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Xeno & Oaklander

Sentinelle

(Weird Records; US: 1 Nov 2009; UK: 14 Dec 2009)

At times we all stop using our ears to listen to music. We go on vacation and come back with the musical equivalent of a cheap sombrero: fun or even ironic and poignant in the holiday location, but hollow and unsatisfying back home. The other classic example of ear-stoppage is adding a new love’s (usually) softer sounds to one’s own selections.  One minute we are grooving to the Fall, Blind Willie Johnson, or Albert Ayler, the next uh-oh, love has come to town and [insert own reference point here] Spandau Ballet are on repeat play. A friend once related a horror tale of having to feign tolerance of Barry Manilow to be near the object of his affections.  Eventually he could joke about retaining his dignity by declining to wear the false nose, ahem, “during”. 


Some of which comes to mind listening to Sentinelle when musing on what might be needed to overlook the flaws. The record is an intriguing mixture of (mostly) rapid beats and icy melancholy which shuns easy harmony or sentiment to tell an obscure, minimal tale of time and the interrelation of humans and technology (or something vaguely like that). It can be said that Xeno & Oaklander‘s live approach to recording and performance may be admirable, and the contrasting male and female voices are alluringly android-celestial. Sometimes the album hints that it will reveal more over time—indeed, when the singing is in French, or the pace slows and textures become more mysterious, this could almost be a 1980s reissue on the brilliant LTM label. The tracks “Vagabond”, “Nuit”, and particularly “Another” (the tale of a man with someone else’s face) are truly affecting, yet others seem suited to a hip aerobic workout. So, enjoyment of the whole of Sentinelle may rely upon falling in love with a heavenly creature fond of echo laden, emotionally barren, electro synth pop; either that or a nice vacation.

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