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Xander Harris: California Chrome *

Track List

>Scarlet Deception, The
>Straight Up Satan
>Basilisk Stare
>Eye in the Triangle, The
>Predator State
>Nervous Serpents
>Buckle Bunny

Album Notes

As Xander Harris, Austin-based electronic musician Justin Sweatt has been perfecting his brand of suspenseful horror-disco since the early 2010s. Following two excellent full-lengths for Los Angeles label Not Not Fun as well as several singles, EPs, and cassettes, California Chrome is his most high-profile release yet, arriving on Mogwai's Rock Action label. He's always had a knack for making ambitious, conceptual music while remaining relatively low-tech, with his tracks generally having a gritty, home-constructed feel (tape noise is audible on some of these tracks, but not an overwhelming amount). While Harris' music has always been reverent to '70s and '80s thriller/horror soundtracks, with the Italian giallo genre being a significant influence, his work has usually maintained a significant Italo-disco fixation as well, much more so than contemporaries such as labelmate (on both NNF and Rock Action) Umberto and fellow Austinites S U R V I V E. "I Want More Than Just Blood," from Harris' 2011 album, Urban Gothic, was given an extended 12" disco mix on NNF's dance offshoot 100% Silk. California Chrome features a few tracks with steady, upbeat tempos and hard, ticking electro beats that would work well in an EBM club but are thankfully devoid of schlocky vampire vocals, or other goth clichés. Other tracks are slower and murkier, with eerie voices occasionally calling out from the fog. While many of the songs are more concise, others take a bit longer to build up before arriving at big, triumphant melodies. Even at its softest, such as the closing track "Dirts," the album has an ominous edge to it. With songs like "Straight Up Satan," Harris has a playfully evil sense of humor and doesn't take himself too seriously (as one would expect from an artist named after a character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), yet his music is remarkably creative and avoids sounding like a cheap novelty, or the audio equivalent of an ill-conceived Halloween costume. ~ Paul Simpson


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