The electronic sound effects and loops opening Xander-Vi1’s first track, “The Sounds”, provides an excellent introduction to the overall sonic signature of this release. The Clerk, real name Caleb Hanks, approaches music composition with a visual artist’s sensibility – color is abundant in this first song, but its musicality is unquestionable. The Clerk has a pure pop voice, despite being wreathed in a bevy of post production effects, and the inherent melodic strengths of his vocals shines through. His voice is presented in a much cleaner manner with the album’s second song “Atlas_” and we’re introduced here to The Clerk’s penchant for blazing guitar work. It is difficult to ignore the progressive inclinations of this album, but there’s a rambunctious rock side to songs like this that draw a clear line separating it from traditional progressive rock. The synthesizer flourishes embedded into arrangement help accentuates the song’s epic feel.
The album’s title track shares some melodic similarities to what we’ve already heard and dispenses with guitar in favor of a strictly electronic backing. The percussion is busier for this track than what we’ve grown accustomed to with the earlier numbers and shares the same electronic sound prevalent throughout the release. “Ghosted” is appropriately atmospheric and the near hushed vocal from The Clerk adds to those atmospherics without ever sounding self indulgent. The percussion pulse at the heart of the song gives “Ghosted” a firm center upon which The Clerk is able to build spiraling synth lines and a strong vocal melody. Many listeners will likely find this to be one of the album’s more rewarding efforts.
“Cusp_” maintains the same sonic identity that has defined the album up to this point and the variations, including double tracking, shaping The Clerk’s vocal presentation provides the track with compelling song pyrotechnics without ever coming off as overwrought. The arrangements for Xander-Vi1 are uniformly dense, but never claustrophobic in a way threatening to overwhelm listeners and “Cusp_” is an excellent example of how well The Clerk contrasts moments of light and heavy to make these songs dramatically gripping. “The One” has a moodier sound than many of the album’s other tracks but not enough to drag down listeners emotionally; furthermore, The Clerk is wise enough to mix those moments up with airier passages surging with the same glittering textures characterizing so much of the release.
“Ansley0011” begins with a more dissonant sound than we hear elsewhere on the album, but soon transforms into an intensely rhythmic piece adorned with piano and steady electronic drumming. It’s continually interesting to hear how well The Clerk’s conventional and skilled vocal chops work within the context of this decidedly non-traditional musical landscape. The album’s finale and longest track, “The Only Thing”, brings Xander-Vi1 to a theatrical close without ever being heavy handed and, once again, piano figures into the mix as one of its key musical elements. Despite this being the ending, The Clerk resists the temptation to overreach and, instead, crafts an ideal final curtain for one of the most imaginative releases I’ve heard in quite some time.