The last week of receiving and listening to a huge amount of new music was an invigorating experience for me as a writer. It is very easy to get distracted by the day in, day out cycle of tweets, posts and snarky commentary that too often typifies online music coverage. Although there is no question that a SXSW appearance can be invaluable for certain bands, I must question the sincerity of an enterprise whose central is uniting the music press, record labels and corporations into an unholy alliance for a week of self-aggrandizing reinforcement over a dying business model that will certainly result in a loss for the vast majority of artists attending. No doubt the live experience is even more vital now than ever, but SXSW’s mission of “discovery” seems more beside the point than ever with the Internet at any artist’s or fan’s disposal.
I want to thank all the bands that sent me their music and engaged in a dialogue about South By Southwest. Please don’t take it personally if you were not featured. There was a ton of material to listen to, absorb, and hopefully say something meaningful about. Selections were mostly subjective and were limited by time and space, rather than my own disinterest in any of the material. I have saved every submission (around 40!) and may feature some of them in upcoming pieces. I leave with you a few stray groups that deserve your time and I hope you enjoyed listening to and reading this series as much as I enjoyed creating. And maybe, just maybe, it made you feel a little less cynical about music during a week when it’s easy to be a skeptic.
Younger : “New Message”
Younger is a Chicago/San Francisco collaborative duo who explore long-form compositions that combine disparate genre approaches. The epic-length “New Message” progresses form ambient to synth noodling and ends up as gorgeous Arthur Russell-inflected electronic pop. The juxtaposition is jarring at first, but repeated listens reveal the clever logic at work from a group that’s not afraid to combine current trends in popular music with an adventurous approach to composition. “New Message” is available on a 12″ from Positive Beat Recordings, due for imminent release.
Radio Shock: “Cucumber Salad”
“Cucumber Salad” is the last track on internal symmetry, the latest cassette from Radio Shock (available here). The self-described “Jank Music” of Radio Shock, the moniker of Brooklyn’s MP Lockwood, creates nasty, lo-fi jams that are a mix of purposefully clumsy techno, the cold aggression of Suicide and the don’t-give-a-fuck attitude of forgotten early aughts fashion punks A.R.E. Weapons. “Cucumber Salad” is a relatively terse and subdued piece, a user-friendly introduction to the world of Radio Shock.
Tetras – Pareidolia (Album Preview)
Tetras are an improvising trio consisting of Jason Khan, Jeroen Visser and Christian Weber. They have just released their debut double LP Pareidolia on Flingco Sound System, also available through VR friendly label/distro Experimedia. This 16-minute sampler contains selections from all the tracks on the album. I highlight Tetras not just because of their sterling international avant credentials and the very special chemistry the players have together, but also to draw attention to the fact that SXSW offers very little room for artists straying too far outside of the “rock” idiom, however broadly defined. Contemporary composition and improvisation, jazz and international music of all stripes are just a few musical worlds that are largely excluded from the party. This is particularly disappointing in the modern era, as genre definitions have collapsed and dude to the ubiquitous availability of massive music catalogs, listener adventurousness seems to be on the increase. It would be great for SXSW to give a platform to these emerging and increasingly popular musics.