I am often attracted to music that is hard to define by a single label; I am often attracted to bands that make a practice of genre bending, combining elements of variant musical genres into one song. X: THC is one of these bands, but what makes them even more interesting is the fact they are combining not just multiple genres, but multiple media platforms, arresting your senses on many different levels. This is no passive musical experience; the album will drag you, forcefully, through feelings of emotional isolation, abysmal numbness, maddening frustration, and ultimately to catharsis. “X: The Human Condition” is an amazing album, part of multi-sensory experience, that may build on many of the stepping stones of the past, but is definitely an album and concept that treads towards the future and new possibilities in ways that many artists have not even started to consider.
How to describe the music? Ambient, brooding, sensual, consuming, and emotive. There is definitely a lot of post-punk influence, with percussion reminiscent of electronic new wave. The beats are very grounded, but the subtle keyboard arrangements are ethereal and enveloping. The vocals are soulful, heartfelt, and delivered with conviction. As Michael Nova sings, you can’t but help to fall into his voice's veritable qualities, making you feel his lyrics on a deeper level. But what I really like about each song is that the music is not arranged to favor the vocalist. Tienne (guitar and keyboards) and John Bollinger (percussion) are as intricate and important to each song. This New York trio is not two musicians supporting a singer, but rather three musicians interweaving a soundscape together.
The band uses the word “synesthesia” to describe the experience, and I could not agree more. Personally, I am obsessed with synesthesia, a condition where one sensory impression creates a response from another sense. For example, a synesthete may hear the “A” note and always see the color blue when the note is played. Another synesthete may touch sandpaper and taste peanut butter. This album will transport your senses, and the one song that stood out the most to me was “Like Violins.” This song, which takes you by complete surprise, is a study in kinesics, as you literally feel your body moving as you are listening, though you are sitting still. Another track to just get lost in is “A Human Flood” – laced with strings, compressed guitars, and affected vocals, the song emotes various, contradicting, emotions, while inducing a frustration of not knowing of whether to sit still or run. And it is rare for a song to have such an effect on a listener, but it is even rarer when a band can produce an album of songs that have such an effect on a listener.
Many bands use flashy visuals on LED screens, but X: THC has taken this one step further. The band has produce a film, “X: The Human Condition,” that will be played during live performances. This only leaves me wondering just how much more powerful the music will be when multiple senses are being bombarded at once. And the opportunity to find out will come on Wednesday, the 25th of November, 10pm. X: THC will be performing at Monkeytown (admission $5, $10 minimum, with a full late night dinner menu available). If you are intrigued by synesthesia and/or have been wanting to experience a live performance that is distinct from most live shows, mosey on down to Brooklyn (Monkeytown is located at 58 North 3rd Street) and support X: THC. (reservations)
3. A Human Flood
4. Sleeping with One Eye Open
5. The Creature from the Blackened Room
6. Don’t Cry
7. Mr. Happy
8. Like Violins
9. Worth Fighting For
10. Tag You’re It!
Keep up with X: THC at their homepage and MySpace.
You can go to the Goodies section of their homepage for a pre-sale release of the album, which will officially be released in March 2010. There you will be able to purchase the CD or download the music, and pay what you want. The band site states that $9.99 is the average price, but keep this in mind: the band has teamed up with the Jed Foundation (Half of Us) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and are donating a portion of the proceeds. Yes, not only does X: THC offer something different in terms of musical/sensory experience, they do more than pay lip service to social responsibility and giving back to the community. The band is committed to fighting against depression, self-injury, and suicide. And really this is something that we should all support. (Hint: don’t be stingy.)
Here is a promo from the XtheHumanCondition MySpace Video Page. I hope you are as mesmerized by it as much as I was.
X : The Human Condition Preview
X: The Human Condition | MySpace Video
Hope to see you at the show.