Xander Harris megapostSeptember 2, 2013 at 12:30 am | Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments
Xander Harris headlined the Not Not Fun showcase at SXSW this year, and he was definitely one of the artists I was looking forward to seeing the most (but every set was fantastic). 2011′s Urban Gothic LP on NNF was a seriously great collection of lo-fi horror-disco, and his performance and recent releases have been equally exciting. I bought a few items from his merch table, and I’ll start off talking about the tape he released on C.G.I Friday. I didn’t realize at first that this was actually a split with a group called The Crow, I thought it was just a Xander tape called The Crow. It’s pretty short, there’s 4 songs per side and they’re all around 2-4 minutes long. Xander’s songs have his typical shambling lo-fi beatbox feel, with electro beats and some almost Orbital-ish textures during “Hard Candy”. “It’s The Eyes” has some dialog samples that sound like they’re punched in using the cheapest of keyboards. “Kull Wahad” starts off subdued and downtempo, but launches into a rickety electro beat towards the end. Couldn’t tell you a think about The Crow, but their side is pretty solid synth-pop, with shadowy vocals operating out of one speaker. Curiously, “Syndicate” only consists of drum programming, I’m wondering if there were supposed to be other elements added on top, but somehow only the beats made it to the tape. “Dreams Never End” is also instrumental, but there’s a driving melody to it, and no, it’s not a New Order cover. Possibly my favorite Xander Harris track so far is “The Driver” from his split 7″ with Dylan Ettinger, which Moon Glyph released last year. Such a basic, slamming beat, a lovely Italo-esque melody, and hard-panned percussive blasts. Definitely a mainstay of my gym MP3 player. Dylan Ettinger’s “Tipoff” is as awesome as any of his recent synth-pop material, further combining spooky lo-fi synth textures, Italo-inspired arpeggios and echo-slathered vocals. It seems a bit miniature compared to the tracks on Lifetime Of Romance, which is probably to be expected as this is just a track on a 7″ rather than on an album. Last year, Harris released kind of an under-the-radar CDr on Ruralfaune’s SynthSeries imprint, called Poison Belt. This album seems a slight bit more experimental than some of his other stuff, it’s slower and not as dancey, but it still shows kind of a dark yet playful sense of humor. The track “Suburban Gothic” obviously references his 2011 album title, but it also seems fitting as this release seems to be kind of a less flashy, more backwoods variation on his sound. Harris contributed a track to a compilation LP last year on Unseen Forces, called Grave Command: All Hallowed Hymns. The artwork is ghoulish and impressive, and the picture disc is absolutely beautiful, but most of the music is various forms of metal and isn’t really my thing, but there’s some highlights. Ghoul begins the album with a couple minutes of church organ and maniacal laughing. Occultation’s “All Hallows Fire” has a really cool delay-heavy doom-psych sound and Nico-ish female vocals, I enjoy that track a lot. The Xander Harris track is called “The Piper Of Soggoth”, and is a lot more of a straightforward horror-synth theme than his usual work, starting out beatless and then surprise attacking you with a bassline and galloping synth-drums before it ends. Danava’s “Grave Command (Main Theme)” ends the album and is pretty short and minimal, has a curious pulsing beat and chirping synths, and ends with a slowing heartbeat, but feels like more of a short segue scene than anything major. Earlier this year, Not Not Fun released The New Dark Age Of Love, the proper follow-up to Urban Gothic. I bought it a few months ago but I’m finally just getting around to listening to it now. First track “Night Fortress” made me think it was going to be a whole album of dancier tracks like “The Driver”, but it switches from soundtrack-like pieces to broken electro to slower witch-house tracks. “Vultures Of Tenderness” starts with a slow, ticking beat, and then heads straight up into suspenseful cosmic disco territory, and sounds simply wonderful. “Red Sky Sprawl” has memorable trancey synths and a kicking ’80s soundtrack electro-beat, which goes 4/4 at the end. Album closer “Clear Expensive Skies” has probably the most straightforward pounding beat and progression, and is as clear and shining as its title suggests.