April 16, 2005
US 7" Brainwashed Recordings BRAIN005
Xian Hawkins - all instruments
Two instrumental songs from Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Xian Hawkins. As Sybarite, he's released full-length albums on the Temporary Residence and 4AD labels and has had a number of singles and compilation tracks on labels all over the world. It's upbeat, amazingly well crafted and never wears out its welcome. www.brainwashed.com/sybarite for more info on this painfully underlooked genius.
Four songs from Jessica including "Shadow," only released on the Brain in the Wire compilation (I'm beginning to think this really is my song or something!), the haunting "Mary" from her self-titled third release on Kranky, "Beautiful Soul," which dates back to her 1998 debut on Kranky, Even in Silence, and an exclusive song, "Come and Close My Eyes," a Flying Saucer Attack cover. All recordings are obviously exclusive. Jessica arrived at Kranky by way of Low, having her first two albums produced by Alan Sparhawk at 20 Below in Minneapolis. She has gone on to record more solo singles and albums and has appeared on record with bands Rivulets, Saturday Looks Good to Me, Flashpapr, and Red Morning Chorus, and makes up part of the core nucleus of bands Clear Horizon, Northern Song Dynasty, and Eau Claire. www.brainwashed.com/jb for more images and sounds from her.
Xian Hawkins, a.k.a. Sybarite, crafts some gentle, melodic IDM on the two tracks that comprise his single. Gentle keyboard melodies drift along hazily, fading away behind the crackly rhythms and chopped-up digital glitches. It's all very nice, particularly the pastoral A-side "Dolorous Echo," with its cranking clockwork drums and lush melody lines. Short and sweet, it's made me realize that the 7-inch must be the ideal format for this kind of joyous IDM fun. - Ed Howard, Grooves
Xian Hawkins' gentle electronic tomes are understated, melodic and multi-faceted. So, interestingly, the simplest and most repetitive track is the most enjoyable on this single. "The Mast" has the same energy bubbling beneath the surface that could be found on the early Aerial M singles. "Dolorous Echo" is a much more standard, fluid electronic song, peppered with intertwining rhythms and overflowing with melody. Short and sweet, Sybarite's contribution to the Brainwashed series is a glimpse of positivity and sunshine. - Dick Baldwin, FakeJazz
When I think of Brooklyn I think of Hip-Hop, I donit think of tracks reminiscent of the Richard D. James era which sound fresher than the real thing. Sybarite brings a giddy indolent leisurely melodic sense to the crickety kitchen utensil percussion of iDolorous Echoi filling it with ideas. Even though iThe Masti is too brief and demands replays to place the dinging taps on glass sounds the songis tune lingers long past the run out groove. Attention to detail and an uplifting sense of purposeful positive mood elevates these tracks above the rest of the field. Brooklyn has a new challenger, Mos Def watch your back. - Scott McKeating, Stylus
Sybarite's "Dolorous Echo / The Mast" (Brainwashed 7") pairs two light, gloopy electronic instrumentals that sound pretty nice on a rainy night such as this one. "The Mast", in particular, has a very soothing guitar figure that purrs like a hot kitten. - Byron Coley, The Wire
Xian Hawkins is the careful composer behind Sybarite. His often low key arrangements are nice to relax to but his main strength on BRAIN005is A side is in working with minor mechanical sounds. iDolorous Echoi features a multitude of micro clicks and cracks and other sounds such as gears being wound. Muted robot bleeps come and go throughout the song and there is a barely there beat holding things down while Eno-eque ambience ties things into place. The sharper sounds remind of Aphex Twin while those lower in the register resemble Boards of Canada (to reference 2/3 of the usual suspects). But the real winner here is on the flip side. iThe Masti begins with tiny spaceship sounds and a quiet, repetitive ping (like someone flicking a small porcelain vase with a microphone inside). Layers of fuzzy synths are sparingly used until two distinct melodies develop. Some soft yet high pitched electronic scratching begins, carving out a mini melody as the low buzzing that came before it continues to fade in the background. A great track. - Andrew Iliadis, Only Angels Have Wings
"Dolorous echo" de Sybarite es un ejercicio m.s normal y vistoso de electrUnica vol.til y texturada. Las secuencias entremezclan melodIas y sintes variados. Pero lo que llama m.s la atenciUn de este single es la bellIsima calma de su recorrido. Su tempo simil al de algunas apuestas m.s glitch como m'm o sogar. Y aunque a pesar de que la propuesta de de Sybarite no deja de ser electrUnica por el lugar de donde se la mire, tiene una marcada calidez e introspecccion. - Pavlo Picco, deVelvet
Sybarite's been at the music game for a while, with a solo career and as a one-time member of the reunited Silver Apples, which doesn't explain the fairly generic, layered IDM of "Dolorous Echo." You know the type: that glitchy, chirpy, restless type of laptop track that's so busy you hardly notice it hasn't really gone anywhere. B-side "The Mast" is more successful, building satisfying, less synthetic textures within a looped compositional context. - Doug Mosurak, Dusted
The two songs on Sybarite's (Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Xian Hawkins) blue vinyl are poppy, upbeat electronic tracks. Sparkling melodies weave through whirrs, clicks, and lightly scurrying breaks in "Dolorous Echo" while "The Mast" sets sail on a becalmed sea of soft nautical pings, pretty guitar flutter, and blurry surges. - Ron Schepper, Textura
Brainwashed number 5 is a sweet 2 track 7" by Sybarite - very melodic blend of electronics and acoustics - simple structure, simple beats and very much in the less is more camp. Nice. - Smallfish
Xian Hawkins composes some of the most elegant and addicting music, but remains somewhat lost in the tidal wave of other electronic composers currently active. It's a shame because, as Sybarite, he manages to coerce soft, seductive, and contemplative songs out of his machinery and his music never gets old; it's never lost in an emphasis on production or artiness. "Dolorous Echo" is a ricocheting curve of metallic percussion and remarkable melodies built into and on top of one another. It's cascading mass seems to fall in slow motion as the beats slip and spin about, circling around the reversed and chiming synthetic tones that float slowly away at every turn. There's a dense layering of rhythmic and harmonic elements on each second of the song; the flute-like whistle that's somehow surrounded by all the other instruments may not be noticeable at first, but it carries a certain importance with it as it is pushed, pulled, and resituated in the mix throughout the song. It's like being led through a maze at high speed over and over again, until nuances and details become clear out of pure repetition. Only Hawkins is messing with me at every lap of the maze, changing the smallest details for the best effect. "The Mast" is a slowly pulsing array of telephone tones, wooden blocks, and smooth bass. Hawkins' arrangement makes the song feel as though it is vibrating in and out of existence, the extended metallic drones and the rhythms shimmering in unity so that the song feels like a flashing star of bass tones and rocking-chair keyboards. It's a relaxing little number that contrasts perfectly with "Dolorous Echo." It's a good thing that pre-orders of Otology came with a CD that included this release because within another week's time, I would've worn the grooves out of this 7" and have wanted a replacement desperately. This is an excellent place to start becoming familiar with Sybarite. - Lucas Schleicher