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cover art

 XJacks - PS 08/59
  Release Date: 9 January 1995
  Limitation: 1000

   Bonefactory          9.47
   Lunar Icing         13.33
   Spaced Out           8.42
   Snap Jack            9.44
   x-o-Lyde            11.15
   Solid Pressure       8.33
   Celophane           10.59

  all tracks written by Dandy Jack and Victor Sol

This a monochrome set of tracks which barely illuminates an insect world moving under the ground. The tracks sound muffled and chatter along as though driven by Insect Commander cited in the inlay card. This album features what is, for me, one of the most alien and stunning ambient pieces ever "Cellophane" (also featured on the Cookbook), this track just takes you over, crazy beats and bloops work under a drone which builds and dies away and takes you with it and then skipping drums take the track on, perfection but a slightly disturbed one. There is a method here somewhere but I'm not sure what it is, not a consistent piece but one worth a mention, if only for the cellophane!

(review by Rowland Atkinson)

By the time 1995 rolled around, the Faxlabel had established a steady stream of good sublabel releases. I.F., DATacide, Music To Films, the first Transonic album, and let's not forget the weighty solo efforts by the likes of Laswell (offering his 3rd solo album EVER in a career spanning an entire generation of listeners and literally hundreds of collaborations), Tetsu Inoue (the mere mention of a solo by this guy causes a humble meditative silence), and Atom Heart (also responsible for Orange, +N). In steps Victor Sol, based in Barcelona. After producing the enigmatic +N "plane" with Atom Heart, he follows through with another oddity, Xjacks, this time with one Dandy Jack. I picked up my copy at a cool disc shoppey (was it called Music?) while on vacation in Boulder, nestled right in the looming Rocky Mountains. This was the first disc from the label in the new year, and Xjacks definitely is an oddity. A ring of six shadowy mite-like creatures graces the cover circle, and with track titles such as Lunar Icing, Spaced Out, and x-o-Lyde, you may feel like you're being provoked into listening.

Now the first track, Bonefactory, might try your patience, consisting mostly of sputtering rhythmic factory noises and monochromatic industrial smoke trails. But the remaining portion of the album, well over an hour's worth of music yet, is certainly one of the most unique styles of programming yet heard from this evolving label/family of musicians. And with a sufficient sprinkle of more melodic sequencing, our duo manages to keep in check the stark forms of timing and technuance that verges on the paranoid.

Lunar Icing consists of tactfully layered trancey wave mosaics illuminated with a moonlight glaze. Similar to the Whole Traffic series of wave-weavage, but the focus here is more on the melody and less on the beats. Any percussion in this one comes from industrial tinged pipes and puffing exhaust chambers.

Spaced Out follows it up with a quivering blanket of what sounds like 20's era horns and Cthulhu harmonies floating around lo-fi pulses. A true hidden gem for ambient flappers. The balance of the tune changes part way through via shifted delay time intervals and feedback effects. All of this is brought to a spindly point which leaves variable frequency trails.

The 4th song, Snap jack, is admittedly the first overtly Dandy Track on this disc. The snap lies in the bassdrum, which is just a knocker of an analog wave. We end up somewhere in the sphere of quirky nostalgia. This one concludes with those hypnotic melodies on that Loa track from Dandy's "Cosmic Trousers"

x-o-Lyde continues our puzzling yet curious journey into the unknown with a heavy trance dub full of fatty synth tweaks and squelches. Pumping bass and percolating atonal pads treated with a knob twist here and there. And the accents get more boisterous toward the end, dials spin out of control. Almost reminds me of a red alert siren on some space barge manned by a crew of six-legged alien soldiers, but not quite.

The title track comes next, and marks the first of several allusions (props, if you will) to the band Yello. Remember "Solid Pleasure"? And you'll probably be convinced after you compare the cover shot of Dandy's "Plastic Woman" with, say, the photos on the back of Yello's "Gotta Say Yes..." I believe this is the first time in quite a while that anything on Fax breaks the 175 bpm barrier, but things are kept under control even at this breakneck pace...well until the end anyway.

The final track, Cellophane, turns out to be a real mind bender, even for the well-seasoned listener. The shady submarine toon was included on the Ambient Cookbook/Fax Compilation II sets. Muted dub rhythms, and a ringer of a sound that'll make your ears do a 360'. An Earringer?

As with some of the others on Fax, the continuation of this project was resumed on another label, April Records. Don't miss the follow-up!

(review by no@h)


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