SXSW - Day One

Indians, Matthew Dear and Nicolas Jaar...

This week, we’ll be reporting live from SXSW with immersive selection of words and images. Our team of writers will contribute live reviews, local folklore, atmospheric anecdotes and snapshot photos from around the city of Austin. From secret gigs to vicious rumours, we’ll have it all, and what’s inbetween.

Indians @ Mohawke Outdoor
Another one of 4AD’s fledgling new acts toddled out freshly on stage for us, and it was to be the first ‘official’ band of this event for Clash. Like many of the new wave of label signings such as Purity Ring, Inc. and Grimes - Indians aka Søren Løkke Juul (and two live band members) appear on stage sans conventional drums or bassists – instead as an electronic three piece hauling synths and MIDI pads galore. It seems the concept of conventional instruments has staggered out into the street and fallen on its own rusty fender. In 2013 it is more the shape of your sound than the shape of your instrument that counts. Indians music thus swirls deliciously. It’s flits from haunted folk to driving digital indie carried effortlessly by a warm analogue pulse. As they shift through their gears their songs merge into one chaotic whole. One track sublimates into new forms, new swirling rhythmic anarchy. Yet more promise from 4AD’s thrilling new upstarts.

Words by Matthew Bennett

Matthew Dear DJ set @ The North Door
Matthew Dear might be known for his Michigan connections, as a graduate of Detroit Techno, but his roots are actually Texan, and this was familiar ground for the Ghostly label mascot, by the main highway in Austin’s North Door venue. As he took to the stage, he didn’t look a day over 23, and his DJ set has aged similarly well. It was deep. It started off with newness, and Romare’s ‘Taste Of Honey (From The City)’ was a highlight, but once it got deep, it got really deep. Deeper than Barry White in a Mexican sinkhole. Deeper than a frank discussion with your mum. In this atmosphere of house and techno exploration, Dear’s legendary mixing skills came to the fore, as he manipulated percussion and drops until they all channeled singularly into one uber sexy point. When you’re in America, you often feel yourself exaggerating your Britishisms. Who’s going to be aggressive if not me? Who’s going to spill their pint down the back of your head if not me? In the North Door tonight, the missing Britishism was “going fucking mental to techno”. To the dismay of the bouncers and all those within arms legnth, I joyously filled that void.

Words by Joe Zadeh

Nicolas Jaar live @ The North Door
Last year at SXSW Nicolas Jaar absolutely floored Clash with his live band at the Presbyterian Church. His thrums, dubs, drones and crackles insidiously seethed into a crescendo before his minimal basslines sunk us so so low. 2013 quizzed our expectations on what format his set would take. With a Darkside collaborative album in the pipeline there was scope for early previews in this snaking and more laconic direction. But as he tumbled onstage alongside the closing ramparts of Matthew Dear’s DJ set it was clear that it was to be a solo set wrought through hardware. We were ready for a positive jaar’ing. Sonically there was a bit more to get a hold of than last year, his drums were more pronounced, his basslines quickened and his detail and minutiae was less subtle. However, it was still delightfully perched on a fascinating knife edge throughout, not that we’ve ever met anyone daring enough to perch on a knife edge – that’d just be silly. And dangerous. Yet Jaar was found rolling around different tempos as he toyed with the crowd, most of which danced, a minority stood awkwardly with arms wrapped around themselves as if watching their five year old son sledge a tad too quickly down a hill a tad too steep. Whilst it snows. It seems America’s love of dance music still has some distance to root in completely and warm those behinds that refuse to unwind. Nico Jaar, despite this reticent non-dancing minority, has evolved into a king of crescendo. His songs pulsate with depth and his breaks, before he unleashes his kinetic basslines, are long, sophisticated and drenched in expectation. Concluding with a couple of hits from ‘Space is Only Noise’ LP (that surprisingly remains his best known work despite two years of feverish production styling all sorts of singles and side projects) his shift was complete and we were delivered from a perfect start to the first night of SXSW. Roll on Wednesday nights cowgirls.

Words by Matthew Bennet & Joe Zadeh

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