On the Scene at SXSW: Goldfrapp and Neko Case
GOLDFRAPP Wrapped in a hot pink cloak that billowed behind a couple of perfectly positioned fans, the leader of this Über-stylish dance-pop group, Allison Goldfrapp (pictured, with bandmate Will Gregory at the Blender party on Wednesday), looked like she was about to start flying at any moment during her band’s blissful spectacle. Updating Madonna’s ’80s pop trifles with a techno-funk backbeat, these Brits stomped and preened through a sultry set. Propelled by popping synthetic drums, down-low bass, and expert keytar(!), Allison worked the stage like a catwalk in death-defying high-heels, her breathy voice easily seducing an enthusiastic crowd. Goldfrapp struts with style for miles but their precise, body-moving attack grooves confirm the band isn’t just a glorified fashion show. Watch their surreal videos at Mute Records for free or buy their music at iTunes.
NEKO CASE Performing at an out-of-the-way hideout at the endof a winding, woody passage, alt-country chanteuse Neko Case blew backan intimate group of appreciative followers with her twangy talents.Loaded with songs from her new album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood,Case’s set showcased her gifted vocals, which she claimed were a bitweathered, but who could tell? Along with a batch of intense tracksabout love lost, madness, and murder, the singer added levity to theproceedings with off-the-cuff banter and self-deprecation. Case’snatural gifts are abundant — and, lucky for us, she continues to wringthe most from them at every turn. Download “Star Witness” at Anti- Records or, if you’re interested in the singer-songwriter’s live chops, try “If You Knew,” from the SXSW site. Both tracks are free.
TONY CONRAD Sure, SXSW is supposed to be all aboutdiscovering the next U2 or Jay-Z before anybody else does. But it’salso about reverence to those who helped make today’s myriad musicaldimensions possible. As much as his experimental playing and composinginfluenced bands from the Velvet Underground to Radiohead, 65-year-oldTony Conrad never had a hit record and it’s only recently that hisforward-thinking ’60s output is getting the attention it deserves.Backlit by a single startling bulb, the avant-garde legend stood aloneonstage for 45 minutes wielding an incessant, droning violin. Fittinglyhoused in a darkened church, Conrad filled the entire venue withcontinuous noise speckled with slight crescendos and careful shifts inintensity. Hinting at a foreboding sense of mortality, Conrad’s uniqueaural textures were utterly engulfing and strangely spiritual — thesoundtrack to a life’s worth of dreams both euphoric and ominous.Sample this essential artist’s unique minimalist style at Artist Direct and learn more about his startling catalogue at Table of the Elements Records.