Switched On – XAM Duo: XAM Duo II (Sonic Cathedral)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

XAM Duo’s second album is a nifty half an hour. Christopher Duffin and Matthew Benn have been working on their second opus for nearly five years, and their efforts pay dividends as they arrive at a structure of six instrumentals that tell a story. Some are beat driven, others not – and all are part of an effort to write what the duo call ‘emotional computer music’.

Duffin has spoken of how the record ‘can be used in a functional way while setting out on your day, doing chores’ – and while it fulfils that function, XAM Duo II deserves more foreground listening for the reasons below.

What’s the music like?

Rather wonderful, and as Duffin hints, ideally structured for a single listen. From the off the colours achieved by the duo are warm and luxurious, with big synthesized textures you can dive into. The first track, the single Blue Comet, would work well as opening credits for a slightly retro TV series, with a probing melodic line. LGOC proves to be the ideal foil, creating a golden glow with its shimmering tones and high register saxophone.

The saxophone is a leading feature of the album, adding richness to the treble lines. Lifeguard At Mohang Beach is particularly attractive, holding still against the breaking waves, though the slight variations in pitch introduce a bit of uneasiness. Cold Stones has a wonderfully wide scope, with those fulsome sax tones above a cavernous drum sound. It is a majestic epilogue, a bigger structure that is beautifully scored.

Does it all work?

Yes – the rich colours are ideal for summer listening.

Is it recommended?

Definitely. If you have a weakness for the more melodic side of Warp Records’ output, to use an example, then XAM Duo will definitely do the job for you.