Chastity Belt are Imposing + Hypnotic at SXSW’s Hype Hotel
The music of the Seattle group Chastity Belt is made mostly of shadows. They blanket slow-moving guitars across languid rhythms, creating songs that feel like midnight diary entries – baleful, honest and secret.
Over the course of their Thursday night set (March 19) at Hype Hotel at SXSW, they transformed the room into a kind of confessional, delivering songs full of wryly-observed social commentary – along with the occasional barbed retort – amidst music that was measured and slow-burning. On their eerie, gliding opener, vocalist Julia Shapiro lamented, "I’m looking for answers to questions that were never asked," as guitars swirled ghostlike behind her. Later, she admitted, "I'm never satisfied," with those same guitars lapping and ebbing.
Shapiro's voice is a marvel: Deep and throaty, it gives the songs an extra measure of weight and import, especially when they're pointed and accusatory. On "Drone," she repeated, "He was just another man trying to teach me something," as cascades of liquid guitar pooled behind her. "Cool Slut" was spryer and lighter, the guitars twinkling like wind chimes, but Shapiro's sharp lyrics about sexual double-standards provided the dark center around which the bright arpeggios circled.
Their music occasionally nods toward smoldering grunge balladry – at times, Shapiro's rich voice had the timbre and resonance of Eddie Vedder – but it more often recalled the shambling beauty of Crazy Horse, ragged guitars slowly slashing out frayed and weathered chords while Shapiro sat stock still at the center. It was alternately hypnotic and arresting.
Brought to you by Mazda, official automobile sponsor of #HypeON.