Xeno & Oaklander

[Xeno & Oaklander Sets and Lights sleeve]"Sets and Lights" (Album, 2011)


I was fortunate enough to have caught Xeno & Oaklander supporting John Foxx and The Maths at Xoyo in London in 2011. So taken was I by their hypnotic analogue electronics, that I picked up a copy of this, their latest and third album, directly after their set. 

A male/female two-piece hailing from New York City (though Sean McBride is from Maryland and Liz Wendelbo is French/Norwegian), their appealing contemporary take on the foundations built by the early cold wave bands neatly places that influence in the middle of a bunch of minimal tracks, creating the kind of groove you have to get in sync with to fully appreciate. If you're out of sync then you'll probably find it difficult to get beyond what might be considered to be the 'shortcomings' of their approach. 

First up for criticism is likely to be Wendelbo's fragile voice. Deliberately monotone, few would make great claims about her vocal range. However, like the late, lamented Trish Keenan of Broadcast, when it locks with the music the effect can be gripping. Fans of any repetitive electronic music: techno, trance, krautrock would be advised to try Sets and Lights out for size. Italy (perhaps the most atypical inclusion) comes across like the futuristic instrumental soundtrack to glamorous high speed trains swishing their way through cosmopolitan European cities and is the most memorable from an already indelible album. 8/10

Rob Dyer (February 2013)