SXSW Music: Barry Adamson

Bad Seed’s Technicolor soundscapes get steamy

Barry Adamson’s music was always destined to exist on the fringes of society, along with the freaks, lovers, and creeps he celebrates.

Barry Adamson (photo by David Brendan Hall)

The multi-instrumentalist first made his name holding down the bass slot for post-punks Magazine and as an original (and current) member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds. He struck out on his own as a soundtrack composer for movies that existed only in his head, resulting in a Mercury Prize-nominated LP such as 1992’s Soul Murder. After re-adding words to his Technicolor soundscapes, Adamson began making the best music of his career, and that’s what he focused on in front of a depressingly small crowd Friday at Esther’s Follies, Austin’s venerable comedy mainstay.

Joined only by pre-programmed backing tracks, a virtual keyboard, and a guitar, Adamson divulged his distinctive style of noir rock, as represented by recent albums I Will Set You Free, Back to the Cat, and As Above, So Below. The smoky jazz feel of opener “The Beaten Side of Town” and icy throb of “You Sold Your Dreams” masterfully blended the sensibility of classic crime fiction and eclectic modern rock.

Songs from his brand-new LP Know Where to Run followed suit. The busily percussive “Cine City,” sparse ballad “Evil Kind,” and almost romantic “Come Away” indicated a potential masterpiece on the shelves. By the time he finished with the slinky, spoken-word nightmare “Jazz Devil” and dissonant electro rap “Still I Rise,” Adamson was striding an urban landscape so atmospheric you could practically see the steam rising from the sidewalk.

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