Thursday, 21 January 2010
PRE-ORDER: XI - Light FM/Glass [Formant] & 000/Slippin’ [Immerse]
If there’s a problem inherent in any producer attempting to pull off a variety of different moods, it’s the danger of watering down through lack of focus. With the release of his latest two 12”s, Toronto native XI neatly manages to sidestep any such issues, marking himself out as impressively eclectic in style. Across two plates for Formant and Immerse, his music flits as though weightless between icy broken beat, two-step and austere techno, leaving a frosty tundra landscape punctuated by sudden shards of warmth and emotion. It’s appropriately chill for its Canadian origins.
Of the two 12”s, the Formant release is warmer in tone. The wispy drama and skittery percussion of ‘Glass’ recall the more abstract moments of 2562’s ‘Unbalance’ album, and ‘Light FM’ sends glacial chimes rippling through an ascend-descend bass melody that never really takes any drastically different trajectory - instead exploring every permutation before dissipating. Appropriate to the label’s output, which tends towards dark, percussive minimalism, his Immerse 12” further relegates melody to a supporting role, barely making an appearance at all in the sub, voice and drum battle of ‘000.’ 'Slippin' on the flip is another slice of particularly delectable ghostly garage, joining the ranks of an ever-swelling sub-genre that manages to encompass (amongst others) Burial, recent work by Instra:mental and Scuba, and Clubroot’s aquatic ambience. It’s also probably the best – and most dancefloor-ready - of the four tracks here, underpinned by razor-sharp, hard-panned hi-hats and a techy two-step flex.
Regardless of their relative energy levels, the common trait running through all four tracks is a deliciously palpable tension between XI’s complex, spiraling drum patterns and their backdrop of swelling, oceanic ambience – leaving his music suspended in some tranquil vacuum between waking and dream. The overall effect is oddly disconcerting, neither entirely dance-immediate nor calm enough for comfortable headphone listens, but all the better for it.
Words: Rory Gibb