X.U.L. is a solo project by musician and composer Gašper Selko of Slovenia. Selko is a trumpeter who studied at the Conservatory for Music and the Academy of Music in Ljubljana. He is currently a member of several bands including Leni Kravac, ''MUSCAH'', Good Vibration, Yanu and the Kamnik City Band. A Guide for Lost Travellers is his second album, which he describes as “exploring the possibilities of a different perception of music and interaction with listeners. The album is not just a collection of notes and melodies, but a selection of thoughts and emotions. (This music) combines contemporary classic with elements of minimalism and experimental electronic music.”
Selko derives musical inspiration from “the power of metal, the perfection of classical music, the freedom of jazz and the diversity of folk and ethnic music.” Selko’s music also has an essential visual component which is provided by illustrator and graphic designer Dejvid Knežević. Selko credits himself with trumpet, piano and electronic programming, as well as all music composition. A string trio was recorded at Studio Adergas. Recording, mixing and mastering was performed by Peter Dimnik.
The album begins with “N.S.W.E.” Each time I played this, I was puzzled that it began with what sounds like vinyl record surface noise. The music takes quite a while to fade in. You may find yourself adjusting the volume to get your arms around the spacey 3-note keyboard motif, but that’s a mistake because eventually that wall of trilling high-end sound gets VERY loud! What started as a mostly high-end sound abruptly fills in on all harmonic levels. The sounds include what could be cellos, monster footsteps and a World War Two siren. It’s over this miasma that Selko takes his first trumpet solo. His melodies are deceptively simple but quite evocative, with a laid-back authority worthy of Miles Davis. You’re listening to the trumpet but all that other stuff keeps clattering around in the background, creating quite the audio feast.
“The Path” begins like a chamber group moving into position, twisting violin pegs and trying out the piano. It quickly locks into a simple, ominous piano riff with more of that deep, encompassing percussion, setting the stage for another trumpet solo that evokes a dying elk on the African tundra. “When She Left” is a very intimate solo piano piece which at times sounds like a sacred chorale work, and it’s so intimate that you hear seat movement and papers shuffling quite clearly.
“A Morning Song of a Cloudspotter” is the first of two vocal songs, this one written and sung by Manca Kozlovič. The table is set slowly like a rhythmic synth soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, which Kozlovič slides into like a glove. Not to push the movie analogy too far, but this is the kind of electronic-backed vocal track you often hear over the end credits of a film. At any rate, it’s excellent dream pop and clearly the most commercial track thus far.
“Aurorae” begins with swirling clouds of sound, as if we’re waking up a dragon. What follows sounds like a heartbeat, slappy echo’d percussion, ocean liner horns, then finally a cyclical riff shared by all manner of live and virtual instruments. Not exactly complex but it definitely got under my skin. “We Were Here” is another quite slow reverie with deep, metal-sounding notes at its core (possibly bells?), accompanied by spare piano and still more of that fascinating percussion. Quite unexpectedly, the tides shift and the music becomes seriously dreamy. “La Duree” is built on a faster sequenced pattern with tentative piano chords, creating a drawn-out and achingly beautiful melody. There’s a sweeping orchestral quality to this track that kicked me right in the gut.
“Do They Know?” starts with a simple, metallic two-note riff. Selko plays his trumpet through a harmonizer or similar effect, creating a thicker and quite cool tonality. The final track “Alarm” features a lovely string trio along with the vocals of Goran Završnik speaking lyrics by Srečko Kosovel in a language I can’t understand. Though I’m not sure what’s going on, the music has a deeply melancholic feel and the effect is mesmerizing.
I’m not sure how you follow up such an interesting and eclectic album like this, but I’m sure Selko has many more such projects in his future and I’d love to hear them!
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