Saturday, March 15, 2014

SXSW Friday Dispatch: EMA, Angel Olsen, Sun Kil Moon

Posted By on Sat, Mar 15, 2014 at 7:10 AM

Friday evening, we cruised by the Central Presbyterian Church, just a few blocks North of the 6th Street madness, to catch a showcase from Pitchfork, the tastemaker internet publication based in Chicago. A stacked lineup featuring artists that alloy experimental and pop music, each artist was strikingly individual and spiritually resonant, if not in a religious sense.

EMA

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Photos by Jaime Monzon

South Dakotan Erika M. Anderson kicked off the Pitchfork-Presbyterian show, playing the visceral hits from her debut Past Life Martyred Saints. Hers is a deeply emotional, image-based writing style, made clear by the opening "Marked."  "My arms, they are a see-through plastic," Erika whispered hoarsely, through a head cold, into the microphone. The song develops into a haunting, BDSM chant, "I wish that every time he touched me left a mark," a show-your-bones intimacy matched by very few.

Angel Olsen

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All aboard the hype train! Current conductor of the proverbial buzz express, indie-folker Angel Olsen packed the early crowd into the front pews, playing off her debut 2014 record, Burn Your Fire for No Witness. The owner of a beautifully symmetrical name, Angel also possesses a powerful voice that punches over her minimal, folk-influenced rock. On the hilarious loner anthem "Hi Five," Angel's voice soars above her group, impeccable and unentitled. Still, the band seemed unsure in their playing, treating their well-crafted songs as someone afraid of cats cradles a kitten in their arms.

Hundred Waters

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Like the most enduring of electronic acts, Hundred Waters evade categorization. The Gainesville, Florida quartet wrapped the Central Presbyterian's walls with textural odes and long, engrossing midi loops. Brought to life by a drummer deep in the pocket, the live beats overlap with pad and computer rhythms without interruption.

Mark Kozelek

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Anyone who says rock 'n' roll is a young man's game is a fool, or hasn't listened to Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon. The forty-seven year old singer has amassed a grueling history of personal loss and sexual past, all of which he draws upon in his work. Benji, his sixth effort under the moniker of Sun Kil Moon,  tells poignant, transparent narratives of cousins dying in trash fires and gorgeous meditations on maternal love and friendship. Of returning to Led Zeppelin as an adult and a TMI tell-all of his early sexual activities. Of mass murderers dying of natural causes and just how much he loves his dad.

Experiencing the album in person is a compelling and tearful experience. Though the specter of death looms on each track, the aggregate result ends up being more cathartic than ominous. Benji finds the forty-seven year old Kozelek making sense of the violence and death in life, observing the beauty in each vivid detail.

Between songs, Kozelek joked casually about the errancy and erratic nature of the weighty Pitchfork review - "9.2? Just give me a fucking 10." Playing with only a drummer, the songs remained intimate while living up to their raw power. It's an odd take on the confessional singer-songwriter approach, so straightforward and unconcerned with form that Benji verges on the experimental.

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