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MUST SEE ACTS AT SXSW

15 must-catch acts for a diverse SXSW 2016 experience… 

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South by Southwest has long served as a proving grounds for up-and-coming indie bands, but more recently the Austin-based music festival has attracted a growing number of dance music acts and DJs. This year’s fest, which goes down March 15-20, will feature hundreds of acts playing at official showcases and unofficial day parties across downtown Austin and into the rest of the city. Just trying to make sense of it all is sure to make your head explode, so here’s a breakdown of some of the bests artists on the SXSW showcase bill.  
 
 
Bombino 
A lot of DJs get paid more than rockers these days, but guitarists like Omara “Bombino” Moctar keep the spirit of Jimi Hendrix alive. The Tuareg guitarist from Niger, who worked with Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors on his soon-to-be-released album ‘Azel’, is a global sensation thanks to his easygoing licks, euphoric solos and inspiring messages.  
 

Crystal Castles  
The magnetic Crystal Castles frontwoman Alice Glass parted ways with songwriter/producer Ethan Kath in 2014. Kath has pressed on without her under the Crystal Castles name, and it’ll be interesting to see how the group — previously famed for their eye-popping, explosive live show — fares onstage with contributions from new singer Edith Frances.  
 

GRRL 
Once a curator for the Twitter and SoundCloud set, North Carolina’s GRRL now delivers delightful, gunk-encrusted beats that will make you feel like you’re venturing through a dicey corner of the Tron mainframe. Synth flutes, banging drums, pixelated riffs and anime-friendly melodies abound.  
 

 
HÆLOS  
Sounding like a cross between Portishead and Enya, recent Matador Records signees HÆLOS take a ’90s new-age sensibility and imbue it with new creative power through breakbeat-laden grooves and intoxicating boy-girl vocals. It’s calming enough to work as a yoga session soundtrack, but urgent enough to make you get busy on the dancefloor.  
 

 
Haihm 
It takes a magic touch to make Haihm’s kind of electronic music. Working with an array of glitchy elements — vocal snippets, clipped synths, cut-up samples — the Seoul beatmaker forms stunning compositions that transcend their techy roots and speak to a very human sense of emotional understanding and generosity. Powerful stuff.  
 

 
Imran Aziz Mian Qawwal 
The Sufi devotional song form known as qawwali leaves plenty of room for ecstatic release, and that’s clear in the music of Pakistani singer and poet Imran Aziz Mian. The son of qawwali legend Aziz Mian, Imran carries on this rich vocal and musical tradition of Central Asia through marathon performances accompanied by harmonium, backup singers, and epic tabla grooves.  
 

 
JLin  
Chicago’s footwork scene will be well represented in Austin this week, with respected figures RP Boo and DJ Spinn, as well as younger producers like DJ Taye making appearances. A must-see will be JLin, an Indiana steel worker who made her acclaimed 2015 album ‘Dark Energy’ in her off-hours, bringing a potent organic energy to this frenetic dance music style.  
 
 

Mumdance 
The producer born Jack Adams has worked with London grime artists and boundary-pushing Cairo musicians, taking inspiration from the cyberpunk visions of William Gibson. He started out making killer party tunes on Mad Decent, but nowadays it’s a thrill to see him pushing in raw and alluring new directions. 
 

 
N.A.A.F.I 
Based in Mexico City, the N.A.A.F.I label holds it down in the massive city’s club music underground, supporting beatmakers like Siete Catorce and Mexican Jihad who bring a murky and subdued edge to the dancefloor. Members of the crew also form into a band which lets them further advance their subversive, regional yet global vision. 
 
 
 
PRAYERS 
These inventors of the genre “cholo goth” make crude, punked-out synthpop tunes that combine experiences in street gangs and graffiti with a love for Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys. Their singer Leafar Seyer — aka San Diego musician/artist Rafael Reyes — is full of star power: handsome, heavily-tattooed and always ready with the hooks and one-liners.  
 

 
Prince Rama 
It’s kind of hard to tell if this Brooklyn duo is joking or dead serious — sisters Taraka and Nimai make majestically quirky psych-pop tunes and tongue-in-cheek music videos, bringing it all together with a Labyrinth-like theatricality. David Bowie probably would’ve dug them.  
 

 
Rabit 
Tri Angle-signed beatmaker Rabit (aka Eric Burton) does crazy things like build a beat out of a sample that sounds like a trash compactor. He has a taste for sonic violence and overwhelming intensity, and this show will likely not be for the faint of heart. But if you’re down, it's sure to offer some bone-deep catharsis. 
 

 
Sarah Farina  
The streets of downtown Austin can be a rough place when SXSW reaches its peak — there’s trash, there’s chaos, and there's a shitload of people. But you’ll be able to escape all of that thanks to Sarah Farina, a Berlin DJ whose sets mix in everything from footwork to hip-hop to UK bass music. It all fuses into a chill-yet-funky amalgamation that she aptly calls “rainbowbass.”  
 

 
Sevdaliza 
This Dutch R&B singer shows a penchant for glamor in some of her music videos, but she’s also full of raw intensity, her songs drawing you in only to switch gears like a gradual mood swing. If her live show is as good as her 2015 EP ‘The Suspended Kid’, it should be a powerful performance indeed.  
 

 
UNIIQU3 
Newark producer Cherise Gary calls herself the Jersey Club kween, and she earns her credentials by forging colorful bangers that boom with low-end and ecstatic, stuttering samples. Don’t come to this one unless you want to dance your ass off. 
 
Words: PETER HOLSLIN  

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