By Howard Mandel | Published September 2021
XXXX is mysterious and magical. The 10 tracks are derived from eight hours of live club performance by an electro-acoustic ensemble that had not met before going onstage in Berlin in late 2019, yet achieved remarkable results. Produced, edited and mixed by keyboardist Michael Wollny, bassist and electronics player Tim Lefebrve and sonic consultant Jason Kingsland, the album is wildly colorful and dramatic, partaking of a weird, wide and evidently processed instrumental palette that serves the fluid, propulsive interactions of highly responsive, imaginative and daring players.
The ever-shifting, ever-changing XXXX soundscapes aren’t kaleidoscopic, because the band eschews static patterns, allows little repetition and has strong narrative thrust. There are no obvious song forms, either, although the tone of the album is not iconoclastic but rather expansive. The four X’s may represent the four individual virtuosi. Wollny, recording for the first time on electric instruments only, masterfully creates unusual timbres and deploys them in sweeping runs, subtle insertions and skittering lines. Parisien is fleet, incisive and soulful, yearning as if his soprano is an Armenian dudek. Lefebvre offers looming low-register blocks and gnarly underpinnings. Lillinger has many approaches to beats and beatlessness, too, always enhancing what’s happening. But their personal contributions become all but inseparable within the confluence of their collaboration — it’s impossible to know for sure who’s doing what, or why it would matter.
XXXX: Somewhere Around Barstow; Dick Laurent Is Dead; Too Bright In Here; Grandmother’s Hammer; The Haul; Find The Fish; Doppler FX; Michcael vs. Michael; Nörvenich Lounge; Nostalgia For The Light. (44:40)
Personnel: Michael Wollny, synthesizer, Rhodes and piano; Emile Parisien, soprano saxophone; Tim Lefebvre, electric bass, electronics; Christian Lillinger, drums, percussion.
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