East Coast minimal wave institution Xeno & Oaklander’s seventh full-length further distills their iconic noir synth pop into a streamlined suite of gleaming, graceful retrofuturism. Inspired by ideas of synesthesia, scent, star worship, and obsolescent technologies, the duo of Liz Wendelbo and Sean McBride began conceiving the blueprint of Vi/deo while sequestered at their Southern Connecticut home studio during the pandemic. The context of isolation, streaming, and remote dreaming seeped into their chemistry, manifesting as both homage to and meditation on a certain cinematic strain of technicolor fantasy: the screen as stage, distance disguised as intimacy, where tragedy and glamor crossfade into one.
Opening with the precision synthetic melancholy of “Infinite Sadness,” the album marks a peak fluidity between the pair’s fusion of analog electronics and poetic melody, both refined and oblique, classic but contemporary. Wendelbo modeled her singing on “a young boy in a choir,” alternately holding notes and whispering them, with the lyrics clear, the voice elevated. McBride’s synthesizers serve as the perfect counterpart, tiered and polished, threading fluorescent architectures of a lost audio-visual age. Theirs is a darkwave of reverie and flickering city lights, swooning and sleek, romantic anthems for concrete bohemia, cigarette smoke in rainy gardens, and sound as color (“blue is fast and red is slow”). Vi/deo captures the bittersweet beauty of youth and utopias, the wistful transformation from miracle to memory, where love turns unreal and music becomes myth: “Sounds of the underground / Will echo in future days / Feelings of misery / Will fade into the haze.”