Whatever it might seem, SXSW isn't only about indie rock. Today we highlight some hopefuls who stray beyond the white-boys-with-guitars template:
Radiohead meets hip-hop is a pretty lazy-sounding description, but one that's actually apt for the music of Texan DJ Jester the Filipino Fist. "Oh God Kill Me" is a song made up of slow-building guitars layered upon scratches and surreal voice-mail message samples to form an inventive, haunting mash-up of rock and hip-hop of the kind last heard on DJ Shadow's first album.
Spank Rock breaks the unwritten rule of underground hip-hop: While mainstream rappers may be entertaining and charismatic personalities (see Ludacris), left-field artists should be serious musicians whose lyrical content reflects a youth spent digging through dusty record crates rather than partying hard. "Sweet Talk" is a lewd, rude call to the dance floor that boasts both ingenious production and a ferocious sense of fun.
While British rock acts from the Beatles to the Arctic Monkeys have a tradition of being embraced by American audiences, it's a different story altogether for hip-hop. Still, if anyone is going to break through the glass ceiling of rap, it might be a young rapper from London called Sway. After building a reputation through homemade tapes and the underground circuit, the rapper won the MOBO (music of black origin) award for best hip-hop act while still unsigned. His debut "This Is My Demo" has just been released, and this cut, "Little Derek," incorporates such unique elements as pigeon noises and a harpsichord into a lovely, summery blast of U.K. g-funk.
Seven-piece Australian electronic outfit Decoder Ring have apparently won awards for their film scores -- not hard to imagine after hearing "Fractions," which sounds like it should accompany a euphoric late-night taxi ride through the neon-lit streets of Sydney in some antipodean remake of "Lost in Translation."
Brooklyn laptop rapper MC Lars is so nose-bleedingly current that he's invented his own social subset. If this track is to be believed, being a member of the "iGeneration" involves doing some primitive, old-school rapping about the Internet over cheap and cheerful hip-hop beats.
-- Matt Glazebrook