Spinning Platters Picks Six: International Bands Worth Seeing at SXSW That I’d Never Heard Of Before

by Gordon Elgart on March 8, 2011

You may not have heard of these guys either, but you will.

Suggesting bands to check out at SXSW can be really easy if you want it to be. There’s some definite winners in the “Been there done that” category this year: Friendly Fires, Matt & Kim, and Wallpaper come to mind. Then there’s the “buzz bands worthy of buzz” category, which this year includes Geographer, The Naked & Famous, and my personal faves The Joy Formidable. But that’s a bit boring; these bands will come to (or are from) San Francisco.

What’s fun for me is to find bands from outside North America that I’d never heard of before seeing them on the SXSW schedule. A few clicks and I hear a song, a few more and I’m hearing an album. Finally, I’m looking forward to seeing them live in a couple of weeks. Feel free to give me crap if I “should have heard of” one of these artists. I wish I had! Now, on with the list:

Art vs. Science (Australia) – At the very beginning of the alphabet, I was blown away by a single that sounded somewhat Devo and somewhat MSTRKRFT. As I’m finding myself leaning into rock bands that mix EDM elements into their sound, this was a perfect band to discover. An EP, Magic Fountain, featuring the killer single of the same name, is coming out in the U.S. on March 15. For enterprising individuals, their Australian full-length debut is already out there. And it’s great. (I’ve been listening to it daily for a couple of weeks now; I’m enterprising.) It mixes stupid-fun dance songs with more relaxed pop songs, and is never boring. The only downer is that their official showcase is at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop, traditionally one of the worst stages at the festival, but they’re playing a few day parties as well, so make sure to see them!

Battle Circus (New Zealand) – Here’s the band I should have known. I read Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine, for goodness sakes! And this is a prog band, with a few 10-minute songs to their name after only one album. Remember when everyone used to say that Muse sounded like Radiohead? And they did for a little while, but then they created their own sound? Battle Circus sounds like Muse in that same way. You can hear the influence, but they’re creating their sound as they go. The new single is a leap ahead of their first full length; it’s practically cabaret prog, which is definitely a new genre.

Chateau Marmont (France) – If you like late 70s/early 80s cheesy sci-fi or action music, then you like Chateau Marmont. They sound like the rejected outtakes from the soundtrack to Flash Gordon and an unused theme to the TV “classic” Airwolf, all while praying at the altar of synth legend Giorgio Moroder. If that sounds appealing to you, then you’ll love this band, whom I know very little about. All I know is I want to make a cool movie, just to use their music. Someone give me a script; I’ve got the score ready.

Idiotape (South Korea) – Let me tell you how much I like this music. I actually bought this on iTunes. If you don’t know me, you’re thinking “big deal.” If you do know me, you know that it is, truly, a big deal. This is electronic dance music, but played live with live drums. There are videos of these guys playing in their home country, and whoa … I wanna go! I’ve got two videos here: one’s an album trailer, and the other shows them live. I can’t imagine these guys get to the U.S. all that often, so take your opportunity to check them out.

Kvelertak (Norway) – Every once in a while in a man’s life, he just needs some fuckin’ metal. And this is one of those times. Kvelertak (I have NO idea how to pronounce that) will fill that jones in your life for the foreseeable future. This band is aggressive, yet oddly hooky. The lyrics are in Norwegian, but are screamed in the international language of intensity. If the pit is even close to as lethal as the one in their video, everyone who survives is out for a great time. You can catch them at Full Metal Texas, as well as their official showcase.

Pacific! (Sweden) – If Chateau Marmont is the theme to cheesy 80s movies, Pacific! is the theme to the fantasy movie of your dreams, It’s dramatic and intense, like I’m riding a magical horse through a far off land to defeat the evil sorceror, yet it’s also completely danceable at most times. Their album, Narcissus, takes you on a musical journey. Oh, that sounds like PR bunk, but I’m saying that myself, I swear. There are quiet songs with angelic vocals (she must be the woman I love who I’m trying to save from the dastardly evil), there’s straight-up europop songs (sung by our hero?) and then there’s the all-out fighting music. I dig this sort of cheese. I haven’t been able to find them on any day party lists, so make sure to hit them up at their showcase gig.

For official SXSW scheduling, you can visit the official SXSW site. For day parties, I recommend Show List Austin.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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