On Thursday morning Austin felt slower. The tragic events of the night before left everyone short of breath and there was a notable shift in courtesy between strangers. The last time we all slept well feels like a very distant memory, but today we exhaled a bit.
First stop today: the Brooklyn Vegan day party. Philadelphia’s doom-dreamers Nothing had just begun slashing through an unrelenting set when I walked outside to the Red 7 patio. Nothing performs at punishingly loud volumes, the sludgy rhythms so potent they stretch toward the sky. You can feel the bass tones vibrating up and down your arms.
Immediately after, BADBADNOTGOOD, a Canadian trio of former music-school students, began their jazz-informed set with diverse covers: Odd Future, My Bloody Valentine, Gang Starr, James Blake. Since I saw them last year, BBNG have secured their stage presence immensely. With Chester Hansen on bass, Matt Tavares on keys and Alex Sowinski drumming, the songs are sharper, and their forthcoming Innovative Leisure debut dials into their steadfast commitment to extracting idiosyncratic grooves.
At one point, none other than Tyler, the Creator hopped onstage to perform a handful of songs with the group. Odd Future’s lurking ringleader was in high spirits during the late afternoon. BBNG and Odd Future speak to different listeners, but both recognize the importance of the improvisational spirit within their acts. The crowd vibed in unison to Tyler’s cataclysmic couplets while the taut BBNG backed him, sounding like the most melodic metronome of all time. Sunburned arms flailed, heads bobbed. It was a tremendous performance and a highlight of SXSW Music thus far.
Instead of tackling wide-ranging sets in short bursts, I stuck around two places next door to each other. Montreal producer Jacques Greene began to woo the early crowd with threads of slick R&B. Our contemporary DJ culture can easily tip into relying on excess but Greene kept it simplistic. Arresting beats descended upon the room, the smoke machine behind Greene purred, pleasantly gloomy.
I then left the LED glow of the electronic showcase to see a favorite, the noise-rock project Yvette, perform at Beerland. The duo of drummer Dale Eisinger and vocalist/guitarist/gearhead Noah Kardos-Fein are bred of the caustic Godmode Records. The duo put on a blistering set; Eisinger mangled the drums, Kardos-Fein plucked processed guitarlines and moaning bass triggers, his voice a metaphysical presence underlying it all. I marveled at their ability to recast industrial clang and clutter as a celebration, the same way I love how the Velvet Underground channelled spirituality through swathes of white noise. Yvette’s incantations are like rhythmic psalms, the surges a physical reminder that we are utterly human.
Moving back to Shlohmo‘s set afterward, I was drawn to how producer Henry Laufer’s sense of dynamics have shifted since he began to release slow-oozing, unusual beats several years back, in 2010. The approach to music is the same, but the development of it onstage has been impressive to watch unfold. Right now, Shlohmo has mastered the precision of winding a crowd up. When released, they nearly begin to float away. That’s what we call abandon.