Fresh from a tour of the UK’s sheds with Paloma Faith, and with a brand new EP hitting hard, ex-LIMF Academy singer, songwriter and performer XamVolo is back making waves. He’s also making the best music of his life. By Alan O’Hare.
XamVolo writes vignettes. Short stories. Sketches. Whatever you want to call them, his work utilises a lexicon that places him in a lineage that stretches from Raymond Carver and Truman Capote, right up to Kendrick Lamar and Alynda Lee Segarra. His noir narratives offer glimpses of an imagined world that will leave you wondering what’s eating at the artist. “He’s the future,” says Radio 1 tastemaker MistaJam. He’s wrong: XamVolo’s time is now.
New EP ‘A Damn Fine Spectacle’ (listen below) is dominated by slow jams that sound like summer tunes shaking the floor as cars pass you by near a cracked pavement. “Why you gotta’ move so damn sensible, what you gotta’ lose love,” asks the cool-as-ice ‘Lose Love’. You can imagine melting in Sefton Park this summer to its laid-back grooves and classic chorus, both of which shine a light on the ex-architecture student’s knack for a hook. Closing cut ‘Cathedrals’ slips in on rhythmic dynamite, too, declaring “I can’t help offend people” before seemingly slipping under water for a splash of the neo-soul that the south-east London-born, Liverpool-loving ex-LIMF Academy singer is becoming famous for.
“Everybody wants something: money, power, justice, a clean slate or a new pair of shoes,” he says when asked about the concept behind ‘A Damn Fine Spectacle’. “These songs are about the nature of our desires.” Penultimate track ‘Dark Teeth’ is another furtive glance down the dark alleys of celebrity and fame, whilst standout tune ‘Adored’ manages to slip a little Frank Ocean into the area with shards of falsetto and some gorgeous gospel organ and harmony. It’s beautiful and demonstrates that – with a full-length album to be released on Universal in his future and a tour of the nation’s arenas supporting Paloma Faith in the rear view mirror – XamVolo is building momentum and adding value with every release, to what’s becoming a prized catalogue.
This was a songwriter who declared “… I want to mix the weird time signatures/mad chords of jazz and then some of the art rock of Pink Floyd,” upon moving to Liverpool at just eighteen. Has he succeeded? Nah, this EP is much better than that. It’s cool, but it’s also classic and the esoteric sits comfortably alongside the easy listening. Sessions with hip producers like Freddie Joachim (J Cole, Aloe Blacc) can overwhelm young performers and cause the artist to lose the direction that instinct had drawn on a map for them. Not this one.
XamVolo had found himself way before the cool wanted to join his gang and that’s something worth celebrating.
XamVolo, ‘A Damn Fine Spectacle’, is out now
Thursday 14th June
Art of Dffrnce at Constellations
Pic by Robin Clewley