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A review of...

XAM Duo by XAM Duo

Date: 
November 4, 2016
Writer: 
Adam Millard
8.5

The gist

XAM Duo hit the ground running with their improvisational-experimental debut

The music

The biography of XAM Duo is a curious one. It's essentially a continuation of XAM, the solo project of Hookworms' Matthew Benn, who decided that he needed a collaborator and some general good company after touring his debut EP Tone Systems as a solo artist. That collaborator came in the form of friend-of-a-friend Christopher Duffin of fellow Leeds experimentalists Deadwall. XAM became XAM Duo and this is their debut album.

Apparently, and rather amazingly, half of this LP is made up of an improvised session that the duo recorded the first time they ever played together. It's particularly impressive because these aren't just slap-dash jams, the music is thoroughly absorbing, and richly textured. It's not clear which of the tracks result from this initial session, and which were perhaps more planned out, and I suppose that's testament to the working relationship of these two musicians. Each of the six tracks have a trance-inducing quality to them, taking onboard the lush floating symphonies of early Spiritualized, but mixing it with krautrock and jazz to produce something which sounds quite distinctive in 2016. 

The centerpiece of the record comes in the form of the epic (23 minutes plus, in case you're wondering) "I Extend My Arms Pt I & II" in which you can enjoy the slow burning build up of drones, saxophones and glimmering synthesizer of part 1 and then the Kraftwerk infused minimal techno of part 2. It's certainly one of the most rewarding long-songs i've heard for a while, making full use of it's ample run-time, even making you wish that they'd hung in for another five minutes or so. 

The duo plan to take this improvisational approach when they tour the album in November which sounds like an equally intriguing prospect. So my suggestion would be to buy this LP and then go see them on tour.

Listen to

"Ashtanga/The Test Dream" - relax with the former's smooth jazz sax and then descend into madness on the latter.

"I Extend My Arms Pt I & II" - see the main review. It's just class.