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Reviews

Scott Xylo
Find Us When You Get There Aida Amoako , September 5th, 2018 14:48

An escapist soundscape that is steady, self-possessed and optimistic

The first twenty seconds of Scott Xylo’s debut LP are enough to make you lament that our scorcher of a summer has passed. But by the last track, the 23-year old producer from Leicester has transported us to his own world - a place of sun-soaked ambience and gentle breezes.

Find Us When You Get There is far less tentative than Xylo’s previous release, 2016’s Analogue Eyes, With Digital Minds, which seemed to meld into one continuous track. This album is more consistently engaging: Xylo dissects and absorbs aspects of afrobeat, jazz, funk and psychedelia to create his own multi-hyphenate style (a technique perhaps inspired by one of his influences, director Quentin Tarantino). Where he pays tribute more explicitly to past inspirations – such as on ‘Ariya’, which shares a name with a 1972 Fela Kuti record – he manages to avoid pastiche. Afronaut Zu’s Kuti-esque delivery teamed with Catherine Sera’s breathy vocalisations and a stellar saxophone solo from Marcus Joseph create a euphoric afrofunk jubilation.

The album is lyrically sparse, which is not unusual for Xylo. Tracks that do feature vocals, save for on ‘Ariya’, never impose, and instead seem to melt into the music. The effect is a cross between subliminal messaging and auditory hallucination. It’s as though Xylo has personified his instrumentals, the voices belonging not to individuals but to the tracks themselves. When Sera croons “you cannot lose / put your hands up to the sky / the universe is on your side / everything will be alright / just do what you want to do” on ‘Mothership Connekt’, it’s like the tripping beats and soulful melodies of the track itself are reassuring the listener-traveller.

‘Sam’s Jollof’ conveys the superior expressive power of pure sound over words. In a spoken intro, a man struggles to describe the experience of tasting like life-changing jollof rice. “Today I ate this rice… Today I ate this rice…” He kisses his teeth in disbelief; he doesn’t have the words. The track answers for him through a skippy improvisational jazz instrumental.

His more mellow tracks, such as lead single ‘Hold On’, have the turn on, tune in, drop out quality of psychedelia. But don’t expect to lose yourself entirely. Xylo is presenting an escapist soundscape that is still steady, fully self-possessed and optimistic – it expresses itself not in frantic hyperactivity or spaced-out bliss but with languid self-assuredness.

Xylo has found his groove and lays bare the map of influences that got him to this point. It’s clear he is a music nerd, but not an arrogant one. It’s the musical equivalent of sitting beside a friend as they introduce you to the greatest TV show. In title and in spirit, Find Us When You Get There encourages the listener to embark on the afrofuturistic odyssey Xylo has already taken and meet him on the other side.

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