EP Review: XHOANA X – ‘The Villain’.

Deepest Pleasure’s the single that grabbed our attention with its vengeful and mean eyed prestige. Electronic sounds met with cathartic cruelty, XHOANA X hit with a blast. Now there’s an EP, an extended mini-album of new songs and gathered releases. Will it match with the grit of that first introduction? Let’s listen in, settle and see…

XHOANA knows how build pressure. The thickness of sound that runs through the EP gives the hook and the mood and the feel. Semi industrial pop glittered textures, muffled percussion and synth darkened shades, there’s a wealth of macabre to wade through. What surprises us most having heard that lead single is a new softened centre put forward.

Hearing the switch between hardened and heart-broke, it surprises, draws in, pulls us close. We learn not to expect outright acts of defiance, but we glimpse at what goes on behind. ‘Endless Crime’ mixes sadness with signature sounds that ramp up to Depeche Mode proportions. Guitars grind a weep that gets buried in synthwork while drums beat and punch through the haze.

‘The Villain’, ‘The Great Escape’, and the closing ‘Slow & Steady’, they all play with this template and twist it. With an intimate feel against gloss thickened triphop, they half beg for wide open stages. Out of these it’s the lean, muscular ‘Slow & Steady’ that shines as the bolder big sister. It reduces distractions to tough gothic tones as it plays with theatric new touches.

Elsewhere we tease lighter but no-less adult pop that strays close to Del Rey melancholy. ‘Paradise Lost’ is a city at night coasting easy in sleepy-lit neons. It might not have the bite that we’re wanting or missing, nor the break that we’d call a reprieve, but the following ‘CASTLE’ strips down even further and delivers a slow break exposure.       

XHOANA X works her best at the edges, ether vengeful and thickened or vulnerably thin. The more poised and sure footed, and the stronger the role-play, the more we’re enticed and sucked in.