CJLO x SXSW 2019: Electronic Music Recap

It has been a few months since the CJLO music directors flew down to Austin, Texas for the world renowned South-By-Southwest. As the station’s Electronic Music Director, my goal was to attend a variety of interesting shows related to electronic music; after getting a chance to gather my thoughts around the event as a whole, I've been able to identify three main themes.

1. Brostep 

On our first night at SXSW, I went to the small PLUSH bar expecting to hear some Jersey club tracks from Phoenix the Producer, the only name on the bill I recognized. Phoenix had some big tracks in the 2014 era of Vine remixes, including the still classic “Bish Whet?! Vine remix.” However, that night I learned that there are definitely more than one ‘Phoenix-the-Producers.’ The night was like 90% heavy brostep with tracks that would be well at home on a “MOST BRUTAL DUBSTEP DROPS OF 2010” compilation. It was really fun to be there though, and I could not help think that no, Brostep didn’t “die” like we might say here in the Northeast. Rather, it survives as a more niche thing; there were seemingly diehard Heads for this at every age, relishing every drop. I guess its kind of also that the whole Trap phenomenon, and the sort of Mr. Carmack/west coast bass/hip hop hybrid stuff fits well within a mix of this music too. Not surprising then that we heard old-but-classic Bassnectar’s “Bass Head,” an earlier dubstep/west coasty hybrid innovation 

It’s just so funny to see what we still imagine as music for huge EDM festivals with thousands of people being performed in a small bar, but again it feels like it has always been there for the people who are into it. Whereas someone on a Facebook group for electronic music proclaimed that the BROSTEP REVIVAL was here by linking to a sort of “post” EDM sounding release, it appears that for some the actual genre has stayed a ‘thing’ throughout its apparent decline.

2. Algorithmic composition/Live coding Can Be Lame 

One of the biggest “trends” in electronic music of the last year or so is the method of algorithmic composition for electronic (dance) music, where musicians are actually creating the music that is heard through writing of code.  

In a live setting, this has been called “live coding,” where often the music is projected behind the performer - and there are many interesting examples of this on Youtube

Although we arrived at SXSW a day later than Renick Bell’s set (one of the best known/highest regarded employers of this method), I was able to catch a glimpse of one performance. The attendees of a larger event in a large bar were encouraged to walk to a smaller back section of the building, where we were told there was someone doing live-coding, and that they were a physics student, and that it was very impressive what they were doing. The performance was actually difficult to watch because there was little engagement/connection with the audience, and no visual interest (often live-coders will make things interesting by projecting the code behind them). It’s difficult to talk about because, of course, we want to encourage interesting experimental music, but that performance reminded me even this can be done in a less affecting way. Maybe this was the result of a combination of factors that the performer had little control over as just one aspect of  a much larger event in a much much larger festival. Regardless, I do look forward to seeing an interesting live-coding performance in the future.

3. Have DJs at your House in the Suburbs

The best show I went to at SXSW was not an official event, but rather an all-night show at a house at the end of a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood outside of Austin proper, run by two local collectives Black Marble Collective and Wabi Sabi. Billed as an all nighter with 25+ different acts, several of whom were well known artists who had played official events the night before, it was something that had to be experienced. When I arrived, there was almost no one there, and the only people there were there for the fact that it was a house party. When I told them I was a music director who flew down from Montreal and that this was about to be actually a really interesting event with a lot of great DJs, they seemed surprised. This dynamic actually made for a great experience. The sets mostly hung around the 160bpm footwork/jungle range, although someone took it to a 130bpmish grimey set too. It was really great and actually better than anything else I had been to because it involved actual connection and a genuine party atmosphere, rather than the kind of more corporate/promoter organized events. Check these links:

Black Marble Collective label page https://blackmarblerecords.bandcamp.com/ (Check out that new Dev79)


Nikes (!!!!!!) https://nikes89.bandcamp.com/album/never-too-late 

Holden Carroll is the Electronic Music Director at CJLO 1690AM, and the host of Multiple Tabs, which airs on Thursdays at 2:00 PM.