The music of the Brooklyn-based group Xeno & Oaklander seems to come from an earlier time, when the beeps and whirs of the analog synthesizer began to creep up from the underground into the mainstream of pop music (or drag it down to the depths, if you prefer). The late ’70s and early ’80s synth music from which their work draws was a reaction to the sense of the alienation brought about by living in world that was becoming more and more digital. Sean McBride and Liz Wendlbo, the duo behind the project, still find these sounds relevant today, in both theme and means. Xeno & Oaklander excavate a forgotten music, re-imagining its forms for the present with a defiant and romantic nostalgia. Their debut album Sentinelle, out now on Wierd records, is a testament to their skill at “shaping electricity” and is overflowing with icy drones, oscillating tones, and excellent (and danceable) songwriting.
After an epic performance of “Preuss” (a title taken from the particularly noisy auto body shop adjacent to their studio), McBride and Wendelbo sat down with BOMBsessions in their Williamsburg “synth museum,” to discuss the poetics of their songwriting, the relation of their vocal lines to Derrida’s Glas, and moving contemporary music forward by digging into the past. Catch Xeno & Oaklander on March 5th at the Cameo in Brooklyn before they leave for a European tour.
Video by Clinton Krute with Luke Degnan.