Lexxi 5TARB01

[Endless Xclusive; 2016]

Styles: grime, trap, reggaeton, synth exploration, Brexit
Others: Nkisi, Rabit, Elysia Crampton, Kuedo

Lexxi sits at the nexus of some of the most exciting things currently happening in dance music. Through his Endless parties — thrown-together, genre-agnostic affairs — he’s forged connections across countries, sounds, and genres. Previous guests at Endless have included Elysia Crampton (when she went by E+E), James Ferraro, and Mykki Blanco. He’s closely affiliated with Bala Club, whose members have all played Endless in the past, and counts Nkisi (a NON Worldwide co-founder) and Shanti (a.k.a. Yves Tumor/a>, a.k.a. Bekelé Berhanu) as residents at the night. 5TARB01 is Lexxi’s first official release, following several SoundCloud loosies and tracks distributed through his Sellfy account, and inaugurates his new label, Endless Xclusive. Its five tracks form a suite of tonal workouts, housed within a wide-eyed, synth-driven sound. Each bears the trace of Endless’s sense of play and Elysia Crampton’s “Severo” style: “an ongoing process of becoming-with.”

5TARB01’s sound is defined by its openness and expansiveness, its feel for the panoramic. Tracks are propelled by overdriven synth melodies, buttressed by gossamer-thin synth textures, and undergirded by weighty bass and percussion, which thread a line through grime, reggaeton, and trap. The synthwork is carefully sculpted, enabling the drums to flit between functional club tools and spacey exploration. It also saturates the album with dynamism. On the title track, high-pitched synths trace curlicues in the background, while in the foreground, rave-y melodies and clattering drums come together and peel apart. Lexxi keeps a careful watch over the proceedings, adjusting the track’s focus, alternating between moments of acuity and obscurity.

This transition between foreground and background, clarity and opacity, is repeated across the album. There’s a psychedelic character to its headiness, its shifting, gurgling atmosphere. We are ushered along, woozily, following the movement from melody to percussion, constantly refocusing our ears as the arrangements shift and morph. Tracks move from one form to another, gaining and losing layers, sometimes circling back, sometimes incorporating new passages. Deep-lying arpeggiated chords, keys, and bass are dredged up to telegraph the next ecstatic moment. These are five sonic exhalations, forming towering peaks and cavernous troughs, alternately wispy, buoyant, and viscous.

Lexxi’s melodies plow into this diaphanous sound, and we follow: through alleys, across chasms, into the depths. On “Red Eyes V.I.P.,” taking a different form here to its appearance on Crampton’s Demon City, we are introduced to a yearning world, guided by a probing melody, like bats echolocating in a subterranean grotto. It’s a moment of high clarity, a transmission from the ether, a clarion call. In contradistinction, “$evero” is drum-focused, with a hint of Krautrock in its pulsing momentum and trance-inducing set of rhythms and counter-rhythms. Linkages are forged to Elysia Crampton’s subaltern drum styles and Kuedo’s metronymic footwork. Like those artists, Lexxi makes gestural music, music that generously extends its hands outward, enveloping textures, melodies, sounds, and styles.

In post-Brexit Britain, this anti-parochial ethics and spirit of internationalism is a welcome reminder of the capaciousness of British electronic music, its understanding of the importance of difference and cultural exchange. “No Order” brings to mind two more British musicians of this type, doffing its cap to New Order in its title and rubbing against the Fuck Buttons-esque in its juxtaposition of reverberating synth and pounding, organic drums. Lexxi is a proud inheritor of this rich lineage, heeding the call to push things forward. Indeed, this ethos finds a productive complement in his Severo style: music that elides boundaries and stasis, which is always already departing from the self and arriving at a process of becoming-with. 5TARB01 rejects the opposition between self and other, between in and out, finding pleasure in flux and uncertainty, willing itself to achieve total virtuality, whereby any one part may become any other. The soundtrack to shifting and uncertain times.

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