Xylen Robert is a producer out of West Virginia who released an album called Jump Into The Portals back in 2012 and recently released Neuron Observer. He has been compared to Animal Collective but the songs feel more closely related to Sung Tungs and Here Comes The Indian rather than Merriweather Post Pavillion. The songs are a concoction of psychedelic, electronic tendencies that are often disorienting as if you took some acid and decided to take a ride on Space Mountain. A fun experience overall for some but if you don't brace yourself you could be in for a ride you didn't expect. Besides the often-adventurous sonic territory he treads you can also find some evidence of melody underneath the surface. The song doesn't become a complete mess because it has one or two pieces that seem to carry a recognizable melody underneath the mess, usually his voice and at other times the piano. I have to give him credit where its due because he does a good job at creating sounds that often sound bigger than the sum of their parts and he does occasionally restrain himself, which is nice. Jump Into The Portals is the harsher of the two records and less polished. He treated his vocals with care and are much more discernible on Neuron Observer.
Jump Into The Portal opens with “Jump into The Portals” which contains arpeggiated synth tones that pan from ear to ear as a distorted kick drum tries to stabilize the bright pads. The song contains vocals that are mostly drowned out by all the other noises. He changes his vocal style numerous times during the song going from almost singing to heavily distorting his voice and what sounds like scatting. “Somewhere Through The Fog” is a point where the trip starts going south and you start seeing images of the wicked witch of the west. “Existential Compulsions” reminded me of a sea shanty in a disturbing reality where cartoon pirates rule the world. He doesn't really sing here. He kind of sings, talks, and almost even raps. I’m not sure. “A GIF From The Gods” starts off as his most minimal song yet. However not his least experimental as he manipulates his voice and you can’t hear a word he is saying. The tones and sounds seem to be a collection of synth as I wasn't able to make out a particular instrument.
"Continuum" the first track on Neuron Observer is fast, frantic song the combines intricate patterns and nuances as Roberts
sings over them. It has a much different feel then anything on Jump Into The Portals and feel more contained. There are a lot of elements but don't feel as sporadic as they did on his previous album. One of the highlights on the album is Samsara Katana" which maybe the most digestible song for people unfamiliar with music similar to this. He utilizes a variety of sounds as usual but his vocal work really carries the song here and feel like the focal point.
In regards to Jump Into The Portals at ten songs and a couple of those songs going over the ten-minute mark the album overstays its welcome by a tad. It’s a heavy journey with an onslaught of sonic frequencies that are often jarring as well as stimulating. It may not be the thing to put you to bed at night but if you want to a collection on sounds that cover the gamut in creative ways you should take a listen.
Neuron Observer shows Roberts skill expanding and yet at the same time showing restraint. The album relies on his vocal work as a main component and have to say I like this trend. It's a pleasure seeing an artist come into his own and start to hone in on his craft.
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