NXNE at various venues from Thursday to Sunday (June 19 to 22). NXNE Music, NXNE Comedy, NXNE Art run to June 22, NXNE Interactive to June 21. NXNE Film June 22. For ticket and wristband info, see nxne.com/tickets.
at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Friday (June 20), midnight. NXNE wristband or $20. nxne.com.
An air of folkloric mystery has surrounded Goat since the Swedes released their debut album, World Music, in 2012. A dizzying fusion of African rhythms, soaring metal riffs and psychedelic funk, it's become a cult and critical favourite.
Onstage the band amplifies this primordial pulse with masks and costumes that also shield their identities, which they further obscure in interviews by using an array of pseudonyms, from the fantastical (Goatman) to the mundane (Christian Johansson) to the ridiculous (see next paragraph).
A deal with U.S. indie label Sub Pop earlier this year hasn't changed this. As member Goat McKartney explains, individualism is antithetical to the band's guiding principles.
"Be aware that almost everything you do, you do inside a group or collective," McKartney says. "Your job, your family, your friends, society. We try to be aware of the importance of the collective and the unimportance of the individual when we make music - and in life in general. This is the main reason we wear our robes and masks.
"Some of our masks are more than a thousand years old, and some are homemade stuff. For some of us, the masks have a long family history; for others they reflect how the person feels about the music. The main thing is that they unite us and make us play as one."
The story is that Goat hail from Gothenburg and the remote hamlet Korpilombolo, which - according to the band - was home to voodoo practitioners who were burned to death by crusaders.
The legend's blend of voodoo spiritualism and Scandinavian collectivism is as compelling a way as any to explain the music's themes of transcendence.
So what's the story behind the band name?
"We didn't choose it. Our ancestors did," says McKartney. "I believe it had something to do with a sacrifice they did - the sacrifice of their individualities."
2. Omar Souleyman
at Vice Island (Toronto Island), Thursday (June 19), 7:15 pm. $30 or NXNE wristband, rsvp.vice.com/viceisland; and at Yonge-Dundas Square, Friday (June 20), 6:30 pm. Free. nxne.com.
Not many wedding singers can say they've collaborated with both Björk and Four Tet, but Omar Souleyman is in a class of his own. The legendary Syrian performer specializes in the modern form of dabke folk music, which adds electronic sounds and rhythms to the traditional genre.
While his approach is rougher and rawer than that of many of his contemporaries, that edge has helped Souleyman connect with audiences outside the Middle East, allowing him to move beyond the wedding circuit to festival stages all over the world.
If you include his widely bootlegged live recordings, there are more than 500 Omar Souleyman albums in circulation, so don't bother yelling out requests. Better instead to just let loose and join the dance party.
3. Xiu Xiu
at M for 159 Manning, Friday (June 20), 7 pm. NXNE wristband or $20; and the Great Hall (1087 Queen West), Friday (June 20), 10 pm. NXNE wristband or $15. nxne.com.
While they're originally from San Jose, California, there's no trace of sunny beach pop vibes in Xiu Xiu's intensely gloomy synth pop. Few artists are as adept at capturing the frayed-nerves feeling of crushing anxiety as vocalist Jamie Stewart, although careful listens also reveal a delicate sense of hope and tentative, nervous joy amidst the heartbreak and depression.
Xiu Xiu's newest album, Angel Guts: Red Classroom (Polyvinyl), is one of their most divisive yet, horrifying as many critics as it thrilled. The sex and death themes are present as always, but increased use of guitar brought Stewart's Suicide influences closer to the foreground. Not for the easily bummed out.
at Massey Hall (178 Victoria), Thursday (June 19), 9 pm. NXNE wristband or $30. nxne.com.
Planning on seeing Tobacco's live show? Consider yourself warned: the Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman plays his heavy analog electronic beats in front of a video backdrop that's pure nightmare (or fetish) fodder - gory films fused with Freddy Krueger spoof porn, Jerry Springer clips, erotic 1980s-era exercise videos, advertisements for 1-800-CREEP hotlines.
Then, of course, there's the music, which sounds as if the Pittsburgh-based artist (real name Tom Fec) revels in making the listener's skin crawl. It's brutally spastic and full of foreboding, but with hints of swelling, sunny melodies. Before things get too cozy, though, Fec will contort his vocoder-laced vocals to relay some alien message.
Watch out for the artist's cult of fans, who wear grotesque latex orange masks that Fec sold through Kickstarter to help fund Black Moth Super Rainbow's latest record, Cobra Juicy.
In short: get ready for Massey Hall to turn into your own personal horror film.
6 more for fans that have seen it all
This Toronto/Montreal trio make ambient electronic music that could be the soundtrack to a secret black magic ceremony.
Thursday (June 19) at Edward Day Gallery and Friday (June 20) at the Garrison.
Brian Borcherdt (Holy Fuck, Dusted) and Laura Hermiston (BB Guns) team up for some haunting, ambient country experiments.
Thursday (June 19) at the Great Hall and Friday (June 20) at 159 Manning.
This Toronto foursome love walls of droning guitar noise, pounding rhythms and gurgling synths, but also aren't scared of the occasional melody.
Thursday (June 19) at the Great Hall and Saturday (June 21) at Lee's Palace.
The Jerry Cans
All the way from Nunavut, the Jerry Cans combine Inuktitut country swing and throat singing with decidedly non-Arctic references like reggae.
Saturday (June 21) at the Tranzac Club.
The highly influential UK space rock veterans are masters of finding pop beauty under a druggy haze of drones.
Friday (June 20) at Massey Hall.
This Brooklyn ambient pop duo craft melancholic ballads full of pretty textures and dark undercurrents.
Friday (June 20) at the Garrison.