Restored 04 June 2017, originally published 13 September 2014
Straight from Cult Classic Records, I present xQz, a 21-year-old Ukrainian from Donetsk, and his latest release Backwards Words.
The single most memorable aspect of Backwards Words (besides the clever title) is the soothing, relaxed nature of the music. For passive listeners, it fits nicely into the background of any sort of quiet situation. The more active listener will appreciate the individual elements and their combinations. Steady beats provide structure, which is good for staying on task while working or studying. Light strings and percussion along with soft wind-instruments encourage clarity of thought and perception. Samples are used in an equally chilled manner, while occasionally touching the psychedelic to provide a spark of creativity without garnering too much attention. While all of the tracks are relatively relaxed, there is sufficient variety to keep Backwards Words from becoming monotonous. Not to mention the general brevity of tracks and of the album as a whole. Just four of the 17 tracks break the three-minute mark, and all 17 together (including an intro, outro, and two interludes) are no more 40 minutes long.
Some tracks, like “Lightweight”, are energetic and bouncy. Trumpets pop in and out. The beat is uptempo. Others — like “Toss ‘n’ Turn” — have a dazed, dream-like quality about them. The tempo drops. The bass is slow and plodding. A lo-fi haze hangs over the track. Tracks like “Broken Toys” and “Hourglass” are glitch- and sample-heavy. xQz splices, loops, or manipulates almost every piece yielding highly-digital, yet highly-listenable songs.
With each listen, I find myself pausing to focus on “If Love Exists”. A mellow guitar cracks the track open wide enough for a few other stringed instruments and the beat. The beat is simple, just a few cymbals, and the snare and kick drums. Guitar riffs throughout produce a loving, longing sensation. In the last minute, a trumpet ties everything together yielding a truly heart-felt song. After hearing it, I’m inclined to think the track should be titled simply “Love Exists” because after hearing it, there’s no if about it.
“Wisdom” is another standout. It features a great variety of sounds such as piano, violin, cello, flute, and various percussion instruments. The vibe of this one is inspiring. The strings and wind-instruments carry the listener on clouds of bliss while the percussion punctuates the experience like little rain drops splashing against your cheeks. The intensity picks up for a bit at the half-way point before dropping off again and gliding to a smooth finish.
All told, Backwards Words provides a smooth and easy listening experience that can lighten any mood.
xQz – “If Love Exists”
xQz – “Wisdom”
Backwards Words purchase page at Cult Classic Records