A strange collage of electronics and rock
XCIII released their latest album to cancel. This collection of nine tracks combines disparate styles of music into one with varying results. The album owes as much to King Crimson as it does to LCD Sound System, as many of the characteristics of these bands can be heard throughout it. Drum loops and vocal layers form the basis for explorations of guitar-guided experimentalism. When these styles intertwine, it creates a majestic palette of discordant melodies. Whether they intentionally collide or not, things can get bogged down in these confusing walls of noise. There is always merit to these tracks, but mixing genres can distract from the given song. For listeners open to the sometimes off-putting sound of this album, its layer-on-layer approach makes for a hypnotic listen.
“IR” is more of an introduction to the album than a song itself. The cacophony of modern society is satirized by the band by adding a voiceover from a robot. “Red Lights” has a deleted monologue about what people do to get ready in the morning, aided by the use of synthesized keys and looping drums. It’s not a track that will appeal to most but it is charming in its own eccentricities.
“Hannah” is our first taste of what XCIII can really do when given enough time. The lyrics of the song are composed of several palindromes. The instrumental work is psychedelic and chaotic but organized into distinct sections to match the rhythm of the lyrics. The song feels like the first consistent piece of music on the album so far. XCIII doesn’t get bogged down in small details on this one, but rather creates a big canvas that allows them to reach higher elevations.
“Lunchbox” is another quirk that draws attention to itself by being characteristic of the wall. Again, XCIII uses a wide variety of electronic sounds to create a wall of looping tones that contrast with each other. Likewise, “Tapeworm” is a long instrumental that bends and moves through different shapes. He goes from electronic to psychedelic rock via progressive fusion. As soon as it lulls us into a sense of familiarity, we’re thrown into a different section that may conflict or harmonize with the part that preceded it.
There’s no getting around the fact that to cancel is a strange album. For listeners open to hearing something new, it’s equally rewarding and confusing.