The wonderful thing about FORM Arcosanti being such a small, well-put-together festival is that you can pretty much see everything you want to see. All the usual festival trouble of conflicting sets and having too much to see is solved by a compact lineup and a schedule with few overlaps. Starting on Friday, May 10, it'll be just you and a couple of thousand soon-to-be-former-strangers enjoying a handful of the most cutting-edge acts in international music.
That being said, we still have our favorites. Here are the 10 acts we're most excited for at FORM Arcosanti 2019.
Since her excellent indie project Japanese Breakfast went big, Michelle Zauner has zagged creatively where others might have zigged. Rather than immediately following up 2018's gorgeous Soft Sounds From Another Planet, she wrote an essay for The New Yorker called "Crying in H-Mart" about the nostalgic relationship between herself, a Korean supermarket chain, and her departed mother, soon to be turned into a full-length memoir under the same title. She's also composing the music for Sable, a PC game due out this year. With all this production, it's entirely possible she might have some new songs to share at FORM.
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Does it say more about the industry or the talents of this Berlin-via-Korea DJ that a single EP could launch her into the electronic stratosphere? Granted, Peggy Gou's Once is a very good EP, anchored by the strength of her Korean-language vocal track on "Itgehane (It Makes You Forget)," and she's just followed it up with another one, Moment, out on her new label, Gudu Records. This time, English-speaking fans can sing along to the chorus of "Starry Night," a pop-house bop that's already one of the year's best.
You'll notice on the cover of DJ Koze's Knock Knock that the man himself is nestled within the branches of a Joshua tree. While FORM may not be anywhere near the Mojave, clearly the German producer and DJ has tapped into a desert wavelength that will be in perfect tune with Arcosanti's desolate surroundings, and you can just tell from the trippy, funky tunes on Knock Knock that the man will put on a set for the ages in a setting that he's more than enthusiastic for.
Festival lineups can be fickle things. That headliner secured months ago could pull out at the last minute due to travel issues, health problems, or any other reason. So when FORM had to replace Tirzah, JPEGMAFIA, and Mulatu Astatke, they turned to Robert Glasper. A stalwart of the legendary label Blue Note, the Grammy-winning jazz pianist has done everything from playing on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly to covering Radiohead on his record In My Element . His unexpected addition adds an infusion of jazz that wasn't there before to FORM's already stacked lineup. Every cloud has a silver lining.
Montreal's produced quite a few dance music greats, from Tiga to Jacques Greene and Lunice, but Kaytranada may be the most celebrated and idiosyncratic of them all. He began by releasing tons of tracks on SoundCloud before dropping his debut LP, 99.9%, on XL Recordings, which included a feature from FORM headliner Anderson .Paak. Since then, it's been collabs, remixes, edits, tons of fire sets at festivals all over the world, and more new tracks, including the most recent one, "DYSFUNCTIONAL."
You'll definitely want to bring earplugs to Tim Hecker's set at FORM. Although the addition of the Konoyo Ensemble — a rolling group of musicians adding Japanese gagaku instrumentals to the Canadian composer's electronic textures — will add an element of ancient refinement to the set, Hecker himself will be supplying his usual walls of sound. That means you'll be getting a faceful of pure noise that'll vibrate your entire body. You can look elsewhere in Arcosanti for a sound bath; this is nothing short of a sound drowning.
If you were at the FORM Labs takeover of the Phoenix Art Museum last month, you probably saw Josiah Wise, a.k.a. serpentwithfeet. You were probably enchanted by his tender, melismatic vocals and his strange, poetic lyrics. Luckily, if you missed him when he was in town, he'll be at FORM Arcosanti as well, delivering his mesmerizing, gospel-inspired R&B to an enraptured audience.
Another vet of FORM Labs, Kelsey Lu spent much of the last year shuttling around with Oneohtrix Point Never as a special guest of his "multimedia experience," MYRIAD. Now, she's back on her own, having just put out her debut album, Blood. The experimental cellist still keeps one in the chamber (music, that is) on tracks like "Rebel," but collabs with the likes of Skrillex and Jaime xx freshen things up, as does a surprising cover of 10cc's "I'm Not In Love."
I mean, how can you not? If you have the chance to see "Never Meant" live, you should take it. Legendary Midwestern emo band American Football may have outgrown their one-album wonder status with an extended revival that's grown to two more self-titled records, but it's the first song off their first album that hits the hardest. Its wistful, math-rock guitar line and lyrics about a doomed relationship — it could be your breakup, it could be mine, it could be anyone's, and that's what makes it iconic — has lately become fodder for memes, getting ironically spliced in with DJ drops and other video edits. The cover of American Football (1999) is a meme as well, and has been one for years. You can't miss this. Your heart won't be able to take it if you do.
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A surprise addition to the lineup, Fred Armisen's years on Portlandia and as an integral part of the Saturday Night Live cast in the 2000s may have you think he's not musically inclined. But you would be very, very wrong: As soon as he left SNL, he joined fellow cast member Seth Meyers as the bandleader on Late Night With Seth Meyers. He's also invented entire parody bands for episodes of Documentary Now with Bill Hader. It's unclear what he's going to do at FORM, but whatever happens, it should be interesting.
FORM Arcosanti 2019. Friday, May 10, through Sunday, May 12, at Arcosanti, 13555 South Cross L Road, Mayer; experienceform.com. Sold out.