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PHOTOS: SXSW Music Days 2-4

Pics of Simian Mobile Disco, Le Loup, Clipse, No Age, Woods and many more.

MSTRKRFT (DJ set) @ Vice

When was the last time you saw people crowd-surfing at a dance club? Unless you caught MSTRKRFT’s DJ set at Vice on Saturday night, the answer is probably “never”. Still, it’s not too surprising that the Toronto duo would have that sort of affect on a crowd, especially given the fact that Jesse F. Keeler was once one half of Death From Above 1979. While the duo’s late night DJ set definitely got the crowd moving, it left a bit to be desired in the originality department. Must every electro set nowadays be built around Daft Punk and Justice samples?

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Best Friends Forever @ Mohawk (Inside)

Best Friends Forever are from Minneapolis. Best Friends Forever are two girls and one boy. Best Friends Forever play pop songs about Presidents and love and other cute things. Best Friends Forever sometimes have puppets onstage during their sets. Best Friends Forever play instruments like keyboards and glockenspiels and even the recorder, which I used to play in the 3rd grade. Best Friends Forever are my new favorite band.

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Woods @ Mohawk (Inside)

If you happen to loathe trends, folk-based psych-pop is probably close to the top of your list of dislikes. Luckily, Brooklyn’s Woods have a novel enough approach to the sub-genre to keep things interesting. Using all sorts of analog trickery, the band crafts a thick haze of echoing voices, ringing guitar notes and wispy atmospherics. One member of the band devoted all of his attention to a tape deck plugged into a series of effects pedals; meanwhile, the drummer spent more time banging on guitars with his drumsticks than drums. And tying it all together were the condenser mic-filtered vocals, echoing in the distance like an old AM radio.

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Vivian Girls @ Mohawk (Inside)

On Saturday night, a South by Southwest reveler could have been seeing GZA split a bill with Okkervil River. Or, he or she could have been seeing a solo set from Kevin Shields at a small venue. There was even an outdoor party where NOFX and the Breeders co-headlined on dueling stages. But as far as I’m concerned, the true spirit of South by Southwest was hidden away in a back room at Mohawk, where a lineup of DIY bands played for a handful of enthusiastic fans and sold 7"s for gas money. Here we see Brooklyn’s Vivian Girls, who played a set of Sarah-esque, sing-along friendly twee-pop.

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Simian Mobile Disco (DJ set)/Matt and Kim/Diplo @ 421 W 3rd Street

We’ve got to hand it to the folks at IHEARTCOMIX: there’s no better place for a party than the rooftop of a downtown parking garage. Spinning a full-length set of electro without sounding—well, exactly like Daft Punk—isn’t as easy as it once was, it seems but Simian Mobile Disco managed to pull it off and get the party started on the right foot. Brooklyn dance-punks Matt and Kim, meanwhile, kept the crowd dancing and smiling to boot. Closing up shop, Diplo featured a number of high-profile guest stars like Spank Rock and Kid Sister but it was quite clear from the response that Diplo himself was the man of the hour.

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Fucked Up @ Lamar Street Bridge

At 2am on Friday night, Fucked Up and No Age played an impromptu set on the top of the Lamar Street pedestrian bridge. Word travels fast during South by Southwest, however and more kids showed up for the show than the bridge was likely designed to support (some even claimed that the bridge could be seen swaying under the strain). Regardless, police at the end of the bridge stood idly by and let Toronto hardcore act Fucked Up rile up the crowd with a blistering set of truncated jams.

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No Age @ Emo’s

For a duo, No Age sure do make a lot of noise. During their early evening set at Emo’s, the L.A. duo ran through a number of short, catchy, Ramones-inspired tunes that set heads bobbing and feet tapping throughout the venue. And up in the front, a few kids even formed a small mosh pit—an odd sight at what’s usually a crossed-arms sort of festival.

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Exit Clov @ Lovejoy’s

It’s not every day that you see a post-punk band with violins but then again, it’s not every day that you see a band fronted by identical twins, either. Led by sisters Emily and Susan Hsu, the Washington D.C. five-piece managed to quiet a chatty room at Lovejoy’s with their blend of post-punk propulsion, classical instrumentation and syrupy-sweet call-and-answer vocals.

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Le Loup @ Emo’s Annex

It wasn’t an easy mid-afternoon set for Washington, D.C. newcomers Le Loup -- a delay pedal went missing, a banjo pickup emitted an annoying buzz and their set was ultimately cut short -- but despite those odds, the band turned in a rollicking, impassioned set of folk-based indie pop. The band opened up their set with a few new tunes, most of which were quite a bit more guitar heavy than their previous work. Though Le Loup was originally conceived of as a vehicle for Sam Simkoff’s songs, it’s clear that the band is really starting to gel after spending a few months together on the road.

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Clipse @ The Mowhawk

A good half hour before Clipse hit the stage at the Mowhawk to close out the Rhapsody party, the air in the outside venue filled with the scent of a certain recreational herb. “It smellin’ good out here!” Sandman would later declare upon hitting the stage. The fact of the matter is that anticipation was high for the Virginia Beach duo and they certainly didn’t disappoint, delivering both Clipse and Re-Up Gang tracks with the ferocity and focus that their fans have come to expect. Sure, they might have just been yelling over backing vocal tracks most of the time but you wouldn’t know it from the way the kids were dancing in the front row. About a third of the way through the set, Pusha-T and Malice were joined on stage by Sandman and Ab-Liva -- thereby forming the Re-Up Gang -- and proceeded to play tracks from the band’s much-loved We Got It For Cheap mixtape series. At the end of the set, Pusha-T and Malice jumped off the stage with nary a word to the crowd -- it was quite clear that there was nothing more to be said.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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