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White Noise: XI – Immunity / Squeeze

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

XI – Immunity / Squeeze

Label: Orca



Canadian producer XI’s recent move to Berlin shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone because it’s where all the cool kids are heading at the moment, but his latest release on Orca (who’ve been a label to watch since they released XXXY’s massive Open Your Eyes last summer) not only takes in German but also UK influences in these two sparse and atmospheric tracks. They’re both very tasty slices of fractured Garage incorporating clipped samples and a muted but effective palette, and signal another stellar release for the label.

Both tunes here present a dramatic shift towards the minimal and reduced compared to his previous bright and busy Gamma Rain release for Orca. A-side Immunity is a slow cut of brooding 2step, with sharp beats and a massive low-end bass throb, taking in detailed percussive samples and great details throughout. What’s most impressive is that XI creates a strong groove even while no single effect is allowed to continue unmanipulated; vocals, synths and beats are crisp and expertly applied but even wider atmospheric noises such as the fuzzy ambient wash that enters midway through the track are subjected to a stop-start motion and tonal changes, always keeping the listener on their feet. He does so much with so few carefully chosen elements, and it results in a powerful track in line with both the dark UK garage of Sully and the deeply atmospheric slow-mo DnB of Synkro.

Not content to leave it there, the B-side Squeeze is almost more impressive, taking the same reduced elements to an extreme and upping the tempo. This time a main vocal line is introduced, but when the violently clipped sample is introduced it’s anything but expected; sounding more like a flat death rattle than the soulful lines used by a lot of the dance producers releasing today. All humanity seems to be sucked from the voice, turning it into a semi-mechanical texture that shifts notes in line with the staccato drum pattern to fantastic effect. As with the first track, layers are continually added and removed, with a surprisingly bright synth melody entering the fray as well as a skipping snare. All the effects used here are carefully tailored to keep the sounds unstable and menacing, somehow establishing a solid danceability while giving the listener almost nothing to hold onto. Definitely a great release, with both sides deserving a lot of playtime both on and off the dancefloor, and announcing XI now more than ever as one to watch.


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