XAM Duo – the Yorkshire-based pairing of Matthew Benn and Christopher Duffin – follow up their acclaimed self-titled 2016 debut with a new album. They have spent the past few years collaborating with Virginia Wing and releasing the fun single ‘Tisch Tennis’, as well as playing live with everyone from Stereolab, Sonic Boom and Michael Rother to Jessy Lanza, The Necks and Anna Meredith. They are also both members of Holodrum, the band formed from the ashes of Hookworms whose debut album came out earlier this year.
Despite being over five years in the making, ‘XAM Duo II’ is a much more concise affair than their debut, clocking in at just under 30 minutes. The journey begins and ends with the beat-driven ‘Blue Comet’ and ‘Cold Stones’, taking in shorter ambient jams along the way, making use of saxophone, drawn out tape chords, floating Rhodes piano and spaced-out synths, alongside very precise and intentional, sequenced and punchy synth tones. With the digital approach it could feel cold and processed, but it’s the opposite – warm and natural. This is something that is reflected in the striking artwork by long-time collaborator Jonathan Wilkinson which comes from a series of prints inspired by his time hiking around the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire. One thing that has stayed the same is the influence of The Sopranos, with three of the six tracks on the album named after episodes of the classic series.