The Music of Day For NightSquarepusher, Photo: Courtesy of The Windish Agency
I think that it’s pretty obvious that the team at Day For Night won the festival lineup war this year. Aside from the insanity of Bjork Digital, and the fact that Aphex Twin will be in Texas for the first time in two decades, is all of the heavily curated acts. Names like SOPHIE, Oneohtrix point never, Liars, and Butthole Surfers to name a few. When I saw acts like Run The Jewels and Little Dragon alongside performances from legends like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Squarepusher; I was immediately sold. Below, we’ll delve into the importance of the music that the festival offers up, as well as some insight on the importance of them all.
Butthole Surfers, Photo: Bernt Rostad/Wikimedia
I doubt that many people who aren’t over thirty know about the importance of San Antonio’s Butthole Surfers. Quite possibly the most misunderstood band to sell over half a million records ever, the band carries importance in that somehow, they broke into the mainstream and became stars well past their beginnings. Partial art rock, partial psych rock, and all things insane, the band came up in an era when being a big rock star was reserved for anyone cheesy enough to sell their artistic souls to the masses. Their debut album, 1984’s Psychic….Powerless….Another Man’s Sac is one of the most bizarre and non-cohesive releases you’ll ever hear. Known for an intense, crazed, and often violent live show, the band utilized “Gibbytronix” and tape manipulation as tools during their live sets alongside pyrotechnics and nude dancers. Years later, the band shocked the world by signing to Capitol Records and recording with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones for what would become Independent Worm Saloon. While the album contained more straightforward rock tracks like the hit “Who Was In My Room Last Night?” and “Goofy’s Concern,” it was still far from the mainstream. Their next offering blew the band up with the single “Pepper,” and while the band released an almost all electronic album with Weird Revolution, and a compilation release as well as a live album; they haven’t released new material since 2001. The band is definitely due for new material, but their story is only partially told here. They are easily one of the greatest live bands in the history of music and one who was always ahead of their time. The fact that they swore off touring yet they’ll be appearing at this festival means that they’re an act that no one should miss out on.
If you told someone in 1992 that the future of electronic music was coming, they would have either been speculative or would have called you a liar. However, when Aphex Twin began, he was just that-the future of electronic music. Everything from releasing material under pseudonyms and alter egos to an elusive nature that rarely took photos, Aphex Twin was the beginning of it all. His contributions to genres like IDM and acid house are unparalleled, his debut release Selected Ambient Works 85-92 has been hailed a masterpiece by music critics everywhere, while his first proper full length …I Care Because You Do would later see the producer commissioning Philip Glass to create an orchestral version of the track “Icct Hedral” for a later release. Acclaim followed on the Come To Daddy release before Aphex Twin went a step further on Drukqs where he used a computer-controlled piano. In fact, if you dig through this guy’s history, you’ll find more revolutionary music and methods in making music than pretty much anyone in the genre. His elusive nature and rare performances make his set at Day For Night something no one should miss. With the insane methods from 2014’s Syro and this year’s Cheetah EP, what the producer will bring to the stage is anyone’s guess. And that’s what sets him apart.
You could say that Aphex Twin was an inspiration for the man who would become known as Squarepusher. Originally known as Stereotype, Squarepusher’s use of breakbeats in electronic music while exhibiting tracks with jungle and drum and bass is on a whole other level. Twenty years ago he was breaking the molds and pushing the boundaries of what we know as producer/ electronic music today. Known for incorporating live instrumentation into his live sets, Squarepusher’s use of visual aesthetics places him far ahead of what has become the norm in today’s electronica genre. Every release that Squarepusher dropped in the nineties was vastly ahead of the bulk of what was being released at the time. Multiple instrumentation, Eastern instruments and various collaborations with Aphex Twin and others, electroacoustic works, the producer has always set himself apart from many acts in his own time and who have come after him. In recent years Squarepusher has toured with and without his live band, Shobaleader One, he’s utilized a custom LED mask for some of his live sets, and his neverending experimentation shows that those who see him perform have no idea what they’re in for. His latest album, last year’s Damogen Furies takes the listener to a whole new level of appreciation for the ever evolving artist. Each track is recorded live in one take with zero edits, and echoes the works of his earlier days like Do You Know Squarepusher. Due to the fact that the producer loves the stage, the fact that he’s a drum virtuosic and an impeccable bassist, and his immense showman skills coupled with his intensely intriguing music, Squarepusher is an act that everyone needs to catch perform at the festival this year.
Bjork Digital, Photo: Courtesy of Artist/Santiago Felipe
There were and are plenty of bands that were around when Iceland’s The Sugarcubes were fronted by an eleven year old girl by the name of Bjork, just like there were many solo artists around when she left and embarked on a solo career. But, for the past twenty three years, Bjork has never wavered, never deterred, and never stopped reinventing her sound and how it’s presented to the world. Understand, Bjork is the most inventive and boundary pushing artist of the past century, and with Bjork Digital, she’s pushing the envelope even further. The virtual reality based and cinematic experience has only been shown to a small amount of the globe, and the use of technology lines up perfectly with the overall experience. Pieces like “Family” and “Black Lake” from Bjork’s groundbreaking 2015 album Vulnicura are utilized alongside the artist’s use of 360 video and her own educational app Biophilia. Bjork herself is set to perform DJ sets throughout the festival, and should dazzle those in attendance with her futuristic outfits and broad range of music selections. This overall experience is what sets Day For Night apart, and anything Bjork does at the festival should be seen as the artist is herself, revolutionary.
There are in fact, multiple artists on this festival who have always followed their own path, one of which is also known as Oneohtrix Point Never. Using an impressive collection of computers and vintage synthesizers, this producer has raised the bar of the genre with rare and mind altering live sets. His albums are something else entirely to behold, and his latest drop Garden of Delete from last year might be one of the most intriguing electronic albums to be released in the past five years. The same could be said about Brighton, United Kingdom’s SOPHIE. The extremely reclusive producer has taken the world of dance music and turned it onto its head with his mix of Korean pop, Eurodance, and Japanese pop sounds. His PC music sound that takes underground dance music, UK garage, and overly synthesized beats is on a whole new level. He’s never performed in Houston, he’s rarely performed in the US, and while he produced the Vroom Vroom project for Charli XCX, it’s his 2015 collection of singles like “BIPP,” “LEMONADE,” and “HARD” that have set the young producer apart. While LA duo Liars is set to release a follow-up to their 2014 album Mess, you should know that they’re easily one of the most groundbreaking groups going. Residencies in LA, Berlin, and Brooklyn have formed their musical landscape, and their live shows have always been something to behold. One of the few live acts I’ve walked away from mesmerized, Liars have never taken time to smell the roses and have instead changed with each album while blowing minds with each and every performance.
The Jesus And Mary Chain, Photo: High Road Touring
When we look at artists that have redefined generations and have changed the world around them, we have to mention the Reid brothers also known as The Jesus and Mary Chain. It should be noted that there’d be no My Bloody Valentine or Dinosaur Jr without these Scottish pioneers, as their 1985 album Psychocandy changed the face of modern music. As well as contenders for the loudest band I’ve ever seen, albums like Darklands and Automatic were ahead of their time. In the nineties their albums Honey’s Dead and Stoned and Dethroned showcased that they were still up for changing the game, and they just dropped their first new music in eighteen years with the single “Amputation.” These legends haven’t been to Houston in over twenty years, and they’re an act you need to experience. As far as acts that you should take the time to see and chill, bass virtuoso and enigmatic producer Thundercat will be on hand to bring his chill jams to life. Almost like a funky R&B machine, his work on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly as well as collabs with the likes of Flying Lotus and Herbie Hancock shouldn’t overshadow his gorgeous 2015 album The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam. He just dropped a new single with “Bus In These Streets” where it sounds like he’s reinventing himself again, which the greatest artists always seem to do. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t catch the abstract hip hop of Brooklyn based and Venezuelan born Arca. This guy has never followed trends and has still made a name for himself with insane albums like 2014’s Stretch 1 and Stretch 2, as well as the groundbreaking intensity of last year’s Mutant. Arca also had a hand in writing and production on Bjork’s album Vulnicura as well as production on four tracks from Kanye West’s Yeezus.
One of the most insane and memorable experiences I’ve had at a show was witnessing the intensity that is a performance from Rhode Island’s Lightning Bolt. The two piece breaks the mold of what live sets are, they usually perform surrounded by audience members on the floor, and their most recent album Fantasy Empire from last year is bonkers and should sound amazing live. Like watching a heart attack set to music, these guys are some of the greatest live performers in music today, and anyone who sees their set should walk away a changed person. You can also become overwhelmed with change when you see Houston native Jana Hunter with her band, Lower Dens. Hailed by critics and fans everywhere, Lower Dens reinvented their live shows this last year, and their most recent album Escape From Evil is beautifully crafted and lushly presented. Their last set in Houston was something to behold, and with a new single “Real Thing,” the sounds Hunter will bring to the festival should evoke emotion from anyone watching the band perform. The soulful electronica of Australia’s Nick Murphy will also be on hand, and while you may know him by his former stage name Chet Faker, his latest singles “Fear Less” and “Stop Me” set him apart from the herd.
Run The Jewels, Photo: The Windish Agency
The festival will also feature the dark electronica of Chelsea Wolfe, whose live sets are one of the most alluring and personally engaging things you can witness. The same could be said about the set from Blonde Redhead. This trio has never followed trends, their albums are all wonderful, and their 1997 release Fake Can Be Just As Good was groundbreaking and broke the rules of what was happening at the time. After a four year absence, Austin’s S U R V I V E returned this year with their synth heavy sounds on RR7349. The four piece has always stood out in the Texas capitol, and this recent release has made many critics’ top album lists of the year. New York’s Blood Orange has also found his latest release Freetown Sound on most critics end of year album lists. Aside from producing tracks from Solange and Tinashe, Blood Orange brings a mix of pop sensibility and chill sounds to the festival. The alterna pop meets contemporary R&B styles of California’s BANKS will also perform on the fest, and hearing her latest release The Altar should get plenty of people grooving during her set. Hip hop super duo Run The Jewels will bring their highly cited and extremely next level hip hop on as well. Their latest single “Legend Has It” just shows how forward these two are, and if you’ve never seen them perform then you’re in for a real treat. One of the most insane live acts you can ever witness, the grindcore of Rhode Island five piece, Daughters will perform as well. Rumor has it that they had called it quits after their last album, 2010’s Daughters; but this set at the festival proves otherwise at least for now.
The beautifully crafted sounds of Sweden’s Little Dragon will also be on the festival, as will the high energy dance music of Kaskade. While I’m not really sure what John Carpenter will do during his set, I’m sure it’ll be just as mind altering as his films. The fact that we’ll be in the same space as the man who directed the legendary horror film “Halloween,” is enough to make me immediately giddy like a young child. Houston’s Travis Scott will bring his insane new hip hop album Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight to life with a set as well, while the insane lineup of Welcome To Houston will be on to blow minds with a slew of mic skills and hip hop that lives and breathes the bayou city. There’s also a landmark performance from LIMB, who will perform what he’s calling Octa which sounds as amazing as a set could be. In fact, there are a ton of Houston performers who will turn up the heat when they drop sets. Fat Tony will bring his high energy to the festival, as will -Us. and JERK. The synth heavy sounds of TEE VEE will drop a set as will the insane one man jams of Hevin, and a return set from the Jenny Hoyston lead Vacation Eyes, as well as a modular synth performance from Pfaff.
There are more artists on this festival, but these are just the ones that are a cut above what’s happening in music today. While you look over these acts and plan out how you’ll navigate the festival’s campus, please know that this is the best festival lineup of 2016, and the best way to put a puzzling year behind you. Taking place at the former Barbara Jordan post office at 401 Franklin, the two day festival has gates at 2 pm and the all ages and revolutionary event has tickets between $170 and $700.