AUSTIN, Texas -- Sohn kept shooting glances at the door swinging open to his left, where the punk band next door could be heard loud and clear. The London/Vienna soul singer-songwriter had good reason to be miffed, as his music rewards close attention to its slow-build dynamics.
But Sohn ultimately prevailed Wednesday at the South by Southwest Music Conference, as he and two keyboardists created a cocoon of ambient atmosphere, topped with spiraling synth solos and shot through with melancholy melodies. Sohn sang with a yearning tenor, but the music lifted him out of the darkness. "I died a week ago," he sang at the outset of "The Wheel," but the clickety-clack percussion and jabbing keyboards kept him buoyant as the closely packed fans swayed.
The electro-pop co-ed trio No Ceremony/// also began quietly, setting a tone of vaguely Gothic wispiness. But as the set proceeded, the music pushed outward, a wave of soul-infused insinuations and increasingly insistent beats that finally attained a disco pulse on "Feel So Low."
Australian electronic composer Flume weaved live keyboards and MPC beats over programmed textures that split the difference between dancefloor hip-shake and headphone dreamscape. Feathers channeled the "Personal Jesus" electro-blues stomp of Depeche Mode, and Jeffrey Jacob and Angela Gail of In the Valley Below created a bewitching blend with their vocal harmonies and craggy guitar solos.
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