The best British music at SXSW as selected by 'Mojo' editor-in-chief, Phil Alexander
Radio Room Patio, 1am
Punk-jazz! Gnash-rock! Spazz-core! Call it what you will, but in simple terms, Sheffield, UK, fivepiece Rolo Tomassi sits somewhere between the post-prog complexities offered up by the Mars Volta and battering the grindcore invective of Napalm Death.
A product of the UK's burgeoning underage hardcore scene, Eva Spence (vocals), Joe Nicholson (guitar), Joseph Thorpe (bass), James Spence (keys), and Edward Dutton (drums) formed Rolo Tomassi some four years ago when the majority of the band were little more than 14 years old. If Rolo's initial roots lie in the sound of screamo acts like Converge and the more tuneful thrust of Thursday, the band's taste has broadened with age.
"[We're] also moving back in time," says Nicholson, "with 1970s prog like Yes and King Crimson. I'm into jazz, like John Coltrane, and classical music as well, like Stravinsky."
The band's full-length debut, Hysterics, displays this progressive sense of dynamics. Opener "Oh, Hello Ghost" matches brooding electronica with Spence's ethereal vocals, then comes a series of math-metal riffs underpinning a trademarked throat-shredding performance from the singer. Indeed, Spence's vocal agility separates Rolo from a host of grunt-and-growl outfits. So too does the band's musical dexterity, as evidenced on the post-prog jumble of "I Love Turbulence" and the album's closing track, the 14-minute "Fantasia," which hints at further epic adventures.
Rolo Tomassi's musical scope is such that the band's capable of playing with the Bronx and Fucked Up (two bands with whom they've just completed a UK tour and issued a split EP) as they are with percussive indie rockers Foals. Tonight, Rolo shares a Radio Room Patio showcase that's possibly its most diverse to date, joining Austin's White Denim, School of Seven Bells, Deastro, Micah P. Hinson, and Choir of Young Believers at what's been dubbed "an evening of mellifluous melody and unashamed uproar."
At this point, your correspondent must admit a level of self-interest. The show itself is presented by Mojo, but this, rest assured, is all in a good cause, showcasing as it does the rosters of two of the finest labels in indiedom. From the UK, we have our good friends from Full Time Hobby (Rolo is signed to its subsidiary Hassle), and, from the U.S., we have the spectral majesty of Ghostly International. In our opinion, the diversity of the bill is cause for celebration. The only downside? Rolo's stage time clashes with Gallows at our sister showcase from Kerrang! Now that is a choker.
Four more Friday 'Mojo' Brit Picks:
Camera Osbscura, La Zona Rosa, 9:30pm
Liz Green, 18th Floor at the Hilton Garden Inn, 11pm
Laura Marling, Central Presbyterian Church, 12mid
Gallows, Latitude 30, 1am