I got my first taste of His Name Is Alive at the start of last year when I reviewed what has been endlessly referred to as their comeback album, Detrola. Not only was it my first taste of HNIA, but it was my first review, and as such, I don’t think I spent enough time appreciating what a work lay before me, instead worrying more about how I was going to write four paragraphs on Detrola.
Xmmer is very much like Detrola, that album sometimes feeling a little colder, sharp melodies trickling down an icicle, light and striking, affecting. Xmmer is just as varied as Detrola, making any description of it about as hard to articulate as the word “Xmmer.”
The most prominent feature of the album that is also most useful for you and me are the rhythms of many of the songs on the album. The tracks kick off with idiosyncratic little bursts of music I would expect more to hear in a blues riff, in a free form solo, at the start of an IDM song, but these expectations are upset when brought deeper into the song. The rhythm built up from this burst runs underneath the rest of the song, undermining it, but never allowing the song to collapse. It keeps the song interesting, an aspect of danger maybe, giving a sense that the base of the song is a little unstable, or maybe the ground the song rests on is completely new terrain, uncharted territory, the song setting off into a brave new world. A good example of this can be heard in the two songs “Young Blood” and “Come To Me.” The two songs are incredibly similar, but “Young Blood” has a backing rhythm of airy violins like helium balloons, sailing off into some high place until it drifts away, out of sight. The other is beat heavy, toe-tapping, feet-stomping, grounded in a fertile earthy mixture of horns and drums and percussive guitar all mixed and turned and churned, sprouting further growth, further horns, further drums, further upwards. In both songs, the main vocals are what make the songs aspire to great heights they achieve, but the different bases of the songs, air and earth, bring them to two different places, completely different atmospheres of different lands unoccupied and unexplored.
Other brave new worlds the listener comes to know throughout the album are “The Wolf Put His Mouth On Me,” “Sangaree,” “Come Out Of The Wilderness,” and to a lesser extent “How Dark Is Your Dark Side.” These songs all land the listener on rugged coastlines along the shore, great coral reefs and stalactite coves, entrances strange to even stranger islands of song and dance, where what lives unheard of thrives in life with newfound listeners.
Cocteau Twins – Treasure
Mercury Rev – See You On the Other Side
Maps – We Can Create