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Xeno & Oaklander – Par Avion

Album review

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Over the years, Matthew Dear’s Ghostly International imprint has become synonymous with quality, engaging electronic music from some of the most up-and-coming and already established artists out there (see Tycho’s Awake which came out on Ghostly earlier this year for example) and Par Avion by duo Xeno & Oaklander falls right in line with that category.

As the name ‘Par Avion’ suggests, the nine-track album jets off and takes the listener through several stages of flight and aerospace travel that hark back delightfully to the 1980s, thanks to anachronistic drum machines and synths that are reminiscent of ground-breaking acts such as Kraftwerk.

The album commences with ‘Interface’, which is perhaps one of the most captivating tracks on Par Avion due to its cosmically arpeggiated lead line and woozy vocals that have an air of Morrissey and Peter Hook about them without doubt, and it sets the tone for the record very well indeed.

‘Jasmine Nights’ exhibits those aforementioned power drums of yesteryear, reverberated to the max, and ‘Lastly’ bleeps and blinks along at a hyperactive tempo (almost to the point where it begins to sound too fast at certain junctures, as if the drum machines are struggling to keep up with the BPM count being asked of them), which belies the instrumentation but somehow still works as male and female voices compete for attention and recognition for the duration of the song.

In contrast to ‘Lastly’, title track ‘Par Avion’ is slowed right down to a crawl as a female vocal repeats the name of the track ad nauseam until it begins to grate slightly on the ear, and mechanical synths sound as if they are itching to tear away from the robotic groove they have been locked into.

Another highlight of the album proves to be ‘Providence’, which at just two-and-a-quarter minutes long is marked by its lack of vocal presence for what is a largely instrumental track, but boy does it deliver thanks to expressive synth play and stripped back drum patterning, and the exclusion of vocal dominance makes for a welcome change.

Recorded on analogue synthesizers and instrumentation by the duo in their Brooklyn studio, Par Avion is a dense and accomplished record with many layers to be uncovered with each listen, and with each play something new seems to come from Xeno & Oaklander’s debut album for Ghostly.

Patrick Swift

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