Virginia Wing / Xam Duo – Tomorrow’s Gift

Virginia Wing / Xam Duo – Tomorrow’s Gift

With December’s record label schedules bloated by boxsets, reissues and novelty artefacts, it’s a relief to still find late-in-the-year releases appearing with something fresh.  Enter then, this charmed collaborative affair from London’s Virginia Wing and Yorkshire’s Xam Duo.  With already burgeoning kudos building around the two outfits in recent years, via the former’s steady trickle of wares across Critical Heights, Faux Discx and Fire Records and the latter’s appearances through Sonic Cathedral, Polytechnic Youth and Bandcamp-enabled oddments, this detour might have been an unnecessary momentum inhibitor.  Happily though, it’s actually a marriage made in shadowy cosmic bliss.

Purportedly distilled from 48 hours of semi-improvised recordings – cut in a Bradford studio earlier this year – into a condensed 48 minutes, the seven-track Tomorrow’s Gift combines both band’s strengths into an intensely satisfying whole.  Blurring together Virginia Wing’s most elegiac experimentalist edges with Xam Duo’s deep-space kosmische-meets-free-jazz soundscaping, the album is a sprawling yet purposefully-focused epic.

Perversely opening with the lengthiest track – the 20+ minute “Birch Polygon” – is certainly an intimidating way to begin.  Yet its expansive discombobulations act as an arresting and imposing introduction; with the layered and manipulated semi-spoken tones of Alice Merida Richards wandering through a disorientating labyrinthine sound world of fuzzy whirring analogue electronics and heavily-treated saxophones.  Beyond such a grand foreboding starter statement, Tomorrow’s Gift opens and loosens up somewhat, with further rewarding results.  Hence, the ensuing “Yesterday’s Guest” brings a more buoyant rhythmical undertow to the synthscaping and finds Richards hitting a Nico-meets-Laetitia Sadier vocal sweet spot; “Look Again” swims into layers of watery yet acidic ambience akin to both Fripp & Eno’s No Pussyfooting and Noveller’s Fantastic Planet; “Melon Pan” swirls through disorientating tiers of indecipherable looping and backwards voices, brittle yet twinkling percussion and prowling low-end sax; “Good Roads Fair Weather” mirrors Molly Nilsson’s retro-early-‘80s NYC DIY-pop with added free-jazz skronk; and the terrific “Person To Person” melds voodoo drum tattoos to elemental synth textures, rubbery bass and randy seductive saxophones.  Proceedings close with the second longest piece – the nearly eight minutes of “A Tunnel” – where Richards’s deadpan spoken vocal and lyrical presence recalls early-Piano Magic over a bed of near-ecclesiastical dronescaping and wandering sax lines.

Whilst some may still prefer Virginia Wing and Xam Duo’s separate operations, Tomorrow’s Gift undoubtedly brings out the best from both sides of this artistic coupling, to produce a deeply compelling outcome.  One of 2017’s most darkly alluring pleasures at the eleventh hour in short…

Fire Records