Release Date: Nov 4, 2016
Record label: Sonic Cathedral
Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
As I’m sure each and every one of you is aware, 2016 has been a bit crappy. We’ve had the death of some of our most cherished rock stars, the frankly catastrophic Brexit result, and now, potentially, the election of one of the most dangerous presidents in the history of the US of A. Often, at times like this, people call for protest songs, artists people can rally behind for the greater good, people who create movements that those young lasses and lads can believe in.
XAM Duo is the self-titled debut from Hookworms' Matthew Benn and Deadwall’s Christopher Duffin. Comprising six tracks in total, it’s a collection of ambient improvisations where synths meet saxophones – scuzzy, jazz-tinged, bleepy, and in places, euphoric. At 23 minutes long, I Extend My Arms Pt I & II is a highlight, gradually building over an unnerving drone before getting squelchy and dark midway through, gradually morphing into a glorious Dan Deacon-esque pounder that's easy to get lost in; the similarly epic René (a mere 18 minutes this time) brings proceedings to a perfect close.
XAM Duo is a partnership between Hookworms' Matthew Benn and Deadwall's Christopher Duffin. The duo were set up by Hookworms' member and renowned producer MJ, and they recorded much of their first album at their initial rehearsal together. Both musicians were looking for a break from their noisy (Hookworms) and busily psychedelic (Deadwall) groups and looking to collaborate on something less structured and more electronic.
It’s funny and intriguing how synth-led musical constructions have come almost full circle in terms of credibility and creativity. Having been both a vehicle for exploratory ambition as well as DIY minimalism from the late-‘60s to early-‘80s, only to be abused and maligned from the over-polished mid-‘80s to the Pro-Tooled ‘00s, things have come full-circle to an era where vintage electronic technology has been revived with warmth and invention. Naturally, we may now have a tad too much of the stuff swelling the schedules of micro and small labels but there is certainly a satisfying spread of diversity to be found, as this following clutch of new releases attest.