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.
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.