On October 10 and 11 the annual Skaņu Mežs Festival for Adventurous Music and Related Arts will take place in the Daile concert hall in Riga, Latvia. Also, the first artists have been confirmed, and they are the darkwave/synthpop duo Xeno & Oaklander from Brooklyn, New York.
The 12th edition of Skaņu Mežs is a part of the official program of Riga being the European Capital of Culture 2014. It is going to be characterized by a subtle balance between the electronic and the acoustic, the improvised and the tightly woven, the obvious and the abstract. These contrasts will be reflected both in the program of the festival as well as within particular performances. Such a perspective will be taken upon in order to defend the idea that progress and innovation in music is dependant foremost on bold ideas and flexible language, not just technology.
Xeno and Oaklander is minimal electronics male/female duo and they began writing music and soundtracks in 2004. Liz Wendelbo is French / Norwegian and Sean McBride is from Maryland, also known for his solo act Martial Canterel. They record their songs live in their Brooklyn studio and play analogue synthesizers and instruments exclusively. They have worked with NY producer Chris Coady, and have recorded with producer Drew Brown at Hospital studios in London. They have toured the US, Europe and Russia numerous times, and they play extensively in New York in music venues, art establishments and festivals such as Chaos in Tejas, Buchla Source of Uncertainty, and the Moog showcase at SXSW. They have also performed at SF Moma, PS1 Warm Up, Miami Art Basel, the Zurich Kunsthalle and the New Museum in New York.
The music magazine NME reported the following of Xeno & Oaklander’s 2011 album „Sets and lights”: „Bands drawing on ’80s synth-pop have hardly been scarce these last few years, but the latest missive from New Yorkers Xeno & Oaklander is not the work of dilettantes. Liz Wendelbo and Sean McBride have the Human League/Thomas Dolby textures down to a tee but, crucially, they haven’t skimped on the songwriting.” Critic Frances Morgan also added that the album’s songs, with their hypnotic shared vocals, „revolve around delicious melodies”.
On June 24th, 2014, label Ghostly International published Xeno & Oaklander’s latest album „Par Avion”. “We want people to bring their own experience to Par Avion,” singer/keyboardist Sean McBride says in a Dazed and Confused magazine story about the album. “There are certainly underlying themes of effort, loss, desert, secret chambers, but the way I feel about it is only one understanding of our contemporary situation. There’s a logic that runs through the album but it’s not the philosophy of stuffy academics; we want our ethics to be viewed through the lens of personal experience.” Liz Wendelbo adds: “”The record should fulfil both meanings of the word, it’s an album yes, but it’s also a moment of memory, one that helps you recall and recreate stories.”
The British innovative music magazine The Wire gave the album a full-page review, stating that “Par Avion conducts itself with balletic grace. It’s elegant and pristine”.
Xeno & Oaklander’s performance is supported by the Trust For Mutual Understanding. Skaņu Mežs festival is a member of the association for experimental music festivals ECAS (European Cities of Advanced Sound) that is supported by the EU programme “Culture”.