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Xinema: Different Ways

Light on prog and heavy on formula, fans of Asia and 80s-to-early 90s Saga are going to love this. Xinema is the first non-home grown act to be signed to the Canadian prog/jazz/avant label, Unicorn Records (home of Hamadryad). Xinema hail from Sweden, and this trio owns up to their m.o. right off the bat, with "one foot firmly in the melodic/AOR field, and the other in the prog camp," as their press release states. Xinema breaks down into guitarist Sven Larsson, drummer/vocalist Jonas Thurén, and lead vocalist & bassist Mikael Askemur, who also handles all of the synth & sequencing chores, and some rhythm guitar. Mikael does a swell job of emulating a certain guy with the surname of (spell it, now) W-e-t-t-o-n.

A chunky guitar riff here, arpeggiated guitar notes ringing out there, smooth, oftimes fretless-sounding bass, economical drumming (no odd time sigs stand out). A lot of synth, too; just about every track has textural sequencing a la Tangerine Dream, yet Mikael's synth lines are actively melodic. In order to play live, they'll definitely need a fourth body to cover all these keyboard parts. "In The Scent Of The Night" (why does that title make me laugh?) has several compact, connecting synth solos (which are quite good), and staccato notes on a fat analogish saw-wave sound right out of Foreigner's "Urgent." "The Last Flower" has some delicate looping à la Jean-Michel Jarre, and Clive Nolan keyleads. This has 'single' potential, should this album get any kind of airplay in Europe, or perhaps the next track, "Timing," with its great vocal hook.

Good Lord, I'm not supposed to like this sort of easygoing, formulaic stuff, but it might be growing on me after several listens (I need to put on some Koenjihyakkei). "One Day" recalls Duke-era Genesis, and so does the title track, but enough variety, if not enough originality, keeps the Xinema dynamic rolling. When the seventh track, "Maybe Time," finally comes along, ears may perk up. A scratchy sound effect, not necessarily synthetic, leads into some great guitar-playing which actually carries the tune this time, from loud squeals to graceful, muted notes, to a tasteful solo. The lyrics are simple and heartfelt, and Mikael's vox click. Of course, there is a downside. When this song seems like it's really picking up steam, it ends but seconds after three minutes of play time. They could've really built on this track. I thought it was a "possum play," an unsuspecting lull before the guys started playing again.

Sven shifts into Ian Crichton mode on "Distant Lights" with some great fretboard runs & a fiery solo; this compensates for the unaccommodating vocal melody & trite lyrics. For what it is, this track is pretty good, though. "Blind Is The Light" begins with a nice eerie synth patch which reminds me of Wavestar, and quick bursts of power from Sven and Jonas. Might Xinema actually pull off something different before the CD stops spinning? Might this sound like Hawkwind or Camel? Say, this sounds closer to those groups (Camel, anyway) than any other track on the disc. And no vocals for two-and-a-half minutes—that's an accomplishment! When Mikael starts singing against Sven's grinding, suspended guitar chords, the bassist-vocalist histrionics sound better on this song than any before it, for whichever reason. Nice wailing, Sven. Good gosh, this thing ran for seven minutes! (Almost.) There you have it: nearly an hour of music, twelve tracks, three of them over five minutes in length. Ingredients and nutritional values are printed clearly on the wrapper. Tastes great! Less filling.

Added: February 1st 2003
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Unicorn Records
Hits: 4786
Language: english

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