She’s tiny behind the flight deck’s worth of keyboards and samplers that surround her. Her voice doesn’t quite reach the dizzying shoulda-been-an-R&B-queen melisma of White Hinterland, but its traumatised delicacy, coupled with the fact that she mainly sings to her shoulder, rather than the crowd, makes as if she’s trying to ward off some evil that only she’s seen.
In some eyes, Athens four-piece Reptar have been the runaway success of SXSW. Their Tom Tom Club frat-boy funk-racket may go on a little too long at times (there’s a tendency to degenerate into schizo 10-minute wig-outs), but strip away the bullshit – in terms of hype and music – and you’ll find a four-piece who’ve stumbled across some total dance-pop gems.
Danielle Johnson may be a New York native, but as Computer Magic her wistful and adorable lo-fi synth-pop may as well have been made for a woozy Austin afternoon. All eyes could not help but be drawn to Danielle’s central performance, calmly eking out melodic synth-lines from behind a petite organ while delivering powerfully understated vocals redolent of an electro Kimya Dawson.
Odd Future could have easily picked a few select shows to capitalise on their staggering ascent to worldwide notoriety at this year’s SXSW. Instead they decided to play everywhere all the time, and smash every single set. The likes of opener ‘Swag Me Out’ is delivered with the unhinged intensity you’ve come to expect from this gang of untameable skate rats.
The Kaplan sisters may have traded in their former Pearl Harbor moniker, but they’ve lost none of their previous effortless ability to put a tune together, and have also picked up a six-piece band along the way. Lead vocalist Piper has a conscientiously hip crowd eating out of the palm of her hand with a sassily energetic and reverb-drenched display of showwomanship redolent of a young Debbie Harry.
Their set is glistening and swelling against the backyard’s faltering PA, encapsulating and stunning all around into a haze of bewilderment, unease and intrigue. Frontgirl Katie Stelmanis, flanked by identical twin backing singers, shoots through the glitchy backing track audio mist with a vocal so piercingly powerful it renders her onlookers more dazed than a blow to the face.
The Cincinnati four-piece would be the first to admit that they’re not exactly the coolest new kids on the block, but their agonisingly catchy songs, bizarre way with a lyric and chirpy lack of cynicism neverthless somehow manage to batter you down. As the crowd blissfully bops along to ‘Blue Dress’ like it’s already a fully fledged anthem.
For a girl who literally wears her name on her chest (or around her neck, anyway), EMA, formerly of dronesters Gowns, isn’t giving much away. Thanks to the dodgy sound, her voice is left a curious whisper digging its way through the dark rubble that she thrashes out on her guitar. Like all the best storytellers, EMA only skims along the edges of detail, leaving the rest a beguiling mystery.
What marks these boys out from the UK’s other folk pretenders is that they’ve got the personality to carry off the woozy, singalong vibe. Yes, there are acoustic guitars, a violin and a fuzz of facial hair. But this lot are undoubtedly a proper gang. You’ll wish you were in that gang too – which is quite a feat considering the luck they’ve got.
Montreal’s headiest muso-nerds bludgeon Austin into submission, one genre at a time. Despite the imposing arsenal of sounds on their debut album, ‘Zeroes QC’ – binding electronic dissonance and rock’n’roll hedonism into something compellingly avant-garde yet giddily fun – no-one is quite prepped for this; live, Suuns are overwhelming.