Day for Night 2016 Rundown, Pt. 2: Wild Moccasins + Matmos + Daughters + Arca + Chelsea Wolfe + Liars + SOPHIE + S U R V I V E + DJ Windows 98 + Squarepusher
Hey, folks — back again with Part 2 of SCR‘s little rundown/preview things of as many randomly-selected musicians and bands performing this weekend —Saturday, December 17th & Sunday, December 18th — at Day for Night as we can cram in in the short time we’ve got left.
Apologies for that, by the way; this stuff should have been up a week ago, but yours truly has been dealing with sick kids, end-of-year crap at work and the munchkins’ schools, and general overcommitted holiday madness, and it’s taken its toll. sigh.
But dammit, we’re doing this thing, come hell or high water. Before we get to it, though, a couple of crucial DFN-related things:
- Holy crap, there are still tickets left. At least, that’s what it looks like, from the Eventbrite page where you can order ’em. There don’t appear to be any single-day passes left for sale, but there are General Admission weekend passes, GA weekend passes plus the Friday night kickoff party, and the VIP weekend passes, which get you all kinds of fun perks. You should seriously grab passes while you still can. Oh, and those last two options are especially relevant, because…
- Tonight is the DFN Kickoff Party. Yes, yes, yes. Sadly, I won’t be at this, but if you’re a lucky bastard who shelled out the extra $$$ (or are tempted to shell out the extra $$$, as noted above), you’ll be up at the festival venue (the former Barbara Jordan Post Office at 401 Franklin) for the badass-sounding kickoff party, which will have DJ sets by cool people Kam Franklin, Light Wheel (aka expat Houstonians Tyagaraja & Evan Dunivan), DJ Windows 98 (aka The Arcade Fire’s Win Butler), and Björk and will be hosted by Killer Mike of Run The Jewels. There will be food, there will be speaking panels, there will be musician types hanging around; it sounds like a lot of fun.
- Yes, Björk will be at DFN, in person. As soon as the lineup dropped for DFN 2016, people were confused as to whether “Björk Digital” meant that the Icelandic chanteuse would actually be here live for the festival or just, um, digitally. Per the Day for Night organizers, the former is definitely the case. It still doesn’t sound like there’ll be a “real” Björk performance, mind you, with her on stage playing her songs, but she’ll be up there on stage doing some DJing, at the very least.
- You should check out the venue map. I’m not sure how long it’s been up there, but dumbass me saw the map of the Day for Night venue layout just last night. If you hadn’t realized it existed, you should seriously check it out for yourself, because it makes things a little more concrete (for me, anyway) in terms of, “okay, this is where I’ll be spending most of the weekend.” Plus, it’s making me a whole lot more psyched about seeing all the different art installations that are going on (which I’ll attempt to talk about a bit more later today).
- You can download a free digital Day for Night “mixtape.” In case just reading the writeups your dear, dear friends here at SCR are doing for the DFN lineup isn’t enough for you, well, you can head on over to NoiseTrade and download a “mixtape” of a bunch of DFN artists, for the low, low price of your email address. That gets you a zip file with tracks by ODESZA, Daughters, MNYNMS, Hevin, -Us., Anklepants, Buoyant Spirit, and Spit Mask, all of which are very damn cool.
Got all that? Good. Then let’s get going — today yours truly is joined in previewing-ness by fellow SCR writer Tracy Lyall (yay!), so hopefully that means we can cover more ground… Here goes:
Wow. It honestly doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that long since I first saw Wild Moccasins play; I can remember back when they were all fresh-faced, irrepressibly energetic kids, playing bright, shiny, candy-coated, unabashed pop when nobody in this town had really been doing that for at least a few years. They showed up almost a decade ago, at a point in Houston’s musical history when noisier was better, and despite the initial skepticism, not only have they stuck it out and survived (a whole lot of other bands from that time haven’t), but they’ve grown and thrived.
Listening to them now, the band’s sound hasn’t changed all that much on the surface — it’s still shiny, poppy, and addictive — but peek beneath the surface and there’s a bit more solid ground there than there used to be. Where they were more fully a modern-era indie-pop band in the beginning, nowadays the influences run a bit deeper, pointing back more firmly to New Wave pop (Blondie, in particular), to similar bands influenced by that era like Stars, and off to the side to more sharp, angular dance-rock a la The Rapture.
What I first saw as a band of kids has matured into a band that’s making music it loves and knows exactly what they’re doing. That’s pretty awesome to see. (Jeremy H.)
[Wild Moccasins play at 11PM on Sun., December 18th at the Yellow Stage.]
Cool-as-shit digital symphony, where a synth-jazz beginning, complete with wire brush, transitions into mesmerizing drone sounds and a synth serenade. A variety of musical landscapes, gritty use of samples from “crayfish to surgical procedures,” from slow dance with a lover in a dark lounge on a hot summer night to 3AM delirium return home from work dragging up the stairs into the kitchen too dazed to concentrate, a mild martini and watching the soup boil. Early morning alarm clock and freaky washing machine montage for Ultimate Care II. (Tracy L.)
[Matmos plays at 5PM on Sun., December 18th at the Blue Stage.]
And shifting gears, we get to reformed Rhode Island noisecore outfit Daughters, who broke up back in 2009 and just got back together this year to record and tour. I can’t claim to’ve been real familiar with ’em before now — I knew the name, knew vaguely what they sounded like, but that was it.
I’ve also got to admit that noise-rock isn’t really my thing; it’s really easy to fuck up and really, really hard to make interesting, in my book, and far too many bands take the former path, producing not a thing beyond an impenetrable squall of high-speed noise. And high-speed noise is definitely what these guys do, to be sure — every single track I’ve heard is comprised of spastic, machine-gun drums beneath mostly unintelligible, shrieked vocals and surprisingly wobbly-sounding, half-detuned guitar lines.
That said, though, there is a structure to it, somehow, if you’ve got the patience to listen for it. There are intricate patterns buried deep in there, disguised by the shrieking, and once you wrap your head around ’em, it feels like your skull’s been unlocked somehow. It’s a little like the first time you finally realize you can read or comprehend a language, after studying it for a few years with little practical usage. Daughters definitely aren’t for everybody, it’s true, but if you’re into Refused, or Giant Battle Monster, or The Locust, or Frodus, or The Blood Brothers, this is gonna be right up your dark, grimy, broken-glass-strewn alley. (Oh, and their live shows were supposedly insane, back in the day. So there’s that.) (Jeremy H.)
[Daughters plays at 8:20PM on Sat., December 17th at the Yellow Stage.]
Holy. Fuck. What? Damn. I’ve been listening to Arca, otherwise known as Venezuela producer/EDM artist Alejandro Ghersi, for about the last half-hour, and now I’m feeling an encroaching sense of unease and paranoia slithering into my head, and it’s kind of freaking me out. Stuttering, skittering electronic beats, creepy-ass samples of people sobbing/coughing wetly, odd noises like nails on wooden boards, squelching video-game sounds, ear-shredding feedback, a woman speaking quietly, cataclysmic washes of noise, hyper-distorted hip-hop beats, and an underlying sense of menace all mash together in coherent-yet-unnatural ways…and oh, hell, that’s one damn track.
Seriously, I was listening to the all-out noise-rock spazzery of Daughters, above, right before this, and that didn’t give me a headache, but this damn well does. Beyond that, it makes me feel distinctly uncomfortable, almost unwell, in a way I haven’t felt since I first listened to The Paper Chase’s God Bless Your Black Heart. Granted, it seems like a lot of Arca’s stuff isn’t quite on that level, but even the more subdued tracks have an eerie funhouse-mirror quality to ’em. It’s fascinating, even hypnotic at points, but I think I’d better turn it off now. (Jeremy H.)
[Arca plays at 11:40PM on Sun., December 18th at the Blue Stage.]
Has an uncanny ability to create apocalyptic scenes with her music. Does she really leave them to die? Reminiscent of old school Kate Bush, Wolfe’s a storyteller and musical genius with the voice of a seductive child in a Goth world. Four AM. Back in high school, listening to Waking the Witch and tripping for the first time, Andy driving, it began to drizzle and we spun out on the highway, nearly dying — and the chills set in, those near-death chills.
Wolfe brings those chills back, like hiding in the woods in a hole, trapped, wanting to escape the roar of the machines and thunder, waiting for the fall. Don’t let me die alone, so fucking lonely. That female haunting voice of loss and survival that envelopes and draws you in — to lie in bed with your love on a hungover morning in the dark dreary chill of winter… Not all of her work is as morbid as I’ve portrayed it, but… (Tracy L.)
[Chelsea Wolfe plays at 4:10PM on Sat., December 17th, at the Green Stage.]
Well, dang. I haven’t actually heard much from Liars since way, waaaaay back in 2001, with They Threw Us in a Trench and Stuck a Monument On Top. Back then, they were one of a crop of undeniably talented, sharp-edged, Wire-influenced dance-rockers, standing up alongside the likes of The Rapture. Now, with 2014’s Mess, it’s pretty apparent there’ve been some changes over the intervening years. The dance-y elements are still there — um, kind of, anyway — but there’s not a lot about this that has much to do with rock at all
And hey, I’m good with that. This may not be the band I was expecting, no, but I find myself liking it. The music on Mess is dark and threatening, with a weirdly Eurotrash vibe to it, damaged synths, minimalist beats, and distant, detached, down-in-the-depths vocals, and the result is almost like what Nick Cave might sound like if he moved to Berlin and dove headfirst into electro. It’s gloomy and dire but still driving, bringing to mind vintage Nine Inch Nails at times, Second Toughest in the Infants-era Underworld at other times, and pre-rock phase Ministry at still others (seriously, listen to “Pro Anti Anti” and tell me you disagree). Sometimes, change is a very, very good thing. (Jeremy H.)
[Liars play at 7:05PM on Sun., December 18th at the Blue Stage.]
And speaking of dancing (okay, sorta; give me a break, here, I’m segueing)… SOPHIE, which isn’t a female musician or DJ or whatever, but actually a young Londoner named Samuel Long, is seemingly alllllll about the dancefloor. It’s kind of a nice shift for me so far with these previews, because this is the first EDM act in the list I’ve listened to that’s more into shake-your-booty bangers than experimental sound-layering or sublimely-chilled ambience.
SOPHIE crafts addictive as hell tracks apparently using waveforms rather than sampled beats, which is kind of an oddball thing to do but which lends, er, his compositions a weirdly rubbery, bouncy, watery, “rounded” feel that I’m liking the hell out of. Those elastic beats and synths careen along through sugary-sweet pop hooks that sound like they wouldn’t be all that out-of-place in some real-world analogue to Wreck-It Ralph‘s “Sugar Rush” game, with pitch-shifted, sexual-but-not female vocals that swagger and shimmy over the top — the effect is like Rihanna crashing headlong into J-Pop (the latter part of which makes sense, considering he’s worked with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu).
It’s insanely catchy, which explains why Long/SOPHIE has been doing a ton of production stuff lately for other people, including Madonna (yep, he produced “Bitch I’m Madonna”) and Charli XCX. Listening both to his own stuff and the stuff he’s done for other people, it’s hard not to think SOPHIE could be headed for a Neptunes-level spot in the production game. (Jeremy H.)
[SOPHIE plays at 10:20PM on Sun., December 18th at the Blue Stage.]
S U R V I V E
“Wardenclyffe” is an example of their nostalgically lighthearted and eerie sound, noted as “an alien transmission from the VHS era to the Netflix generation” by Rolling Stone — wtf? Is that all they could come up with? It’s not even a description of their music, it’s an anagram. Hey, I’ve got one — R E V I V U S, or V E R S U V I.
Anyway, S U R V I V E is the synth band behind the score for Stranger Things….Late evening drizzle, the reflection off that steel deformed organ of a museum. Midnight, the Space Needle half hidden in fog. Chill in the air. Crooked trees and a creepy music fountain whose speakers were tucked beneath the hilly mound. We drove in circles down one-way streets to find parking. I only wanted to be nude and warm beneath the motel blankets but entertained the notion to refrain. We failed to walk hand in hand to the jazz club, past an abandoned storefront with a tiny window display… (I’m hoping they do my soundtrack, too). (Tracy L.)
[S U R V I V E plays at 4PM on Sun., December 18th at the Blue Stage.]
DJ Windows 98
So, let’s get the eyerolling out of the way: yes, DJ Windows 98 is indeed the DJ moniker of Win Butler, frontman of The Arcade Fire, the band people seem to love to hate on these days, for reasons I don’t truly comprehend. Now, I’ll admit that I tend to have to suppress an eyeroll of my own when I see, y’know, lead singers for world-famous bands doing DJ/EDM “side projects,” but you know what? That’s fucking stupid.
Skrillex, one of the single most famous EDM names in the world, used to front a metalcore band. Steve Aoki, another supremely big name in the genre, used to sing for a hardcore band (one I actually heard and liked, called This Machine Kills). The guys in Knife Party played in a metal band; so did Bassnectar and Borgore. The main guy behind The Bloody Beetroots is an aging punk rocker. Hell, even Bentley Rhythm Ace, one of my favorite, severely underappreciated electronic acts, started off as half of Pop Will Eat Itself.
My point is that music is music, and if somebody wants to break away from what they’re known for musically, our/my response should be to say, “sure, more power to ’em.” (And then, if it sucks, we can snicker about it.)
Sadly, I’ve only been able to hear a couple of things Butler’s done in his DJ guise — on the good side, they’re pretty intriguing, like the video below, from a set with a bunch of real-live Haitian drummers at last year’s SXSW (Butler is the one in the hat and scarf who looks like he should be hanging out with Subcomandante Marcos down in Chiapas). (Jeremy H.)
[DJ Windows 98 plays the kickoff party on Fri., December 16th, and at 9:10PM on Sat., December 17th at the Green Stage.]
Funky digital processing, incorporating instrumental sessions (hope I don’t sound like a wiki article). “Breakcore” is a term used to describe his music. If a sci-fi movie had a video game run, and the antagonist was lost in some Matrix maze with David Bowie the Ice King, a flying dragon, and Selene, while I was sipping apple cider with Mom next to the fire at the break in the hedges, bundled up by an ancient stone hearth. That’s just a bit how it makes me feel. Then I wake up and realize it’s just me with headphones on in a room on a granny quilt rented from a cute lesbian couple, and my dead cat’s sitting in my ex-boyfriend’s freezer waiting to be buried. [Max Headroom TV glitch insert here.] Eerie and comforting. If you’d like a more scientific breakdown — look him up. (Tracy L.)
[Squarepusher plays at 7:50PM on Sun., December 18th, at the Red Stage.]
That’s it for now, people — keep checking back for the next round, and be getting your asses ready for this thing, alright? Alright.
(Photos [top to bottom]: Wild Moccasins; Matmos; Daughters; Arca; Chelsea Wolfe; Liars; SOPHIE; S U R V I V E; DJ Windows 98; Squarepusher. Daughters photo by Reid Haithcock; Chelsea Wolfe photo by Kristin Cofer.)