CD REVIEW: Air by Xoe Wise

Xoe Wise’s new album Air follows two previous album releases Archive of Illusions (2011) and Echo (2019). Air is a solid collection of evocative songs drenched in a dreamy soundscape of melancholia and wistful elegance. From the opening title track with its sanguine introductory guitar part to the haunting, string-soaked melodic fervour of the closer Late Parade, there is a marvellous sense of aesthetic and stylistic cohesion and consistency here. Utilising sparse instrumentation, including acoustic guitar, drums, key effects and vocal harmonies, Air showcases skillful songwriting, assured performances and an intelligent, clean production, with Xoe’s voice guiding it all, compelling and beguiling in equal measure. There is also a lot of dynamism to this set of songs. In Bad Idea, for example, the pace is lifted, with a vibrant drum part spearheading it, though nonetheless retaining the uniform bewitching edge of the rest of the album. And yet in Madison, there is a rhythmic shift, combining a country-style flavour to the mystery-tinged folk of the previous tracks. The reverb nestling Xoe’s vulnerable and enthralling cadences is important to the overall production but it augments rather than overtakes, adding another dimension to what is a multidimensional album. And the lyrics are what place this record into that other realm; intimate and gut-wrenchingly vital, Xoe’s voice communicating a cascade of emotional shades with startling intensity and control. There is a spirited evocation of a Fleetwood Mac-like style with Blanking, with its laid back groove, its subtle melodic inventions and vocal prowess; but it is an evolved version, contemporary and unique, with Xoe’s fresh approach and idiosyncratic vocal delivery putting it into a category of its own. This is a sumptuous album, a timeless group of songs steeped in sonic beauty, tangible integrity and believability. There is every reason to think that Xoe Wise’s third album is the one that will propel this gifted singer-songwriter into the stratosphere.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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