No Joy is a one-woman, born-again machine. Apparated from the shine of a spotlight in a dark room, Jasamine White-Gluz brought color to the atmosphere with her Thursday night SXSW showcase.
After a successful 2015 record, the Montreal-based group took a step back — until late last year, with the release of the thematic and contemplative Motherhood. White-Gluz stood solo, guitar draped cooly around her as she performed the electra-pop first track of Motherhood, “Birthmark.” No Joy played almost impulsively with genre across the album, though “Birthmark” hints at a continuous shoegaze influence in a less predictable form.
Layered and reminiscent of 80s synth-pop, “Ageless” was bold. With a voice like maple sugar, White-Gluz grooved to a forceful, dynamic bassline while filling the leftover space with glassy guitar notes. And though it was easy to gaze in awe at the beat-heavy, genre-bending, rhythmic magic that No Joy exuded, her lyrical poetry is what it is, zero fronting. “We are two words neither one understands,” White-Gluz cooed, stamping an otherworldly track with reflective relatability.
On a not-so-distant intergalactic planet, Babeheaven is quite lucid. Good music both sounds and feels, and Babeheaven’s three-track set sounded like drifting between fuzzy daydreams while feeling an array of all-consuming, self-indulgent sentiments. Nancy Anderson’s smooth croon brought warmth to the rueful “November,” a lush, soothing number so spacious that you can ignore its brash lyrical melancholia. “Don’t fuck up lives / Don’t ruin mine,” sang Anderson along with a consistent drumbeat.
Dripped in trip-hop richness, “Cassette Beat” juggled optimism and cynicism over the theme of surrealism, the complexities of making art, and, as if by some miracle, the hope that “Behind the clouds there’s a blue sky.” The drums were drawn out over synth, woozy beats. A deep bassline undermined Anderson’s tender yet evocative vocal performance. The otherworldly vocalist let her hair down a bit for “In My Arms,” an easeful, bassy track. Babeheaven danced skillfully on a beam between bringing the soulful authenticity of an acoustic set and creating an experimental soundscape.
In the land down-under, Aussie band The Chats proved capable of two feats: writing a ridiculously well-structured punk song, and writing a ridiculously silly punk song. “Hanging out, having a pint / ‘Cause my rent’s due at the end of the month / Gettin’ hungry, I’m fangin’ a feed / Something greasy, gravy and meat,” vocalist and bassist Eamon Sandwith, one of the two mullet-sporting lads in the three-some, raged about a hefty pub meal (while fighting off the drool) in the casual setting of a backyard hangout.
People in teddy bear costumes made an appearance and things got a bit weird, but The Chats didn’t seem to think too much about any of it. Punk number “AC/DC CD” was equally energetic; their sound embraced the imperfections of fuzzy sonics, off-beat vocal delivery and the three chord progressions that make any punk song. Everything felt intentional, from Sandwith’s mean tone to the lightning speed of the tracks, and nothing was taken too seriously.
Beans, formerly known as Baked Beans followed with another Australian rock two-track set, kicking it off with the short, forceful climate-change protest song, “Melt.” Frontman Matt Blach bears a vocal resemblance to Cobain, with a subtly sweet, grunge tone, with an instrumental dynamic redolent of Electric Light Orchestra or The Doors’ organ-branding sound. “Lay It Out” carried all the intensity of a perfect closer, with vigorous vocals and heavy-hitting guitar riffs throughout. The Aussie quintet dug their shoes into the ground and proved their worth, offering the nostalgia, psychedelic sound and frenetic instrumentals of everything that made 70s rock an eternal era.
The virtual festival’s third day shed a light on re-invention and re-imagination, from No Joy’s newfound boundlessness to The Chats’ indifference to the punk rock mold and every track in between. SXSW continues to encourage new age, authentic artists from every niche corner and offering a diverse community for all music lovers.
“In My Arms”
“Lay It Ov”
File Photo: Stephen Hoffmeister