Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday's Earful: Sleigh Bells

By: David Schultz

In the glut of bands that invade Austin every year for SXSW, there are some that will have you scratching your head, making you wonder where they fall on the clever vs. stupid spectrum. One of the more unlikely spots to see one of these bands was the NPR showcase at The Parish. Yet, to close out the heavily trafficked day party was Sleigh Bells, an odd duo from Brooklyn made up of Derek Miller, a former hardcore guitarist, and Alexis Krauss, a grown up veteran of the girl group era. With a computer providing a rafter shattering drumbeat and Miller pumping out choppy, reverb heavy guitar riffs, Krauss bounced energetically about, barking out lyrics like propaganda slogans and unleashing the occasional primal shriek.

One of the undeniable breakout stars from the most recent CMJ Festival, Sleigh Bells make a game attempt to reproduce the madly innovative mix of rump-shaking beats and avant-garde guitars. “A/B Machines” needs nothing more than a bent guitar note and a nonsensical phrase and “Crown On The Ground” has a backing beat for which most rappers would trade their left gold tooth. At The Parish, too much of the work was done by the computer software, which failed Miller on a couple occasions, possibly resulting an abbreviated set. Unlike the studio, Krauss has to carry the live set, which she capably does, belting out the Sleigh Bells manifestos with the impassioned fury of a metal goddess.

I’m still not sure if Sleigh Bells is genius or noise . . . or both. I am still listening though.

They will be hitting the road with Yeasayer in a couple months and an album seems to be in the works. In the meantime, you can find various Sleigh Bells tracks floating around the InterWebs. You can also check out their SXSW set on the NPR site by clicking here.