LP Wierd Records USA 2011
A portrait emerges in the video for the lead single from Xeno & Oaklander's Sets & Lights:
one of two separate yet unmistakably intertwined individuals. Liz
Wendelbo gracefully ascends and descends a menacing staircase while Sean
McBride stands patiently in the ambiguous, blurred distance. The time
is warped, the architecture is unfriendly, and the relationship between
both people and their physical environment is made anxiously
questionable. And yet, dominating the proceedings is an air of
exoticism and pervasive sensuality in the face of what feels like an
impending violent event. The collision of these tensions, atmospheres,
and personas is soundtracked on this latest offering from Wierd Records.
Xeno & Oaklander create a universe where technology is beautifully
timeless, where electricity pulses with vigor and effortless finesse.
The standard meaning of "ghosts of technology," with its equally
standard images of looming architecture and lifeless shells of machines,
is rendered obsolete. Nimble electronic melodies sing, stretch and
glow like elegant apparitions. Grandiosity and restraint live
harmoniously side-by-side, just as the dual vocals of McBride and
Wendelbo weave in and out of one another, sometimes an isolated croon
and sometimes a layered texture. From the title track, with its
thumping robotic heartbeat to the orchestral (yet still danceable),
transportive instrumental "Italy," Sets & Lights is a record
that invites the listener to become fully immersed. Tracks like "Blue"
and "The Staircase" are punchy sing-a-long industrial pop songs while
"Desert Rose" uses lush synthesizer textures to rival the most forlorn
The interplay between McBride and Wendelbo yields very little that is
conventional, but quite a lot that's alluring. Theirs is an enigmatic
combination of various sensibilities that nevertheless produces a
singularly focused vision. McBride sings, "the theater, the stage, the
sets the lights, masking some grand delight." This is a record that
makes the most of the power of electronic instruments to set a scene, to
evoke intrigue, and to invite the mind to wander into those shadowy
places where grand delights hide.