SXSW Overflow: Day Six (Lost Coves, Grandpa Egg, Christopher Paul Stelling, & More)
The list’s a little lighter today, but damn, I’m beginning to have some serious misgivings about tackling all these; not that it’s not neat to listen to all these bands, and some of ‘em — Mittenfields, Dustin Wong, The Ugly Club, and Wheelchair Sports Camp, in particular — are definitely sticking with me. It’s just that there’re a crapload of bands playing at this whole SXSW Overflow Fest thing, y’all. Again: damn.
Enough whining (for now, at least). Here’s what I think of the folks playing up at SHFL tonight (oh, and just FYI, today’s not an early-early show like yesterday was — things don’t start ’til 7PM):
LOST COVES: Starting off a little on the weird end of things, I have to say (although technically, they’re finishing up, since they’re playing last tonight). Drum- and bass-playing (but decidedly not “drum-n-bass”) duo Lost Coves are a sprawling, misanthropic bundle of post-rock tension and noise, staggering and stuttering like an angry, knife-wielding guy with a head full of cold medicine.
There’re some moments that make me think of late-’90s NYC noise-rock like Foetus or the similarly guitar-less Cop Shoot Cop, but with both a more atmospheric bent and a heavier, hardcore punk-style aggro sensibility. It hurts and scares, but after a while, yeah, you kinda like it. Here’s their four-song EP, Until We Break Bone:
THE D.A.: Dammit, people, again? I already beat up on Horse Thief over this one, and I know it’s a Facebook “feature” and not strictly the band’s doing, but dangit, I’m still annoyed at having to “Like” a band before I can hear them — no one works like that, people (actually, maybe some do, but they damn well shouldn’t). sigh.
Happily, I was able to dig up some songs by El Paso-dwellers The D.A. over on their Sonicbids page (bite me, FB), and I’m glad I made the effort. The band’s busy and funky and dancey and hyperkinetic, like a less-belligerent, more wild-eyed Rapture.
COUSINS: Another noisy, messy squall of a band, this time hailing from Halifax, Canada. Cousins are quite a bit more tuneful than the aforementioned Lost Coves, mind you, incorporating some nice strings and actual pop-song structures into the buzzy, lo-fi ball of fuzz they end up with.
On The Palm at the End of the Mind (which is a nice image, btw), the band sneakily crafts raw-sounding, garage-y songs that sound cooler and cooler the more you listen, with melodies and catchy riffs literally embedded in the stomping, half-yelled sound. The end result is up somewhere in the realm of vintage Grifters, and that ain’t no bad thing. Take a listen:
GRANDPA EGG: There’s a subtle charm to Grandpa Egg‘s Songs For My Cat, due in large part to main-man Jeb‘s half-cracked lyrics and odd, faux-upper-class British vocals (despite the fact that he’s from Nashville), which turns it from just “oh, God, not another jangly singer/songwriter guy” to a respectable, strange little chunk of psych-folk that points backwards to both Neutral Milk Hotel and Half Japanese. Instinctively, I want to dislike this, but I just can’t, and I’m not even sure why. That Jeb, he’s apparently quite a charming oddball.
Make up your own mind here:
CHRISTOPHER PAUL STELLING: I’d heard a little-tiny bit of Christopher Paul Stelling already and liked it quite a bit, and listening to more just now’s made me even more of a believer. He’s quite a songwriter, hitching a ride down a dark, lonesome road somewhere between Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound On My Trail” and William Elliot Whitmore’s bleak, gospel-tinged ramblings.
There’s actually a bit of a resemblance to H-town’s own Robert Ellis, primarily in the scratched-up, slightly reedy tone of Stelling’s voice, although he comes off more haunted and less hopeful than Ellis ever does. On top of that, his fingers are impressively nimble on the guitar, especially on the Nick Drake-esque “Mourning Train To Memphis,” which fuses Drake’s delicate solemnity with embittered Appalachian folk and comes out amazing.
Grab up a free MP3 off Stelling’s Songs of Praise and Scorn, right here:
HEALING TRAPEZE: Okay, bear with me on this one. Take Houston drama-rock band The Manichean, complete with Cory Sinclair‘s high-register voice, strange murky vibe, strings, and general feeling of menace, then shoot them up with meth and set them free in an underground maze, to be pursued by a gang of axe-wielding maniacs in clown masks.
That’s kind of how I imagine the sound of Healing Trapeze — or, possibly, Jordin Goff’s Healing Trapeze; not sure which name’s the correct one — coming into being, involving a lot of fear, drugs, and tension. It’s intense, weird, unsettling music, despite the sometimes old-timey instrumentation. Intriguing stuff, that’s for damn sure.
That’s all I’ve got for now, y’all — keep checking back for more…