Sybarite is an IDM artist who i have enjoyed
quite a bit in the past. I had heard that he got signed to 4AD
records, a label which i followed closely in the 80's when they
were home to Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. It occurred to
me that i had not really heard much from them lately, so i decided
to check out the new 7" from Sybarite.
Of all musical formats, i think the 7" is my favorite. It's
compact, which forces bands to make a concise musical statement.
In other words, it forces bands to edit their work, and in many
cases this is a good thing. Of course, back in The Era of Vinyl,
bands released singles in 7" form, so you got b-sides that sometimes
weren't quite so good. But now, in the post-vinyl world, the
7" is used as a medium to release a short statement from an
artist, something to appease fans waiting for an album. Or a
test release on a new label.
Because, let's face it, one doesn't exactly think IDM when
you hear the name 4AD. They were a proto-shoegazer label. But,
apparently, they are attempting to reform their image, to update
themselves to the current scene. Good for them. If this release
is any indication, they will do as well in their new endeavors
as they have with past ones.
Before i discuss the two songs on this release, i want to briefly
discuss the physical nature of the release. 4AD has always been
known for exquisite sleeves with delightful, if abstract, artwork
by 23 Envelope (now going as v23). This 7" is no exception --
the tones and overall aesthetic is quite nice. Additionally,
the vinyl itself is good -- not the really thick audiophile
vinyl, but not the cheap flimsy-feeling stuff you get from some
of the indie labels. Overall i am pleased with the physical
The music here is quite well done. I have only heard the Sybarite
album Music for a Film, and i enjoy that well
enough. It's good, if stereotypical, IDM constructed out of
crunchy beats over ambient keyboard drones. However, apparently
Sybarite are going in a new direction these days.
Previously Sybarite was just one guy: Xian Hawkins. (Supposedly
you pronounce Xian as "Christian", just like Xmas is pronounced
"Christmas".) Here he is joined by other musicians, including
a vocalist, strings, a drummer, and a co-producer. The presence
of others adds a more organic feel to the songs, and really
strengthens them. It's not just some lonely guy with a laptop
-- it feels organic.
The a-side is Scene of the Crime, and this is great
song. It is IDM meets pop music along the lines of The
Postal Service or Her
Space Holiday. Here, the sultry voice of Jennifer Charles
is layered over the viola of Allison Cornell and the light glitch
constructed by Hawkins. The song sweels slowly, and Charles's
voice is a wonderful accompaniment to the processed music. The
song is catchy and seems very current. I am glad to see Hawkins
tossing his hat into the IDM-fusion genre. If this one song
is any indication of what his full-length on 4AD will be like,
then i definitely look forward to it.
The b-side is The Fourth Way, which is an instrumental.
It features live drumming creditied to Malcolm Felder, which
adds much richness to the tune. The drums are fed through the
IDM processor, and come out slightly crunchy. They combine with
a nicely funky bass riff and a catchy keyboard melody to make
a happy little head bopping tune.
There is nothing i don't like about this release. It reaffirms
my faith in both 4AD and Sybarite, and i look forward to more
output from their partnership.