Margate-based musician and composer Xav Clarke creates a unique brand of jazz infused, psychedelic indie-pop, fitting somewhere between Tame Impala and Anderson .Paak with a smattering of Todd Rundgren for good measure.
A vibrant collection of 13 tracks packed with funk infused rhythms, warming live instrumentation and analogue synths, the new album Magic Arrow possesses an uplifting, fluorescent aura – experimental and trippy yet optimistic and bright. Opening with an understated, boxy acoustic guitar and gentle vocal at the start of ‘Wifi On The Moon’, Clarke starts the album on a whimsical gentle note before the track quickly jumps in pace introducing a jazzy, bopping instrumental section introducing the signature, psychedelic, funk and jazz infused soundscape that can be found across the album.
Track two ‘Underachiever’ see’s Clarke fully step into his stylistic comfort zone – shuffling drums, a bouncing bass line and dappled funky guitar and shimmering synth lines creating an air of vintage whilst splashes of dappled, modulated synths and samples keep the soundscape fresh as the light, yet melancholic female/ male vocals juxtapose this mood. Summery and swaying, the track is subtly challenging with the layers of instrumentation and inventive production offering depth beyond the first listen akin to the likes of Jungle.
‘My Friends Are Evil’ see’s Xav move further into the realms of psychedelic indie, something which the artist executes just as well as his more danceable work. Dropping the funk rhythms and focusing on tinkling keys, atmospheric guitar lines and a driving yet loose almost messy rhythm section, the track captures as essence of joyous energy. The ultra catchy vocal lines and satirical lyricism shine, finishing off a track that feels like it could be straight out of Speedy Wundergrounds release catalogue. Including of a brilliant, Johnny Greenwood-esque guitar solo this is one of the album’s highlights.
Elsewhere on the album ‘Sleepy Magics’ see’s Clarke delve further into his jazzier side with a beautiful, gentle, saxophone lead instrumental track which could also be heavily influenced by Pink Floyd. ‘No One Understands This Thing Called Life’ is a vibrant, upbeat offering while ‘I’m Not Ready To Give Up On You’ embraces the lo-fi side of Clarke’s music with some amazing instrumental arrangements with a sense of shimmering charm and some excellent sax and guitar breaks.
Later into the album ‘I Hope It Rains All Night’ once again embraces this lo-fi approach, developing from a sample of rainfall and a sultry saxophone to a simplistic, boxy EQ tined vocal and guitar which swing from side to side – headphone to headphone with a swaying modulation highlighting the kind of stylistic choices which make Xav’s music so original.
‘Sometimes Everyone Goes to the Zoo’ is like a modern psychedelic take on The Beatles, a discussion surrounding mental health while the funky bop and album closer ‘Good Enough’ closes out the album with synth heavy funk melodies and self-reflective lyricism which juxtaposes the uplifting backing.
An album showcasing some brilliant musicianship and an experimental approach but ultimately some joyous, interesting and vibrantly colourful soundscapes, Magic Arrow is a lot of fun but much more than that, it’s well put together and musically complex. Xav Clarke has clearly found himself musically and isn’t afraid to full his full self on display both with his unique ideas but also his at times daringly honest and yet always witty lyricism. The album shines with a sense of euphoria but there is depth in the songwriting that still manages to shine through. A stellar effort from an artist who is clearly full of innovative artistic ideas.