‘Sweatting’ to the Oldies
He may have enough Bandcamp pages to fill both hands, but they only show that Justin Sweatt really loves his nostalgia. The Austin, Texas, electronic musician performs as Xander Harris, a character name pulled from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His new LP, The New Dark Age of Love, has cover art riffing on the soundtrack to middling ’80s Brat Pack vehicle She’s Having a Baby, and what’s on the inside often suggests BBC DJ mix shows from the early days of techno and trance.
It may not have been Sweatt’s intent, but The New Dark Age of Love promotes the bubbly sounds of underground vinyl pioneers (“Night Fortress,” “Tristitia”) and echoes of electronica’s roots like Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream (“Bring Me Their Heads”). They’re the kind of cuts The Orb and Coldcut might have traded back and forth on turntables at Maida Vale. DJ Food and DK, meanwhile, might have enjoyed XH’s excursions in chillwave with dark soul hybrids like “Vultures of Tenderness.”
Xander Harris normally leans toward industrial and moody synthpop sounds that hit (Poison Belt) more than they miss (Urban Gothic). Yet Sweatt hasn’t strung together purposefully upbeat stuff since 2011’s Contamination. That EP positioned him as a decent purveyor of contemporary indie-dance, but The New Dark Age of Love is an altogether pleasant surprise. It finds for Xander Harris a new voice in old and anonymous sounds, moving music forward by looking backward.