The music of Viet Cong is almost dizzyingly intricate and dazzling, with songs consisting of hundreds of little tiny parts that sometimes work together, sometimes in opposition. Usually music that pays such close attention to detail can seem mannered or precious, but on stage at SXSW's Hype Hotel on Thursday (March 19), they delivered those songs with ragged energy, sounding more fitful and explosive than buttoned-down and mechanical.

Part of that is owed to the sandy, baritone vocals of frontman Matt Flegel. They scraped along the bottom of each song, sometimes gruff and hoarse, sometimes full and resonant, but always decidedly at odds with the crystalline, pirouetting guitars.

On "Unconscious Melody, he hollered against the softly glowing guitars, sounding aggrieved and determined all at once. Like many of Viet Cong's songs, that one takes a hard left halfway through, pausing for the drums to do a stutter-step, which is mimicked by the guitars before the whole thing resumes. They drop paragraphs of sound like that into all of their songs; another hard-charging number reinvented itself halfway through with a lengthy section of braided, harmonic guitars, delivering notes that seemed to be shadowing each other in real-time.

They were also masters of dynamic; "Neon Streets" was tense and taut, an elastic riff stretching and snapping over and over, seeming closer to breaking with each go-round. Flegl's vocals dragged underneath like an anchor across the ocean floor, kicking up handfuls of grit and grain with each syllable.

Their set was a meticulous wonder, proof that power and proficiency need not be mutually exclusive.

Brought to you by Mazda, official automobile sponsor of #HypeON.

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