BIRP! put out its September playlist recently, replete with every remotely hipsteriffic jam that came out in the last month at all ever. We love those guys. They are consummate curators of legit new beats, but the problem is that we’re picky, and we usually end up torrenting, like, ten tunes out of the whole batch. This track by Austin, Texas’ Letting Up Despite Great Faults piqued our collective interest right off the bat, and we found ourselves even further taken with the song after the first listen. They’ve always comfortably ridden the fence between shoegaze and indietronic music, and they’ve had that sweet, sentimental wall-of-sound approach cornered ever since the release of 2006’s Movement EP. “Visions”, the above jam, retains the androgynous vocalization, the atypical song structure, and the corner arcade bloops and bleeps that make Letting Up Despite Great Faults quasi-famous. With this new iteration of their sound, however, concentrated effort seems to be made to effect that classic early 90’s 4AD Records sound, achieved by piping in some Swervedriver-esque guitar fuzz and mixing the vocals a little higher. “Visions” honestly sounds like what The Naked and Famous’ next album might resemble if someone gaslit them with The Radio Dept.’s portfolio on an endless loop. Heady and nostalgic, do tha right thing, and give Letting Up Despite Great Faults’ latest indie-chillgaze single a spin, and be on the lookout for their next album, Untogether, due to be self-released on October 9th.
My best nigga showed me this Selva Oscura jam yesterday, claiming that it was a crucial part of his warm-up workout routine. At first, I wasn’t too crazy about it, but it grew on me. Austin, Texas’ Ray Levinson-Fort (Selva Oscura) is a solo audio production student that takes his name from an enigmatic Italian phrase that roughly translates out to mean “dark forest”. “Canopy Wake”, his standout tune so far, warms up slowly with a warm piano solo, gradually piping in a second set of keys, some percussion to move things along, light vocal samples, and then a break down with some chill synth leads a little later on. Halfway through, though, when the track kicks back in, shit starts going down! All of the aforementioned instrumentation assembles, playing at its musical apex while a sexy as fuck vocal sample takes center stage, weaving its way over the notes in grand Star Slinger style. One more break down, and then the siren returns to paradise for another sassy climax afterwards. Never before has such a simple indietronic song stolen our hearts (or dicks, for that matter) with such ease. Do tha right thing, and get your free MP3 download of Selva Oscura’s “Canopy Wake” below. If you like what you hear, the album from whence the song hails is called Refractides, and it’s available at your own choice of price via his personal Bandcamp right here. Pitch in and help a struggling student that obviously knows full well how to make some serious balls-to-the-wall art.
On the second day of Fun Fun Fun Fest, we got up early so we could make Keep Shelly in Athens’ early set at 12:45. That morning, the streets were flooded with UT fans, who had deluged to the Austin downtown area for some big game (of which I will never understand the value). After finally finding a shady Jack in the Box at which to get a bite to eat, we grabbed a friend and headed to Auditorium Shores.
Keep Shelly in Athens was, by and large, the reason I attended Fun Fun Fun Fest on Saturday. This show was their very first ever show in the United States of America. Ever! It was really exciting to be able to show up and represent at the very front of the (albeit small) crowd for an independent chillwave band that had come all the way from austerity-torn Greece to play in America. Unfortunately, while enjoyable, their set was pretty humdrum. The lead vocalist was this cute, tiny little thing that spoke in very broken English and smiled every time I whooped. Her vocals sounded fine and fresh, but apparently most of the songs played were from their forthcoming LP via Planet Mu, so it was rather strange to hear vocals in every song. Among others, they played “Hauntin’ Me” and “Cremona Memories”, to the latter of which they apparently added lyrics after getting a full-time vocalist. The guitarist was fantastic, and the sounds were pleasant, but it just didn’t translate too well to the live venue, partially because the electronics were just mixed too low. All in all, though, I’m really glad I got to see them.
After seeing Keep Shelly in Athens, we fucked around for a little while, among other things, seeing a Saharan band that had been playing since 1979 called Tinariwen and trying and totally failing to enjoy tUnE-YarDs’ set. Really just kinda went for a friend, but, cute as the lead vocalist was, the band was pretty much a joke, in my opinion. I’m glad some legit hipster out there likes them. We made it to the Blue Stage just in time to hear Active Child wrapping up with “Playing House”, which was really awesome to see live.
We were really excited about seeing Dan Deacon. Though we were mostly only familiar with “Spiderman of the Rings”, his debut album, who hasn’t seen the viral video for “Crystal Cat”? His sound and aesthetic are so evocative and colorful that he was easily a shoe-in on our itinerary. He started with a fantastic little splurge of noise-joy, reminiscent of a cross between Fantômas and Gangpol und Mit. Two or three tracks in, though, he started having technical issues and started playing these bullshit crowd-pleaser games that a friend in attendance mentioned that he does at every show, nearly down to the word. That seemed a little trite to me, and it surely didn’t help that he elected to be on level with the crowd, as opposed to on stage, where the short folks like us could see him, so that was little anticlimactic. The final straw, however, came when some probably X’ed out dumbfuck decided to start crowdsurfing all over the place and just had to sail our way. We were not in the mood for antics. We just wanted to see a good show. My kickass girlfriend just let the jackass fall on the ground, but on his way down, he knocked my glasses off. For a split second, I realized that if someone stepped on my glasses, my entire weekend would be over, so I grabbed them up before that happened, grabbed my friend, and got outta there. Thank god nothing happened, or I probably woulda been kicked out for violent assault. Afterwards, Dan started having even more sound problems, so we blew his godawful set. Oh, by the way, in the above embedded Youtube video, you can see the little shit that couldn’t just take his Ritalin and enjoy the show. Seriously, fuck that guy.
After skipping town on the biggest failure of the weekend, we geared up for good spots for M83’s show. Gracing our presence all the way from France, M83 was an act none of us were about to miss. In fact, for some of us, it was the entire reason they got up that day. We made sure we were relatively close and waited for the set to start.
Utilizing mostly work from their new double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, M83 put on a show charged with energy and triumph. The sound of their new LP is very distinctive, in comparison to older work, in that Anthony uses a different method of vocalization. Gone are the largely whispered vocals in the vein of “Don’t Save Us From the Flames”, being mostly replaced with an 80s-esque shout and the occasional harmonization with his new female vocalist. The guitarist kicked it on stage like it was the only show he would ever play in his lifetime. The drummer battled it out for their nearly hour-long set to excellent effect. Anthony alternated between guitar and synth, crying out the refrains of his new magnum opus the entire time, joined often by the female singer, who too was glued to a keyboard. They played a plethora of songs from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, but in addition to that, “Teen Angst”, “Kim & Jessie”, and “Skin of the Night”, three that I was very, very happy to hear. All told, M83 was the best set that entire day, and my only complaint was that a couple of tall, rude French bitches stood right in front of us for the majority of the show after we kindly moved to let them get by. Le hmmph.
We rounded out the night by stopping by Neon Indian’s set, at which we couldn’t see shit, because he is massively popular in Austin.
Though I’m not as big of a fan of “Era Extraña” as I am of “Psychic Chasms”, the tunes from Alan Palomo’s new record certainly translate better to the live realm than do his earlier efforts. It has come to my attention that the debut album was never really meant to be reproduced live, which makes sense to me, due to how carefully crafted it was, what with all the audio mangling and tailoring going on all up in here. With that in mind, however, the few jams we did manage to catch were enjoyable. It was at the very least fun to hear Neon Indian perform, among others, “Deadbeat Summer”, “Psychic Chasms”, and “Polish Girl”.
Ay, folks. Sorry for the recent lack of updates. I’ve been out of town, and when I go AWOL, I have this awful habit of not updating or taking photos or anything. It’s not hard for me to go off the grid when on vacation because I’m that lazy. Anydangway, last weekend was the sixth annual three-day Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas, to which I attended for the fourth time. Starting today, I’d like to post some half-hearted reviews and personal opinions about each of the three days of the festival, one post to a day. Fun Fun Fun Fest started in 2006 at Austin, Texas’ Waterloo Park, and only drew about 2,500 people. Since then, the festival has been moved to a larger venue, Auditorium Shores, and attracted an estimated 15,000 people per day last weekend. Central to Fun Fun Fun Fest is the concept and value of independent music, and the provider Transmission Entertainment’s method of fleshing that out was to annually construct and run various stages simultaneously according to genre. For instance, both this year and last year, there have been four stages that show-goers could frequent at their leisure: the orange (and, arguably, primary) stage for indie rock, the black stage for punk rock and metal, the blue stage for electronic and hip-hop, and the yellow stage for stand up and various catch-all acts. Add in some merch tables, tents for local businesses, creepy corporations trying desperately to reach the hipster target market (Camel, Marlboro, Sony, Toyota), and great local food vendors, and you have one kick ass music festival. In my opinion, it is better than ACL, but because I am too poor to attend SXSW, I will not even go there. So I got my ticket early and went this year. This is what happened on Friday, November 4th.
Because I had a two-and-a-half hour drive ahead of me and had worked the night before, I showed up too late to see Cloud Nothings, which is unfortunate, because someone the next day told me that their set was great. That said, I did everything in my power to make Pictureplane’s set, going so far as to arrive well in advance in order to orient myself and find a spot. My girlfriend and I got into position well before the ending of YACHT’s set at the blue stage, which, despite official coverage, was awful. Of course, that could be chalked up to the fact that I don’t like YACHT’s music, but either way, they came off as being attention whores. Pictureplane sailed into Fun Fun Fun Fest at the tail end of his “Check Yo’ Ponytail” tour, along with Big Freedia and Spank Rock, so his stage was pretty well decked out in the most garish way possible. We were standing right at the front next to a speaker, so our hearing was unfortunately already shot by the time Pictureplane took the stage. He kickstarted with “Real Is a Feeling”, and the sassily delivered declaration, “Hi, my name’s Pictureplane, and I want you all to feel good forever.” Turning it up to 11 and piping in the scuzz liberally, Travis Egedy paced back and forth in his awful hipster attire, singing, tweaking, dancing, and grabbing his crotch like a real brother. To his left and right danced two very strangely clad figures whose genders were predictably masked (Pictureplane is gay.) until he rolled out “Post Physical”, in which the sirens’ faces were partially unveiled. All in all, it was a psychedelic and surreal experience, and it was the best set I saw all day. Highlights included hearing Egedy dedicate “Goth Star” to both Michael Jordan and extra-terrestrials, being told over bombastic electronics that I can do anything I want, and watching the aforementioned artist execute a Tobias Fünke-esque somersault onto one of the dancer’s mini-stage. A good time was had by all.
We decided to skip out on Russian Circles’ set for several reasons. We were still trying to find our footing at the huge new venue, they have played every goddamn year for years, and I guess I’m just kind of over post-metal.
We staked out Four Tet’s set, and my girlfriend got some good HDR photos of his surreal performance. Unfortunately, despite how chill his opener was, his set quickly devolved into the electronic noodling that Kieran Hebden is wont to do. After about ten or fifteen minutes of auditory nothingness, we moved on, which is a good thing because I hear Public Enemy started soundchecking really loudly over his set for about fifteen whole minutes. I also heard they were full on trying to get the audience all hyped about their upcoming set while Four Tet was still playing, which is incredibly douchey. I don’t give a fuck if it is Flavor Flav, the word around the internets is that level of rudeness had previously not been reached at a Fun Fun Fun Fest before. So, despite the fact that Four Tet’s set was, in fact, kinda droll, I just wanna say fuck Public Enemy. Thank you very much.
We rounded that short first night out with Passion Pit’s headlining set at the Orange Stage. As a casual Passion Pit fan, I was excited to see what kind of energy their show had to offer. Unfortunately, it was pretty disengaging. Apparently, they hadn’t toured in nearly a year, so perhaps they were just rusty. In addition to that, I have myself partly to blame because I turn into a whiny bitch when bands play music I don’t recognize, within reason, of course. Because I’m more familiar with their debut EP than I am “Manners”, the only thing I stuck around long enough to recognize was “The Reeling”, which they definitely executed to great effect.
Apparently, they played some really solid tunes after we left, which is a real shame, because that lead singer is one of the worst emcees I have ever seen live. Maybe if he hadn’t kept saying stupid, cliché shit between each and every song I would have been able to make it. Instead, we elected to head back to a good friend’s and get to bed early, since we had an early day Saturday.
By the way, if anyone out there in the blogosphere has any inkling of what the name of that first song Four Tet played is, please let me know. I really want it.
(Disclaimer: None of these photos or video footage was taken by me, by the way.)
Last Friday night, my girlfriend and I headed to The Mohawk, a venue right off of the infamous 6th Street in Austin, Texas. A month or so before, I had gotten wind of an elite CD release party for Neon Indian’s upcoming “Era Extraña” album, featuring Com Truise as his opening act. Elated, I hurriedly snatched up two tickets, because they were rumored to be limited and going quickly. Sure enough. They were sold out pretty soon, but we got them in time to be guaranteed a spot at The Mohawk (which subsequently moved the show outside and sold more tickets, thereby packing the place out).
I hadn’t been to a show since February, when I saw Broken Social Scene at La Zona Rosa in the same city, so I had gotten cold feet and was very happy to be able to see one of my top three favorite bands/musicians at the time. I don’t know if that has happened since I saw Broken Social Scene back in 2006. So anyways, the doors opened at 8:00 PM, and we were there at 8:30 PM, so we could get good spots but not have to stand for hours to get them. I usually am a pretty lazy show-goer. I’ll stand in the back or even sit if I can still see alright, but for Com Truise I stood right in the motherfucking front.
He came on pretty promptly, and my girlfriend took hundreds of great shots of the guy, utilizing a range of different lenses and effects on her Pentax K-X. He played for about forty-five funky minutes, obviously getting into what he was doing. He was constantly tweaking, twiddling, and attenuating the various tracks that were being blasted across the venue, all while doing this smarmy little head bob. He had a live drummer to help out with the bombastic effect of the sharp stabbing beats, and he took a minimum amount of liberty with the songs, but simultaneously warping them on scene in a really kickass way. He played an eight- or nine-song setlist, including tunes from the Cyanide Sisters EP, like “Sundriped”, “BASF Ace”, and “Slow Peels”. These classics were interspersed by the more heavily represented Galactic Melt, from which he performed “VHS Sex”, “Cathode Girls”, “Air Cal”, “Glawio”, and “Futureworld”. He may or may not have introduced an unreleased song, but I am not entirely sure about that, but I was particularly pleased when he played “Glawio” as the closer. That’s probably my favorite jam of his, and it definitely ended his half of the show with a bang.
After slapping me a five on stage, I tracked Seth Haley (Com Truise) down to compliment his live performance and studio aesthetic. I was wearing a Ghostly International T-shirt, and he liked that, and I asked him if he did all of the artwork for his releases. One of the things I love about Com Truise’s work is how evocative it is, and the graphic art really complements the sound well, and of course, he already knew this. When I told him I appreciated his closing the show with “Glawio”, he excitedly told me that it is his favorite track to play live. After getting a couple photos with the guy, he introduced himself and fist bumped me on my way out. Really nice guy.