Thursday, June 1, 2023

Clan of Xymox "Limbo" & West Coast Tour: May 31 - Jun 16

Rescheduled over the course of almost three years due to the complications of the pandemic, the seminal Dutch minimal synth wave group Clan of Xymox, return to the United States this month for a much-delayed summer tour. Forty years ago, Xymox, which formed as a project by Ronny Moorings and Anka Wolbert in 1981, produced their first self-released mini album, "Subsequent Pleasures" following the duo's move to Amsterdam in 1983. Having secured a performance in Paris in the wake of the release's positive reception, the lineup enlisted keyboardist and vocalist Pieter Nooten, and second touring guitarist Frank Weyzig. In the following year, this central trio of Moorings, Wolbert and Nooten would become Clan of Xymox for their signing to Ivo Watts-Russell's influential British postpunk and ethereal music label, 4AD. After a chance meeting with Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance at a concert in Nijmegen, the British duo brough Xymox on as their support for a tour of the United Kingdom. The resulting attention produced a commission for a demo by Watts-Russell, and subsequent signing to their shared label, which released Clan of Xymox eponymous album in 1985. Working from the demos, the label's inhouse production team of Watts-Russell and Turner looked to accentuate the unique topography of their sound, positioned between the gothic guitar pop of The Cure, and the synth-driven electronic dance wave of New Order. Refined by Watts-Russell, Jon Turner, and John Fryer's guidance at Blackwing Studios, the sui generis qualities of their sound can be heard across the eight tracks of "Clan of Xymox". Distinguished amidst the abundance of wave, post-punk and gothic music of the time by its complex meeting of acoustic, electric and electronic arrangements, naive sometimes broken English, and an aesthetic assertion of the band's bohemian European origins.

Their sound was unambiguous to the extent that Wolbert's "Seventh Time" was picked up by the greatest of the underground British radio tastemakers of the time, John Peel. This led to the band recording two Peel Sessions at the BBC, and a greater focus of resources and time given by their parent label for the sophomore album, "Medusa". An elegant, haunting album of instrumental passages, propulsive synth wave songs, and gothic rock crescendos, "Medusa" would prove to be the apogee of the music Clan of Xymox would produce as a trio. On the following tours across Europe and a first in the United States, inner tensions as to the music's focus and Nooten and Wolbert's respective roles began to force its central trio in opposing directions. This culminated in Xymox leaving 4AD, following a signing to Polydor and the release of 1989's more expressly synthpop influenced "Twist of Shadows", which saw Wolbert and Nooten's contribution increasingly marginalized. Pieter Nooten briefly remained with 4AD, but from this point forward Xymox and its later reformatting as Clan of Xymox, would solely be the project of Ronny Moorings. Moorings has since found new listeners in a second generation of gothic and post-wave audiences across Europe, and massive success at gothic culture events like Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival in his current home of Leipzig, Germany. Signing to domestic label Metropolis, this second iteration of Clan of Xymox has made a number of returns to North America since their formation, with significantly greater frequency than the original trio. The music of this iteration is also more clearly delineated as a dark and sometimes angst-driven gothic synth pop, gone is the genre ambiguity of their more artfully cryptic 4AD era. This year's tour, with a date in Seattle follows the early pandemic release of their album "Limbo", and marks their third return to the United States in a decade.