JADE JACKSON and AUBRIE SELLERS Two Los Angeles-based roots-rock songwriters with solo careers decided to write together during quarantine, and emerged as a duo. Their video set for SXSW, with a partly masked backup band, was their first public performance. They leaned into electric Southern-rock stomps, shared modal harmonies, and introduced a new waltz about a year without concerts: “I want to go back to the way it was before we had distance between us,” Jackson sang.
MILLENNIUM PARADE Live Nation Japan sent SXSW a concert-scale production with the melancholy synth-pop group D.A.N., the cheerfully arrogant rapper-singer Awich (surrounded by dancers) and the full-scale overload of Millennium Parade, a large band led by Daiki Tsuneta with two drummers, plenty of computers and keyboards and multiple lead singers, male and female. It reached back to the bustling, horn-topped R&B of Earth, Wind & Fire, added latter-day sonic heft and occasional rapping, and surrounded itself with a video barrage that rocketed it into a “Blade Runner”/anime futurescape. In “2992,” between a bruising bass line and a fluttering orchestral arrangement, Ermhoi sang, “In this life we live, everyone is made to feel confused” — confused, perhaps, but exhilarated.
HARU NEMURI The Japanese songwriter Haru Nemuri started her set, which looked like a one-take video, as if it were going to be soft and gauzy. She was alone in a room and rapping in a near-whisper over a looped choir of women’s voices, with hints of Björk and Meredith Monk. But when she suddenly opened a door and ran upstairs to a rooftop, hard-rock guitars and a drumbeat came blasting in, and her vocals turned to a scream. Her next song was a shouted rap-rocker named “B.A.N.G.” and, after a breathless speech about wanting her music to “create something precious on this planet,” she was twirling and rapping at top speed over a galloping beat and dense organ chords; the song’s title, and chorus hook, was “Riot.”
ONIPA Based in Sheffield, England, Onipa drew on music from across Africa. Onipa means “human” in Akan, a language in Ghana, and its music had roots in Ghana, Congo, Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Algeria, along with hints of the African diaspora. The lyrics were in English, while the grooves were fusions that put momentum first.