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SXSW 2015: Sounds from Spain showcase and a quick trip to the convention center – 18th March 2015

 
By on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

So how exactly does a Chinese-American girl find herself partaking in complimentary paella and sangria and watching a bunch of Spanish bands with a bunch of people from there or of that heritage? If it’s in March, it can only mean one thing: SXSW. The glittery, colourful music carnival that was SXSW 2015 included six vibrant acts performing as part of Sounds from Spain in a tent Wednesday afternoon; none of them were like no another, which added further interest to the proceedings at Brush Square Park. Initially, when Carrie and I began planning out our Wednesdays, we were both bracing ourselves for an afternoon of poncho wearing and outdoor drenching by the rain that had been forecast.

It did rain – we awoke to it tapping on the roof of our friends’ house and we both groaned to ourselves for the terrible weather misfortune we anticipated later – but by the time I reached Brush Square Park to begin my coverage of the Sounds from Spain showcase at the exceedingly early time of 11 AM, the rain clouds were gone and about 2 hours later, the sun came out and started beating down on us, causing both of my interviewees Xavi Marín of Oso Leone and musician/producer beGun to yelp that even for Spaniards used to oppressive summers, it was too hot! As the week went on though, we wished that the sun had held out, for hot sun is still better than rain chucking it down, agreed?

Oso Leone was first up on the afternoon’s bill. Drawing their inspiration from nature for some of their song titles (‘Ficus’, ‘Cactus’), this band mixes up experimental, psychedelic, and chill and drone-y rock ‘n’ roll to create some of the most interesting soundscapes I’ve heard in a long time. The only other band I can think of who have been this inventive in producing unearthly music is Sigur Ros, so think Sigur Ros, but more melodic.

Disco Las Palmeras at SXSW 2015

Disco Las Palmeras are essentially a Spanish-language Pixies, with frontman Diego Castro preferring a deadpan, disaffected vocal ala Black Francis. They played it loud, they played it fast, and they had a good time.

Madrid girl group Hinds (formerly known as Deers until American band The Deers sicced their lawyers on them) and their sunny, ’60s-style garage rock need no introduction. As popular as they are in the UK and Europe, they’re just starting to make inroads here in America, which might explain why someone in their camp had the crazy idea to book them for 16 shows during their week in Austin. Hey, the 1975 played some 13 shows at SXSW 2013 and look where they are now, so maybe there’s some method to the madness. (Stay tuned for Carrie’s impression of them Saturday night at the NME/PRS showcase at the British Music Embassy, where I believe I should thank my lucky stars for not being allowed into the venue, as Carrie described the situation like being stuffed like sardines in a tin.)

Hinds at SXSW 2015

Rulo Y La Contrabanda have a very classic rock ‘n’ roll sound and since I speak so very little Spanish, I lost of the emotion of the songs not comprehending what was being sung. Most of the crowd didn’t have the same problem, cheering wildly for them and I assume having arrived early for the next act.

Phew. Okay. No amount of mental preparedness could have readied me for the punters’ reception of Macaco. A blonde Spaniard isn’t very common, is it? Apparently, this band with this guy Dani Carbonell out front is huge. I mean, massive. The amount of oestrogen in the tent went sky high just before they took to the stage, so it’s a safe bet they’re a big deal in the Spanish-speaking world.

Macaco at SXSW 2015

Personally, I couldn’t see or hear it (I felt like I was witnessing a cartoon), but maybe if I was a 20-year old living in Spain interested in pop, I might think differently? I’m embedding a recent video of theirs for your benefit and you can tell me what you think. I can only guess from this Facebook post of theirs that they guessed incorrectly that I was Japanese (haha).

Last but certainly not least was my main reason for being there that afternoon at all, my pre-SXSW 2015 discovery of self-described “landscape electronica” artist and producer beGun, who I previewed in this Bands to Watch post. Most of the time, electronic artists are draped in darkness, playing at night in purposefully shadowy environments such as clubs. I think it’s a special treat to watch a master like him at work during daylight hours, so you can see how much goes into his live performance. I loved every minute of it.

beGun at SXSW 2015

As he mentioned in my interview with him before he performed at the showcase, the Barcelona producer is adamant about electronic artists including “added value” to their performances, to make it worth it to fans to see a real, live human being actually making the music live instead of just pushing a succession of buttons on a laptop or synth. On this afternoon, beGun certainly delivered, creating a swirl of music enveloping you and taking you and your mind to another place. I had a word with Huw Stephens about his music, so fingers crossed you’ll be hearing his music on Radio 1 soon enough.

Thanks very much to Rocio, Xavi of Oso Leone, the Agoraphobia girls, beGun and Agustín and everyone else at the Sounds from Spain party who made this American feel so welcome. Music, paella and sangria…let’s do it all again next year!

After my chill time in Sounds from Spain, it was a shock to the system to run – I mean, like run – to the convention center in an attempt to catch Laura Marling on the Radio Day stage. Who designs a convention center with escalators that don’t go up to every floor? Texans. I finally gave up on the escalators, deciding on a lift and nearly knocking over James Graham of the Twilight Sad, who was coming out of one, in the process. I guess he had had his fill of Laura?

The Radio Day stage, being as tall as it is and sat in a room that feels cavernous, isn’t exactly going to give you the warm and fuzzies. That said, what we do know of Marling’s new direction and album ‘Short Movie’ released this past Monday, her new material isn’t intended to give you the warm and fuzzies. Marling’s new pixie haircut, matching with long cream coloured trousers that made her legs look like they went on forever and with some fierce, military-style buttons down the left side, gave her a look that meant business at the KCRW afternoon showcase.

Because Sounds from Spain was running a little behind schedule and I refused to leave Brush Square until I said my goodbyes to all my new friends, after I arrived at the convention center, I only managed to hear half of one song and the final one, which was ‘Short Movie’ that everyone’s already heard. Despite obvious fans clamouring to be close to their goddess, the room was devoid of warmth and charm, which for me detracted from the performance and overall, I was disappointed in what seemed to be a lack of energy onstage as well. I also think they could have cranked up the volume on the amps for a more emphatic impression, but maybe the performance was meant to be muted for this all ages crowd? Well, as Meatloaf sang, “two out of three ain’t bad.” Or six out of seven…

 

SXSW 2015 Interview: beGun

 
By on Tuesday, 24th March 2015 at 5:00 pm
 

This year at SXSW 2015 I decided to spread TGTF’s figurative wings beyond the countries of bands we usually cover (the UK, America, Ireland and Australia), having made the decision to cover the Sounds from Spain afternoon showcase at Brush Square Park’s West Tent (read the review of the showcase here). This turned out to be a wise decision, as I met some really lovely people there. I felt like I was part of their extended musical family and never once was shoved around or made to feel small, which seemed to sum up a lot of my experiences at my first SXSW. So thanks very much to Sounds from Spain, especially Rocio Gutierrez and the bands themselves, for making me feel so welcome!

Another conscious decision I made was to expand our coverage on a genre I love very much but yet always feel alone in my appreciation of: electronica. Barcelona’s beGun, who I profiled in this Bands to Watch in early February, makes what I consider an especially fabulous kind of electronica in that there is a lot of thought that goes into what he does and he clearly has an established method to the madness, if you will, to making his art that you can see in the finished product that is beautiful and evocative. In my interview with him that you can stream below, he tells me that the Spanish ambassador to Ireland visited the city of Dublin and was amazed how well beGun’s own song ‘Dublin’ fit the place perfectly. No higher praise than that, eh? beGun also remains staunchly optimistic in the music he makes, and we all need more positivity in this world, don’t we? He also mentions that he would love to tour as support for current Radio 1 beat resident Jon Hopkins one day, which I hope will actually happen.

I find it extremely frustrating when I encounter closed-minded music fans who automatically chalk up any sort of electronic music that isn’t immediately poppy or has been made by a globally known household name to something that is cold, unfeeling and uninspiring. In my eyes, if it’s done right and in the right person’s hands, electronica, even when entirely instrumental, can be extremely powerful. The constant striving towards electronic music with feeling is a theme that will be explored in my interviews with East India Youth and Rival Consoles that will post in the coming days.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #83: beGun

 
By on Monday, 23rd February 2015 at 11:00 am
 

For the next couple of weeks leading up to SXSW 2015 just as we did last year, we’ll be running a special version of the TGTF Quickfire Questions, served up SXSW style with an extra couple of questions to get inside bands’ and artists’ heads so they’ll tell us what they really think of the event. We’re rockin’ and rollin’ now with our fourth installment for this year, this time with Barcelona’s beGun, who will be bringing some unusual things to Austin in his suitcase…

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
The first thing I usually do when I arrive to a new city is just walk and get lost, impregnate myself with the streets, the locals, the genuine non-touristic places, etc. As you said [in my Bands to Watch feature], my ‘business’ is transporting people somewhere else with my music or at least this is what I aim to do… so, the first and most important step is getting literally transported myself before I try to transport someone else. Let’s say that I’m not that guy that stays in the hotel until the gig begins.

Of the bands who have already been announced, do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
There are actually dozens of bands that I’d love to see, but I’ll focus on the electronic ones. Just to name a few: Lapalux, Brenmar, Ryan hemsworth, Shura, Deebs, Eprom, Tropics, Fort Romeau, Ikonika, Fjaak, Dream Koala, Kode9, Odesza or Rangleklods, among many others. Honestly, the lineup this year is completely outstanding.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
Although I’d never admit that I’m superstitious, in fact I am a little bit and that’s why I usually keep totally unnecessary stuff into my suitcase, maybe because I unconsciously feel that those stupid things brought me luck in the past. So, you will find stuff like a non-updated map of Paris (from 1998), a broken Vishnu key reel from India, a green Kit-Kat from Tokyo (I feel I’m not ready to open it after 2 years) plus a pair of chopsticks from a random ramen place and a shabby useless Mexican fridge magnet. Yes, all this shit comes with me without a reasonable explanation. [This is awesome. – Ed.]

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
I’m pretty addicted to coffee; this would be a nice pick if we happen to meet in the morning. Otherwise, I’d choose a nice local beer, preferably abbey-type. Love them. At night, my choice is quite simple: iced dark aged rum.

What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
I’m excited, but not really anxious or scared. I’ve been listening for many years about this huge event and I feel this is an incredible opportunity for me to show my music through my live set. I have been always a musician, since I was 5 years old, but I’ve not been able to work full time on this until 2 years ago, when I decided to quit everything, I left my old job and focussed only on making music. So, when you get to a place where absolutely everyone shares the same passion and enthusiasm as you do, there’s only space for learning as much as you can and getting soaked by their music and their experience.

Now on to our usual list of Quickfire Questions:

What song is your earliest musical memory?
I’d say ‘Stop Whispering’ from Radiohead on 1993. [Think he’s gonna get on with a lot of our UK friends, I reckon – Ed.]

What was your favourite song as a child?
I used to be a big fan of Weezer when I was a child. I may have listened ‘The Blue Album’ like 2 million times. My favourite song, the last one on this album,‘Only in Dreams’.

What song makes you laugh?
Not easy. There are no songs that literally make me laugh, but I’d choose one that always makes me feel good when I listen to it: ‘Go Do’ by Jonsi.

What song makes you cry?
‘Jamelia’ by Caribou. Same as before, I do not literally cry but I definitely feel something not happy.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
‘Faking the Books’ by Lali Puna. Big fan.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
I feel angry with me when I listen to the whole ‘Immunity’ LP from Jon Hopkins, because I would have loved to do this album myself.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
As I said before, I’d choose any song of ‘Immunity’. All of them are masterpieces.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Thom Yorke, definitely.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I cannot imagine a life without music, I’d say something related to it… a violin teacher maybe?

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
A few years ago, I’d have chosen ‘Ok Computer’ but since I’ve listened to it too many times, I will pick something relatively newer that I also love: ‘Lucky Shiner’ by Gold Panda.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) MP3 of the Day #870: beGun

 
By on Wednesday, 11th February 2015 at 10:00 am
 

“Landscape electronica” is what Barcelona producer and DJ beGun does best. To get you through the midweek, why not get some free music? beGun is giving away his brilliant track ‘Dublin’, full of lightness and pulsating with engaging effects; you can listen to the track below. You can get ‘Dublin’ from this page in his Facebook by liking his page.

You can read my Bands to Watch feature on beGun ahead of his appearance at SXSW 2015.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #338: beGun

 
By on Thursday, 5th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Barcelona is the home of the annual music event Primavera Sound, one of the European festivals I’ve long lusted after to attend. And it is the city that Spanish producer beGun calls home. Perhaps you have already heard of him: he remixed Bastille single ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’, and the effort was included on the autumn 2013 Bastille album ‘Remixed’. While his work has already been featured on Radio 1 and he’s received plaudits from Vice, NPR, and DJ Mag, this March will see beGun showcase in front of entirely new audiences at SXSW 2015.

Thanks to the internet, music has become this amazingly globalised product that can spread easily far and wide. A single can now easily flit across thousands upon thousands of miles to become popular with fans from Denmark to Dubai, from Seattle to Shanghai. And what kind of music does the mysterious Mr beGun make, you ask? After spending 15 years studying classical music, he’s hit on a sound that takes electronic music into a more experimental yet contemporary arena, appealing to more than the just stereotypical nightclub punter. Self-described on his Facebook as “landscape electronica” and quite possibly the only electronic artist I know to have commandeered the #landscape hashtag on Soundcloud, beGun intricately weaves together a combination of soulful vocals, icy electronic notes and effects and catchy, hip hop-style backbeats. The sounds are, in a word, brilliant.

beGun has clearly taken inspiration from the far-flung places where his music has an opportunity to land and can gain him new fans. With its compressed synths and infectious beats, ‘San Francisco’ won Best National Electronic Track of the year by Spanish culture magazine Playground in 2012. His track ‘Shanghai’, which was released in 2013 on Subterfuge Records, was critically acclaimed by the Spanish Independent Label Association and mixes crunchy percussive electronic beats and handclaps with a dream pop theme.

Seeing that beGun is in the business of transporting you somewhere else with his carefully crafted sounds, it’s no wonder so many Europeans have already been enchanted by the beauty of his sonic landscapes or, alternatively, desirous of grabbing their guy or girl and cutting a rug to the more beat-forward of his tracks. Already a DJ mainstay of Sonar and Mutek in his hometown of Barcelona, while already gone further afield to perform at Ceremonia (Mexico), 981 Heritage (London), and Plissken (Greece) and many others, his talent has been honed is exactly the kind of music I expect SXSW revelers to be moving and grooving to in the wee hours in Austin. See you there!

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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