Xeno & Oaklander

Xeno & Oaklander

As a musical act, Xeno & Oaklander (Sean McBride and Liz Wendelbo) conflate a rich love of analogsynths, melody, and mythology with eloquent nuance and a nod to the heritage they draw from. While that construct is the duo’s immediate kiss and crush, there’s a deeper importance to their collaboration, whichbegan in 2004. As evidenced in their debut Vigils (2004), McBride and Wendelbo’s artistic dynamic is more than just a mutual love for electronics but a contrast between architectural precision and painterly expression. From the film scores to the traditional albums they’ve recorded in their Brooklynstudio, they’ve both spurred and fostered the global synth wave revival through a commitment to analog-only production and performance as well as a strident respect for the medium.On their latest album Hypnos and first for the Dais imprint, the duo leveraged the talents of visual artist and live sound engineer Egan Frantz to mix the album. It’s a touch that adds both punch and balance, allowing their inherent conceptual voices to converge into a collage with defined edges and warm, synapses offrequency and beat.“Musically, Hypnos is a return to polyphony after several years of using strictly monophonic synthesizers,” McBride says about the album’s ethos. “This has brought dense harmonies and a more complex counterpoint to the composition. Staying with the same equipment and processes without the inveterate compulsion to update and refashion allows for a clearly perceivable genealogy with our previous work.”“I felt the desire to tell mythical stories, I also wanted my voice to sit strongly in themix,” Wendelbo explains. “I channelledthe spirits of 60s French Pop chanteuse Françoise Hardy and 80s New Wave New York icon Tina Weymouth.” Her intentions are best evidenced on the tracks “Angelique,”and “Insomnia,” the former a spry track sung in French, against a springy rhythm. Laden with expanding and contrasting frequency and a penchant for strategic rhythm, Hypnos juxtaposes dance with distance, creating an immersive oeuvre that exudes contrast and control.

TIERS came about rather nebulously in the hazy hours when late becomes early and when consciousness yields to instinct. It is in these bleak hours that Jennifer Mears (vocals, synth, electronics) and Cult of Youth‘s Glenn Maryansky (electronics, synth, bass) write songs that ride the line between sterility and blissful grime, often going from stark airy synthpop to dense, almost industrial fuzz within the same song. It is this dynamic that separates Tiers from the myriad other male/female duos out there and it would be ill-advised to attach any labels to them since they are intent on defying expectation.

Public Memory is the solo project of Brooklyn’s Robert Toher, recorded over the course of a year as he lived in Los Angeles temporarily. Previously of the group ERAAS, Robert places a greater emphasis on electronics in this new project. Rhythm is at the forefront, with the tone informed by stripped down, narcotic impressions of krautrock, hypnotic percussion, and subtly layered atmospherics.

To call it minimal would, on the surface, seem appropriate. Wuthering Drum does not need an abundance of flashes and frills to illustrate its point, nor does it need smoke and mirrors to mask a lack of vision. However, repeated listens yield layers of tonal variations, textural nuance, and tastefully placed overdubs. The Korg MS-20 does the lion’s share of tonal work, but listen carefully to the percussion and try to see where electronic ends, organic begins, and vice-versa.

There is a slightly religious or spiritual element at Wuthering Drum'’s core; a sense of being in an existential crisis, while simultaneously being uplifted, in the face of change. The focus is on a kind of renewal, but not in the New Age, aggressively positive sense. This is the search for redemption in a far away place, away from comfort; it is adjustment to an inner dissonance, rather than the washing over of past fears and regrets with sterile holy waters.

Wuthering Drum was released in March of 2016.

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