January 08, 2002

Sybarite "PLacement Issues'

A sybarite, according to my handy dandy little dictionary, is defined as "a person devoted to pleasure and luxury; a voluptuary." Is it a fitting name for this band? All signs seem to say yes, but let's examine this idea further, shall we?

Sybarite is a man, a singular man, Xian Hawkins, making silent, wordless music on guitar and other good musical instruments. There's a certain level of stylistic cross breeding with bands such as Sybarite. The general style found on Placement Issues is a nice melding of new age sounds and more experimental moments. Sybarite are slightly oxymoron--complex, simple ,minimalist? Yup. This is music that is complicated enough to make your average undergraduate music student (not including drummers, including percussionists, however) go " wow, that's a pretty intelligent, complex melody that Hawkins is attempting, blah blah blah." This is also music that is so simple and unassuming in its approach that you won't be knocked down by harsh, unpleasant, pompous melodies. These songs are friendly. These songs like you. They really do. In that way, Placement Issues reminds me heavily of Ui, and, in turn, the more upbeat moments of Harold Budd and Brian Eno, and that can only be a good thing, can't it?

Placement Issues is a collection of Sybarite's previous, out of print singles, and is a nice little stopgap release between musicforafilm and their debut record for 4AD, with whom the band recently signed a contract. The only drawback to this pretty album of instrumental songs is that, taken out of their original 7" context, the record does become slightly monotonous; this, however, does not take away one bit from Placement Issues, but it is something you should know about beforehand. Best to hit "random" and let 'er rip. As good for a night of passion as it is for a night of thinking or leisure.

Sybarite's debut album, musicforafilm, was a conceptual piece invoking the idea of being a cinematic score. Placement Issues really sheds light on the fact that Hawkins might have a good future writing scores. Yeah, this collection really does sound like incidental music, not unlike what you would hear on a TV show or, heh, porno films. (Not that I'd know, mind you.) A nice taster for a grander future to come, I'm sure.

--Joseph Kyle

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