jj – Live at SXSW

jj Live at Malverde 03.17.10

One of the first shows I really wanted to catch at SXSW was the iamsound party which featured jj, Sleigh Bells & Salem playing back to back to back. It was easily the worst run show (that I attended) of the entire festival. I think the fault fell mostly on the sound guys who required 45 minutes to set up every single act which for jj is a simple CD PLAYER, MIC AND GUITAR. They were two hours behind schedule, more on that later…

jj, who have mostly been anonymous until now, takes the stage; a duo Joakim Benon (he) and Elin Kastlander (she). She looks very, very young. I would have guessed 18. The Joakim takes stage next to a laptop, hits play and continues to stand on stage for the entire set –never interacting with another piece of equipment– as Elin sings over the cd. I’m not sure if it sounds as whacky as it was to experience. My expectations were high as jj have been one of the bands I’ve listened to, and recommended, most over the last year. Yes it was karaoke but on top of that it felt like watching a producer who wants the spotlight.

The songs themselves sounded great, their music is great, but Elin seemed so incredibly uncomfortable she hardly moved. She never spoke to the audience. Occasionally, during an instrumental break, Joakim would talk over and whisper something in her ear to which she’d smile and he’d go back to his post. As the set went on he started looking more and more odd. Like he was unable to concentrate or see straight. It like he was on ecstasy but I thought maybe I was just making that connection due to their song of the same name. I kind of shrugged it off.

I had the unfortunate luck to catch their set the next night as I was at Mohawk to see The xx. Again, they take the stage, this time she at least had a guitar. But this was hands down the most uncomfortable performance I have ever witnessed. This night Joakim hits play on the laptop, whispers something in Elin’s ear then hops off the side of the stage and puts his head between his legs, hands on head, for the entire set. My previous thought about the ecstasy was definitely confirmed. He was so high he couldn’t even manage to stand on stage next to his band-mate. The band’s manager spent the set trying to shield the photogs from getting shots of all this. Once Elin finished up she came off stage and tapped him on the shoulder, they whispered back and forth while she assured him he didn’t need to apologize. Eventually a stage hand says “hey guys, who wants to go on a little walk?!” Elin grabs him and they go.

The xx have a potential nightmare on their hands taking this band on tour with them. No energy, nothing even remotely interesting to watch. Whoever told this band that they should go on tour made a huge mistake. There is no performance, not one person will have seen that show and left with something positive to say. Truly a wreck.

I recorded a couple of tracks from the first night:

      jj - No Escapin' This & From Africa to Maliga

      jj - Ecstacy & Things Will Never Be the Same Again

Photo via Stereogum

jj – Let Go

 

The new jj album is less immediate than the last, likely due to releasing 2 full lenghts in under a year. Not usually a good thing to do. I believe this is the first time the band have been ‘unmasked.’ The band will be on tour with The xx next month.

      jj - Let Go

jj nº 3

Last May a 2 track EP, jj nº 1, was released and instantly received consant rotation on my ipod and stereo. Shortly after came a debut full length, jj nº 2. With drugged out hits like “Ecstasy” and gorgeous vocals like those on “Are You Still in Vallda?” among an albums worth of soft and beatiful jams the album quickly became one of my favorites of the year.

Before 2009 was even over there was talk about the group signing with Secretly Canadian and a new album on the way. That album has a name, jj nº 3, and a release date, March 10. This is sure to be one of the most pleasing albums you will hear all year.

From SC:
jj nº 3 is destined to be the quintessential winter 2010 album, a soft, red smear of blood on a field of fresh snow.

jj create R&B and balearic dub from the ghosts of lost lovers; pop as delicate as a fawn’s nose across blades of frosted grass. It is the soundtrack for friends packed into the town square’s tiniest tavern, their moontanned, apple-cheeked faces glowing, their dilated pupils filled with all the meaning and meaninglessness of a magic 8-ball. Their music is both carefree without carelessness, and self-aware without being self-conscious. With it, they build an ice bridge arching from Gothenburg into the heart of middle America, and everywhere in between.

      jj - Let Go

      jj - My Way