Published on January 26th, 2019 | by Guest Editor0
XamVolo – All The Sweetness on the Surface
XamVolo unveils debut album ‘All The Sweetness on the Surface’ alongside visual for new single ‘Alive’ today. Premiered on Radio 1 by Huw Stephens, ‘Alive’ follows critically acclaimed lead single ‘Sins of A Solider’.
Channeling an eclectic mix of old-school soul and jazz, while radiating a chilled, contemporary electronic vibe, Xam has been hailed as “the future” by long-time fan MistaJam, and credited by DJ, label-owner and broadcaster Gilles Peterson with making a whole genre relevant again. “Jazz, but not like anything you have heard before,” he says.
Wise beyond his years, XamVolo is a true artist, overseeing every element of the music he describes as “a messy mind over raw, dark jazz grooves”. He’s been compared to the likes of Leon Bridges, Frank Ocean and Anderson Paak, while carving out a niche of his own as the rising star of UK neo-soul. Championed by a wealth of tastemakers – from Annie Mac and Huw Stephens through to COLORS and NOTION (to name a few) he has also picked up plays across 1Xtra, Beats 1, 6 Music and BBC Radio 2, plus a recent sync with ITV drama ‘Cleaning Up’ staring Sheridan Smith.
A powerful and emotive collection of song writing mastery ‘All The Sweetness on the Surface’ is an inventive concept album and a testament to XamVolo’s cinematic method of creating worlds within his music, it tells a neo-noir story of a young girl who finds herself confronted with a hive containing a black honey substance that can grant her every desire.
XamVolo explains the symbolism of the honey: “Everybody wants something, whether it’s money, power, justice, a clean slate, or a new pair of shoes. Some people would go to great lengths to acquire the things they want, but whenever there’s an easier option available, most people would rather save themselves the hassle. This album is all about the nature of our desires. When someone is told of this black honey – of an easy way to obtain everything they’ve ever wanted – their curiosity is piqued.”
The album is split into two parts, life before the discovery of the black honey and the grim consequences of life after, in which we’re shown the dark side of getting everything you ever wanted at the click of a finger.
Standout tracks “Sins of a Soldier” and “Gold Again” capture this dualism perfectly. “Sins of a Soldier” captures the protagonist spiralling into a self-destructive sea of delusion. “If I hit the button now, only I know how it ends,” sings XamVolo, hinting at a personal apocalypse over a soundtrack of dark, sci-fi funk. The song came together during sessions with heavyweight producers AV and Paul Phamous (Frank Ocean). On the flip side, “Gold Again”, written and produced by Xam, finds his character coming out of the other side of their black honey experience. It’s a slow and enchanting pop song, that makes you feel like your head has floated into the skies. “It summarises everything about desire and how deep rooted it is in human nature,” says XamVolo. “We all want and need things. Finally sober, the character is nostalgic; they remember a time when everything was golden.”
And yet, probably the best example of XamVolo’s creative spirit is not in the album’s biggest tracks or its finest instrumentation, but in the things many listeners might not even notice unless they dig for it. The album’s opening track, “The Surface”, is a gentle beat with twinkling piano and XamVolo speaking over it, and the closing track “All The Sweetness” is a cruising slow jam. Seems simple enough. But if you play both songs at the same time, they create an altogether new polyrhythmic track, and the lyrics lock together to realize the album’s title: All The Sweetness on The Surface.
Perhaps, beyond the infectious big hits and staggering vocals, it’s his attention to detail on these tiny little flourishes of genius that keep garnering him so many comparisons to the true greats of music.
“Formidable rising master of neo-soul” (Quietus)
“Combines an old school vibe with some new school production” (Dummy)
“So good! For all those pinning for Frank Ocean this will fill the void” (Annie Mac)
“Truly one of the most unique artists around at the moment” (Wonderland)
“A man of many talents… his music contains a careful sense of construction, a rare coherency that supplies enormous strength” (Clash)
UK TOUR DATES
1ST FEB BSCENE FESTIVAL BASIL, SWITZERLAND
7 TH FEB EAST VILLAGE ARTS CLUB LIVERPOOL, UK
8TH FEB THE EXCHANGE BRISTOL, UK
10TH FEB YES BASEMENT MANCHESTER, UK
16TH FEB ALCAZAR LIVE
25TH MAR THE LEXINGTON LONDON, UK