'The Guardian' Recommends
Who better than the Brits to handicap SXSW UK?
By Michael Cragg, Fri., March 18, 2011
Bright Light Bright Light
9pm, the Ghost Room Continuing the lineage of great UK electro-pop acts – Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Hurts – comes Wales' Bright Light Bright Light, aka Rod Thomas. His debut 2010 single, "Love Part II," was all cascading keyboards and beamed-straight-from-the-1980s drum patterns, and heralded the arrival of a new talent. His Valentine's Day release, How To Make a Heart, is the kind of tears-on-the-dance-floor emo beloved of pop fans everywhere. His recent live shows in London featured backing singers with silver foil hats, a lot of dry ice, and a bare-chested male dancer doing the robot.
9pm, the Windish Agency House @ ND It's a safe bet that Londoner Jamie Woon is the only person at SXSW to have both attended the Brit School for performing arts (previous alums include Adele, Leona Lewis, and Amy Winehouse) and had a single co-produced by dubstep legend Burial. That single, the brilliant "Night Air," properly introduced him to the world following 2007's low-key EP Wayfaring Stranger. Channeling dubstep's eerie minimalism through his own take on modern-day soul, Woon stands out in a crowded industry. His new single, "Lady Luck," sounds like Maxwell remixed by Mount Kimbie, all finger-click beats, sampled breaths, and vocal harmonies to make you sWoon (sorry).
10pm, the Phoenix Oliver Sabin, aka Unicorn Kid, is a 19-year-old electronic wunderkind who briefly became the face of "chiptune," a catch-all term for music made using fairly basic, early computers. Signed to respected dance label Ministry of Sound, Sabin has remixed songs by the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Gorillaz, and Japayork, and also released the excellent "Dream Catcher" and "Wild Life" singles as free downloads last year. His debut album is out at some point this year, although he's the first to admit he's not too good with deadlines.
10pm, the Windish Agency House @ ND Mount Kimbie is university mates Kai Campos and Dom Maker, who've been making heartbreakingly fragile electronic minisymphonies since 2008. Their debut album, Crooks & Lovers, has been described as "post-dubstep" or, more accurately, "a triumph in experimental music." Part of a scene that includes peers James Blake, Joy Orbison, and the XX, the duo deals in miniatures, crafting off-kilter dance music with intricate loops, samples, and the constant thrum of string instruments. Live, they command attention through presence alone, the songs drifting out like wisps of smoke. (Also: Sat., 11pm, Barcelona)
11pm, the Windish Agency House @ ND Two-time Brit award nominees, Friendly Fires is a threepiece from the sleepy village of St Albans, in the east of England. It's the kind of place that doesn't usually spawn a hip-swiveling, Prince-loving, chino-wearing frontman like Ed Macfarlane, who once danced the conga with a procession of Brazilian dancers during an awards show. Their self-titled debut, released in 2008, took Hot Chip's indie-dance template and fused it with the Rapture's punk-funk jerkiness, while their last single, "Kiss of Life," integrated samba rhythms to create a frantic new dance hybrid. Lord only knows what they've cooked up for their forthcoming follow-up, Pala, but we doubt it will be boring.
12mid, Nuvola In 1979, Edwyn Collins formed Orange Juice and went on to become one of the most influential British musicians of the last 30 years. His band's sound – intricate, dry-as-a-bone guitar riffs; robotic drumming; lyrical witticisms – influenced everyone from the Cribs and Franz Ferdinand to the Drums (all three are featured on his latest solo album, Losing Sleep), while Collins' own 1994 hit, "A Girl Like You," was further evidence of his innate way with melody. In 2005, Collins suffered two massive brain hemorrhages, which left him unable to speak or write. Following years of rehabilitation, he's returned not only to the live circuit but to something close to his best. (Also: Sat., 2pm, Dot Com Day Stage, Austin Convention Center)