Despite what you may have heard there are still huge things going on in the Electro movements and the Italian duo XP8 are starting 2010 off with serious buzz. Composed of Marco Visconti and Marko Resurreccion, XP8 have delivered both huge club hits and interesting experimental experiences for a few years now in Europe but have been steadily acquiring legions of fans here in the U.S. as well. They have toured extensively and are poised to conquer dance-floors yet again with the new album Drop The Mask. The debut last fall of the first single, “Want It,” scored them a deal with Metropolis Records so a whole new audience awaits.
Hitting the dance club circuit properly with Hrs:Min:Sec on Infacted Recordings in 2005 (featuring the worldwide smash hits “Muv Your Dolly” and “Cuttin’ and Drinkin’”) XP8 brought a mix of rambling Trance hooks, standard 4-to-the-floor EBM beats, Ambient effects and some knob-fiddling Electro experimentations that sounded both solidly familiar and relatively fresh. 2007’s The Art Of Revenge improved on these sounds by adding timely sound bites, harsher vocals and focused in on the Trance elements to make sure every track was club-worthy. Of course as with any subgenre there were issues with sounding formulaic but it ensured that they would get coveted club play. The only other criticism leveled at this new act was that both offerings were hit-or-miss, containing both monster must-haves and completely forgettable tracks in an uneven format.
These thoughts should be dispelled immediately. Drop The Mask changes their sound once again by throwing in all manner of new Electro beats that are closer to dirty House than they are to Trance. The vocals are also split between more distorted harsh EBM and cleaner, more melodic (though at times strained) ballad-like singing. Add to that guest vocals by Daniel Graves, Faderhead, and Fetish Dolly and XP8 delivers their best effort yet with ease.
The clearer sounds and switched-up vocals are apparent immediately on “Blind” but the album takes off big time with “Want It.” Featuring Daniel Graves’ (of Aesthetic Perfection) signature whisper/growl/scream over a sleazy TBM beat that gets stuck in your head while making you stomp and groove with the best in the genre, this is the first single off the album for good reason. “One Pill Missing” is a harsh Terror-inspired track that will also get spun a lot, while “Awake, Restart” has layered robotic melody added to a Somanesque beat. As if that isn’t diverse enough for you Faderhead’s turn at guest vocals literally power through an otherwise standard club rhythm to get you to shake along with another instant club classic. The album ends with an interesting rework of “Our Time (Pt.II),” which sounds closer to X-Fusion than anything else and showcases how much XP8 have grown musically.
As good as this album is it does have one obvious flaw: The vocals. On The Art Of Revenge Marko Resurreccion was able to get by with a less-than-stellar vocal range because the beats, hooks and samples reigned his style in so well when he missed the mark. This time out, because the music has gotten so much bolder, the stretching of his voice is more noticeable. Ironically the addition of guest artists has also magnified this potential problem. On the slower numbers “Breathe The Poison In” and “Scorpio Eyes,” for example, the amazing layered ambiance that is some of the band’s best work to date is perhaps nullified by a bit of stylistic overreaching. This will not be a problem at all for the average, rabid club-goer but for the far less forgiving audiophile this will drop the album’s appeal a couple of pegs. It doesn’t happen that often but when he cracks a bit you notice.
Minor vocal blips aside, Drop The Mask is a very addictive dance-laden release destined to start the year off with solid beats and put XP8 on any DJ’s list for good. If you haven’t heard of them before there is no better time to check them out and you will become a converted fan before long.
Must have tracks: “Want It,” “One Pill Missing,” “Awake, Restart,” “Born Dead,” “Drop The Mask,” “Out For Blood,” “Bad Guys,” “Our Time (Pt.II).”
For fans of: Seabound, Spetznaz, Babyland, Covenant, Iris, Faderhead, SITD, Rotersand, Icon Of Coil.
See also: Review: The Art Of Revenge