Following day one, Wednesday of SXSW 2021 provided individualistic sets performed by a diverse array of performers. The theme drawn from the day was “expect the unexpected,” as genres and cultures were blended together like never before.
Noteworthy Altin Gün from Amsterdam had an average set up of a drum kit, electric guitar, bass and synths until the camera panned over vocalist Erdinç Ecevit Yıldız wielding a bağlama. The stringed instrument with a rounded back added to the twangy mind-bending fusion of modern psychedelia and traditional Turkish folk. A second percussionist played conga drums with both drumsticks and his hands. During “Ordunun Dereleri,” Jasper Verhulst gave life to some of the thickest, funkiest bass riffs all day.
Since 2008, the British Music Embassy has hosted over 450 UK artists, aiding them in advancing their careers. Their keen eye for talent was no exception for their represented artists of the day’s sets. Clad in matching striped suits, eclectic genre-fusing Porij took things into a more electronic direction. Their set wore different hats as it skipped from calmer groovy tracks like “150” to “Dirty Love,” which begged to be played in a dusky underground club.
Neo-soul and contemporary jazz artist Ego Ella May gave an intimate look inside her head with featured songs from her album Honey For Wounds released last year. With the sweeping motion of her hands, eyes closed, her sleek velvety vocals poured out like a rich, sweet honey. Backed by an engaging band equipped with bass, guitar, percussion and keyboard, “In The Morning,” “Tonight I’m Drowning” and “Give A Little” were a delicious bite for the soul.
For an edgy finish to the British Music Embassy’s featured artists, Phoebe Green also led an introspective set. Branding herself as the epitome of a Scorpio [astrological sign], her loud lime green eyeshadow and mic paralleled her unapologetic lyrics. “Don’t tell me what to do or how to act,” she sang on electric “A World I Forgot” and “I can’t cry for you, I know you want me to but I’d rather die than unfold” on “Golden Girl.”
Flipped Coin Music, based in Seoul, Korea, offered some of the most awe-inspiring and genre-fluid artists of the day. HAEPAARY, the female alt-electronic duo, broke the rules of tradition. They kicked off the series of artists by performing melodies and lyrics of “Jongmyojeryeak, the royal shrine music of the Joseon dynasty, and Namchang Gagok, a Korean traditional vocal genre that has always been performed exclusively by men,” as stated on their Spotify page. With the combination of traditional Korean instruments and electronic elements, the calculated intensity of their songs drew out ancient swells alongside contemporary rhythms. Their song “A Shining Warrior – A Heartfelt Joy” felt like powerful, soulful calls to war.
Low, soft lighting was the perfect atmosphere for shoegazey dream-pop artist AIRY to perform. Layered, brooding instrumentals and slow tempos gave way to “Last Night,” where the vocals floated with ease. “Disappearing Ways” drifted into the realm of psychedelic rock during some of its heavier, skillful guitar breakdowns.
It’s a wonder how Jibin of Y2K92 could make a pink dress over green track pants look fashionable, but she undoubtedly did. Karaoke style, she performed her set with both English and Korean subtitles on the screen, singing over pre-produced tracks, microphone in hand. Her versatility shined as she switched up between lighter, somber singing on tracks like “Curse Me Out” and quick-paced rapping like “Bi-Elijah.” Although Y2K92 only has one track up for streaming, more are expected to be released in the upcoming months.
TENGGER was an atmospheric, immersive experience. As if the audience were on the outside looking in, the duo, itta and Marqido, performed from behind a large windowpane with the dim light of paper lanterns. Their nine-year-old son, Raai, joined them to dance freely, embodying the movement of their sound. The rapturous hums of Indian harmonium, haunting vocals and fading synths presented a hypnotic essence. Combined effects of various mouthpiece instruments, one mimicking the sound of warbling birds, only drew the audience deeper into the world they created. The cinematic and serene qualities that flowed from tracks like “Kyrie” and “Achrim” were enough to draw tears.
Like stepping into yet another dreamscape, Yung Baby Tate stood angelic, adorned with iridescent jewels amidst pastel colors and a fluffy cloud set design. Tate was reminiscent of a ’90s hip-hop star, from her dance moves to her use of production. She merged clever rapped verses on tracks like “I Am” with an incredible range of vocals on “Let it Rain.” As she introduced the last song of her set, she said: “It’s one of my favorite songs off of my upcoming After The Rain Deluxe EP. It’s about self-love, something I preach about a lot. It’s called ‘Me First.’”
Today’s lineup exemplified one of the most redeeming qualities about SXSW; there are some artists so niche you can’t imagine discovering them anywhere else, but you leave feeling glad you did.
I Like That
Ego Ella May:
In The Morning
Tonight I’m Drowning
Give A Little
A World I Forgot
Born (by Irreproachable Gorgeous)
A Shining Warrior – A Heartfelt Joy
A Send Off for Ancestor Spirits
Curse Me Out
Track 1 Album Intro
Track 4 Album Title
Yung Baby Tate:
Let it Rain