For EXCLAIM! MAGAZINE
Die Antwoord have been attracting their fair share of attention for the group’s provocative music videos that lend themselves nothing short of viral. The Cape Town originals (whose band name means “the answer” in Afrikaans) boast some of the strangest hip-hop this side of the Northern Hemisphere. With their gritty, Kafka-esque lyrical style and their beat-delivering prowess, they proved to be the best response to a rather grim-looking Vancouver weekend.
The city’s Expendable Youth DJs started off the evening with some turntable delights as the Commodore began to fill with an anticipatory audience, some of which even dressed to resemble DA’s frontman Ninja. While a popular DJ set was not exactly the most appropriate way to usher in an evening of musical weirdness, the Mad Decent team managed to deliver a solid string of catchy dance tunes and smart mash-ups.
Wearing a rather terrifying mask, DJ Hi-Tek began Die Antwoord’s set by baiting the crowd, repeatedly spinning out the threatening slogan that he’d “fuck you in the ass,” while flashes of Die Antwoord music videos revealed a sinister theme. It was almost sensory overload when Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones) and Yo-Landi Vi$$er (Yolandi Visser) finally exploded onto the stage wearing bright orange sweatsuits for “Fok Julle Naaiers.” Unified by their performance and onstage charisma, the unlikely trio formed a nuclear-type family unit in the strangest way imaginable. No stranger to the notion of being “eye popping,” Visser showed off her midriff, her eyes two black pools, coming off as both terrifying and strangely attractive.
While focusing on delivering rhythms and tunes from their newest offering TEN$ION, the group played some more vintage favourites as well, such as “Beat Boy” and the huge crowd pleaser “Enter the Ninja,” one of their most notorious tracks. With the intent of fully staggering the crowd, Die Antwoord blazed the stage and hit the sweet spot with their blistering rendition of “I Fink U Freeky,” effectively delivering one of the strangest songs in their arsenal.
Gritty, real and yet somehow fantastical, Die Antwoord’s surreal blend of hip-hop, trashy pop culture references and brazen methodology make them one of the most unbelievable acts around, on record and especially live from the stage.
FOR THE BLOCK MAGAZINE
Static on the Wire, by Holy Ghost!, is arguably one of the best combinations of deep funk, ferocious percussion and pillow-talk lyricism sure to make the most uptight of British nannies drop their panties. Loaded with satin romance driven by fat, bass-heavy disco beats, Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser, the mortal beings behind the music, have deep sensibilities lining their hearts. The electronic duo, hailing from Brooklyn, could easily be described as the epitome of the American dream—from two kids running amok in the streets of New York to two glowing beacons of creative prosperity.
Frankel and Millhiser met at an elementary in Manhattan, and instantly became friends. “I don’t remember exactly the first time we met, although it was in the second grade. I suspect we met somewhere in the hallway,” Millhiser says, before taking a long drag on his American Spirit cigarette. He’s quick to correct the assumption that him and Frankel were partners in juvenile tomfoolery. “We were pretty good kids. Everybody thinks it’s so crazy we grew up there, but none of my friends did crazy drugs or got pregnant or anything. We had so little time to get bored or get into trouble. I think boredom breeds serious trouble.”
Twenty minutes later, singer Frankel tells a slightly more familiar story of parental tough love. Raised in a strict Jewish household, Frankel’s early life set the bar for high expectations. “Our parents didn’t tolerate any bullshit. Especially from me as their first kid. When I got to high school I did my share of NYC hooligan antics, but growing up, school was definitely important.”
Partly planned, and partly accidental, Frankel’s conversation angled itself more and more like a therapy session. While much of their music is dirty, suggestive and infectious on the dance floor, the duo is incredibly grounded, despite having achieved huge successes early in life. With doting parents, the band’s choice to be professional musicians was not always the easiest family conversation.
“When I was in another band with Nick, we got a record deal when we were 17 years old, with Capitol Records,” Frankel says. “We got the deal during senior year, and I was like “Fuck college!” but my parents were like “What? We just spent 17 years of private school tuition for you to be in a band?” So they were a little skeptical at first, for sure.”
Now that Frankel and Millhiser have achieved critical acclaim from all over the world, their parents have mellowed out. Both of their parents come out to all their shows in New York, and even dance up storms at their DJ sets. “Now they say they supported us the whole time, that being musicians was their idea!” Frankel laughs, flicking the ashen embers off his preferred Camel brand.
Much of the Holy Ghost! sound comes from pure, unadulterated production. Abstaining from the digital-heavy equipment that has often become the recording norm, the electro group’s silken disco sound is instrumentally authentic. Millhiser even abstains from listening to music on headphones. “I hate the way modern rock records are recorded,” he says. “Everything is super compressed, every take is edited to perfection, and everything is autotuned. Everyone knows autotune and it’s like everything’s gotta be perfectly on key. To me, it sounds horrendous and it just sucks all the fun and spontenaiety out of it.”
A Miike Snow concert is truly the best remedy for the tedium of a Monday night. Morphing into sexed-up animals, the crowd was delighted by the electro pop anthems and pounding bass soundscapes emanating from the Swedish trio.
Spanish indie rockers Delorean raised the bar for Miike Snow with their blistering performance. With singer/ bassist Ekhi Lopetegi looking like something of a mediterranean Jesus, the band’s sonic dreamscapes were faintly reminiscent of the eclecticism of Animal Collective.
Dominated by white beams of light and intense smoke clouds, the stage nicely complemented Miike’s Nordic, glacial aesthetic. After baiting the crowd with smoke and mirrors for some time, the band came out wearing creepy white masks, raising intrigue and anticipation. Kicking off the show with a five-minute psychedelic jam, they transitioned into “Cult Logic,” arguably the most infectious and anthematic track off their album. Satisfying the ravenous crowd, the trio played favourites like as “A Horse is Not A Home” and “Black and Blue,” remaining true to the album but sounding less processed and more spontaneous. Tearing off the white plastic mask, frontman Andrew Wyatt completely killed it during “Plastic Jungle,” a song about the brutal, military-likeness of postmodern life.
Stockholm-natives Wyatt, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg have garnered much deserved acclaim for their self-titled debut, which came out last year. Rich with layered, complex synth rhythms and salacious lyrics, the band’s sound is also surprisingly dreamy and introspective. Added last minute to the SXSW bill, this group is adding a much-needed cool, Scandinavian touch to the electronic music scene. With a sonic formula that combines beauty, strangeness and the sublime in perfect proportion, Bjork could learn a thing or two from these guys.
Oh, and for those who didn’t know, Karlsson and Winnberg have previously worked together as Bloodshy & Avant, a songwriting team that has created songs such as Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and have worked with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Kelis and Madonna.
Exclaim! Magazine published today that notorious rapper Kid Cudi apologized for punching a fan in Vancouver last December. Involving a miscommunication over a wallet being thrown on and off the stage by concert attendee Michael Sharpe, Cudi later called him on the phone, apologized, then offered him an all-expense paid trip to New York City! Apparently the booze coursing through the Cleveland, OH’s blood caused the temper outburst. Blame it on the a-a-a-al-co-alcohol!
@ the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC June 4
Crystal Castles gave a blistering electronic performance that meshed together their digital eccentricities and powerful rhythms, producing an overwhelmingly cathartic, organic flux of a dancing crowd surrendering to their wall of sound.
The duo’s name originates after a sky fortress from the Mattel toy series called She-Ra, who was the twin sister of He-Man. The ferocity of vocalist Alice Glass’ raw, borderline-animal screams came across as borderline mythical during their rendition of “Courtship Dating,” giving her supernatural qualities.
The show kicked off with an energetic, strobe-light saturated debut, as Glass slinked onstage and adopted an intimidating, huge stage presence wearing a tube skirt and black button-up top, her eyes thick with black makeup, her trademark jet black bob throbbing to the basslines. She pushed everyone to the brink of epilepsy as she picked up the strobe light, flashed it in the faces of the entire front row as she screamed overtop the myriad of Nintendo sound loops.
Multi-instrumentalist Ethan Kath showed off his versatile musicmanship by flaunting his seamless transitions from turntable to synth, with a machine-like exactness, entrenched in the shadows of the stage in his hoodie like some kind of electric Darth Vader.
The most unique thing about Crystal Castles is their talent to create heat, chaos — all the elements of a natural disaster — without burning up in it themselves. Things got a little stagnant when Glass stepped off the stage for about 10 minutes while Kath entreated the crowd to some of the instrumental montages such as “Magic Spells.” When Glass returned, she was smoking a cigarette that she then tossed into the crowd before throwing herself to surf in it.
Their experimental, new-wave style of electronic music was particularly good during their performance of “Xxzxcuzx Me,” with the image of Kath pounding demonically on his synth while Glass jumped around the stage like a raging lunatic you didn’t want to stare directly at. Crystal Castles is uniquely aggressive, confrontational, and stylish to the point of viewer anxiety: and certainly isn’t for the faint at heart.