Our third day at SXSW was a busy one. I (Ben Farrell, Music Director) spent my day scootering around the city, trying frantically to organize interviews with Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza, and New York R&B up and comer Isa Reyes. Tyler Dallman, our program director, was out and about, seeing music all day. We’d both been super excited for a certain performance: Lingua Ignota. Thankfully, Tyler got the opportunity to see her set. Check out his write up of her mind-bending set. Then, check out my take on Yung Lean six years in, and how he’s maintained relevance and quality. P.S., keep an eye out for those interviews! They’ll be up on the WSUM site soon!
When I saw that multidisciplinary artist and classically trained opera singer Lingua Ignota was playing at the Central Presbyterian Church here in Austin, I couldn’t believe it. Her most recent album was a tale of abuse consisting of a mix of harsh noise, death growls, beautiful piano, and ethereal vocals—it gave me the impression that this performance would be a desecration of holy ground. So, as I sat in the pew and waited for the performance to begin I took the chance, while I still could, to observe in wonder the stained-glass windows and century aged wood paneling, it was enthralling. After a brief introduction from Amanda Palmer the lights shut off. Lingua Ignota sauntered in from the back of the room carrying a lantern which threw her shadows across space. She began with a haunting tune that showed the breadth of what her voice was capable of. It resonated throughout the church while the lantern swayed slowly and unceasingly. After some songs with backing tracks, she played the latter half of her set singing and playing piano. During this half, the lantern stayed still and gave some stability to her performance. The whole set was absolutely beautiful and the music never strayed too far into the intensity that made up her album. Harsh noise would flicker in for a measure and disappear without a trace. Lingua Ignota’s death growls would come in at moments of great intensity and dissipate into a whisper-like falsetto. They provided small moments of anger in what was mostly beauty and grace. Her performance will stick in my mind for a while.
At a festival dominated by people over 30, Jonatan Leandoer was out of place. Over the span of his six year musical career, Leandoer, AKA Yung Lean has held an entirely unique position within the music industry. Half internet joke, half critically acclaimed, avant-garde musician, Lean has been an important pioneer in both the emo and Soundcloud rap movements. When his career began, neither of these labels even existed. Now, they dominate much of the modern rap landscape.
The SBE (Sad Boys Entertainment) head honcho played the Main in downtown Austin early Friday morning. With a start time of 1 AM, this late-night show drew two kinds of people: toward the front of the crowd, teens and twenty somethings with floppy hair and bad posture (like myself) had been bobbing their heads religiously since Ecco2k, an SBE member, set began at 11:00. These committed fans knew almost every word to all of Lean’s songs, and moshed with a fanatical fervor when, half way through his show, Lean dropped the beat for Yoshi City, the most famous song off of his 2014 release Unknown Memory. The second half of the crowd consisted of skeptical chin scratchers. These industry vets seemed to trickle in during the sets of Bladee and Thaiboy Digital, two more SBE affiliated acts, who performed immediately after Ecco2k. Though their enthusiasm wasn’t apparent, the writers and tastemakers seemed surprised, and more notably impressed by the Swedish emcees performance.
Though he’s only 22 years old, Lean’s understanding of his own music, set design, and stage presence were clear throughout the show. A carefully curated lights display flashed and undulated behind him, as he creeped and bobbed across the stage. Lean’s set drew from almost every single one of his releases, but began with the ear-drum-shattering kick drums of Warlord, the title track from his 2016 album of the same name.
Lean’s enigmatic persona was on full display, and both fans and skeptics were impressed with the show. Lean’s ability to maintain musical relevance is a testament to the quality of his music, his work ethic, and the deep love he possesses for his fans. The Soundcloud rap progenitor continues to impress, even in 2019.