xam

XAM is the project of Matthew Benn or MB, the bassist from Hookworms, as he’s perhaps most commonly known. On his debut 12” under this moniker he manages to traverse a great distance, soaking up forty-two minutes in just three tracks. The tracks, instrumental and electronic, are led by ‘Werk & Play’ a motorik-led arrangement but done so with a subdued hum, not a screeching charge. The focus of the track often remaining on the pastoral – and Cluster and Michael Rother-like – textures that flutter around the constantly driving beat. This has all the progression and propulsion of something moving forward but it’s more settled and exploratory in its journey, more a steady voyage out to sea than a foot-to-the-floor charge down an open road. It’s this sort of breathing room that gives the album such a weight and satisfying immensity.

There’s a galactic vastness to the compositions, which are often underpinned by one repeating melody driving the song forward but outside of that there feels like another sonic world orbiting around the primary charge – a constantly interlocking synergy. This is most accurately captured on ‘Coke & Float’, which somehow manages to sound like it was created in 1972 but yet remains entirely free from cloying pastiche or cliché. It seems more emblematic of the period’s mentality in a sense of wanting to push forward and explore new boundaries rather than it simply being an exercise in stylistic adaptation.

The tone and texture changes for the final track, if ‘Coke & Float’ was a rocket ascending into space then ‘Lifer’ is its ejected astronaut floating endlessly, suspended and in awe of the limitlessness. Its twenty-two minutes feels intensely cinematic, like if Wendy Carlos had scored 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a truly immersive and gratifying listening experience and one that leaves you feeling like you yourself have been ejected from something once it comes to an end.

This project, and the musical experimentations captured on it, is clearly a relatively new outing for Benn and the feeling of growth and playfulness, of finding ones feet, is apparent on it and that’s what gives it such a joyous aura. It’s a dense, introverted, cosmic collection of compositions but the feeling of the creator having real fun assembling the sounds is always close to the surface.

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