Earlier this month, I caught two brief Warpaint sets at South by Southwest. The first was at the intimate Spotify house, while the second was an abbreviated three-song outing during Spin’s daytime showcase at Stubb’s BBQ. Both performances were gummed up by a pedantic SXSW schedule that leaves but a few short moments to troubleshoot sound issues and solve delays. So it was a relief to catch an extended performance that existed on Warpaint’s own timetable. After all, the Los Angeles based all female group’s sound is richest when it steeps and blooms at a deliberate pace. And this is especially true of the songs off their recent self-titled release, live renditions of “Intro” and “Hi” included.
Like The xx or even Massive Attack before them, Warpaint plunged headfirst into a gulf of ambient experimentation, replete with a synthesized ebb and flow, and melodic jaunts through otherworldly landscapes. Theresa Wayman and Emily Kokal’s mischievous vocals roared with remorse and purpose – like on lead single crowd pleaser “Love is to Die” – while also piquing a sense that there was real danger just beyond the horizon. This was most apparent during the bubbling mob energy that forced its way into “Disco//very”. Kokal wailed and lamented: “I make room for everyone/ I need to take a break!”
Jenny Lee Lindberg’s lockstep bass lines were hypnotic, possessing an eerie tranquility that could burst at any moment, like Kim Deal chewing nitroglycerin. Stella Mozgawa’s drum work also built a delicate tension that wove hip-hop beats with electronic snares and hi-hats. The sound was almost inscrutable but in a ghostly and mesmerizing fashion. It’s cool music that holds a center stage spot just as easily as it functions in the background. So much so that several CoS writers have placed bets as to how soon foodies will hear Warpaint drip through the speakers of their favorite Michelin Guide-rated restaurants: braised agedashi tofu topped with fiddlehead fern and blackberry truffles in front of you while the ethereal keys of “Biggy” dance in the air.
2014 has delivered a swell of support for the quartet, though the group has been at this for years. It was great to take in Warpaint’s new sound. But it was also a reward for loyal followers to hear several cuts from 2010’s The Fool, as well as encore closer “Elephants” off their John Frusciante-produced debut EP, Exquisite Corpse.
The band continues its US jaunt with opening spots for Queens of the Stone Age, The National, and Nick Cave respectively. They will also be on the festival circuit, hitting Coachella, Primavera, and Bonnaroo before jetting overseas for several European appearances.
Keep It Healthy
Love Is to Die
No Way Out