SXSW Review: Jessy Lanza brings “Strange Emotion” to Austin

As someone who has been listening to electronic music almost exclusively for the last 2 years, there are a number of things that I’ve noticed. One is that many electronic acts hate coming to Texas (or at least any of the acts that I like and would love to see live), so one of the great things about SXSW is it brings people from all over the world into one place, making it a Mecca for acts to come and show themselves off. For me, SXSW has never really been about networking or partying or getting free stuff, but it is an opportunity to see acts that I would normally never get to see without having to travel across the country.

ImageShit quality photo from the RA showcase

The other thing I’ve noticed, and this is a much wider issue, is that electronic music is a genre that is dominated almost entirely by males. This isn’t just referring to the crowds, but also to producers and DJs. The number of female producers who have a least a moderate amount of notoriety is slim. This isn’t to say that there are no great female electronic musicians; look at Laurel Halo, The Knife, Grimes, Nancy Whang, Annie Mac, to name a few. But the numbers are few and far between.

One act that I was really excited about seeing during my very short stint at SXSW was Jessy Lanza, the Hyperdub-signed producer from Ontario. She played Thursday night at the Resident Advisor showcase. Her debut album “Pull Back My Hair” was released last year and flew pretty far under the radar. But it’s one that is definitely worth checking out. I wasn’t really sure how she would translate to a live setting, given that her music is somewhat minimal, and almost muted at times. A lot of her songs are very restrained and seem to be holding back a lot of energy. But one thing that really separates her is her incredible attention to detail in every song. The engineering and mixing on the album makes it so that you can hear every note in all ranges and every drum sample. It’s nearly perfectly balanced.

But back to her live show. She opened up with “Giddy”, the opening track to her album. It’s not one of my favorites, but the crowd was into it. What’s most impressive is the fluidity that she has on stage, managing 2 tables worth of equipment while still singing vocals. It’s like Grimes in her early days, but less DIY and more refined sonic textures. The crowd at the show was really into it (once again, it was like 80% guys), which was honestly surprising to me because there was almost no one that I met at SXSW this year who really knew about her, or was talking about her. She moved on through some of her other songs, like “Fuck Diamond” and “5785021”, and she really has a great control over how she wants her sound to be in a live setting. I stayed through “Kathy Lee”, but had to leave after to catch SOPHIE.

Jessy Lanza is one of those artists that isn’t going to blow up any time soon, but if you get the chance I would HIGHLY recommend checking her out. She’s still discovering her sound, but she’s playing with different styles and tempos and I’m excited to see what she can do next.

As a side note, SETH also performed at the Resident Advisor show. I had no idea what she sounded like (or that it was a girl), but I was genuinely impressed with her set. Check out one of her tracks below.

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