup is simple (two knob-twiddlers with toy instruments and analog gear on opposite sides of a table), but deceiving. Simply put, I don't think I've seen something as 'transcendent' as these songs—frothy compositions that are as blissful as they are frightening—in a while. Definitely check these guys out during their tour with Caribou.

    1349 channel the Norwegian dark | by Andrew Parks

    Fuck Buttons | 1349 | by Andrew Parks

    Finally, the first "WTF?" moment of the week: sneaking from Dälek's Godflesh-groomed take on hip-hop at the Hydra Head showcase to the private "Headbanger's Ball" bill on an adjoining patio. It was here where I got my first taste of the full black-metal experience—corpse paint, devil horns and all, as provided by 1349, Norwegian bringers of grim-ness that share their drummer with Satyricon and are actually quite scary in person. Not to mention capable players, as proven by their staunchly un-commercial similarities to such classic black-metal bands as Enslaved, Immortal and Mayhem.

    Oh, the nightmares I had that evening; oh the nightmares …

    | SXSW Day One | SXSW Day Two |

    —Andrew Parks

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    Tags: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Crystal Castles, Pissed Jeans, Fuck Buttons

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