Xeno & Oaklander's detached synth-pop paradoxically feels like it's right beside you. The duo's fifth album, Topiary, doesn't alter X&O's modular circuits too much, but does place its vocal priority with Liz Wendelbo. With gorgeously layered sequences and a rubber-band drum-machine beat, "Marble" is deceptively all moody atmosphere, but Wendelbo's voice drips and warps like a Dali painting, giving the song elastic movement.
In the video for "Marble," director Scott Kiernan envisions a '70s variety show, complete with a long microphone and a disco-ball blazer. Wendelbo sings as bandmate Sean McBride films, and from there the watcher becomes the watched becomes the watcher. It's weirdly voyeuristic, making the fabulous a little gritty. Kiernan explains:
Liz acts as the symbol of the televised chanteuse photographed and rephotographed, who observes her own image while being observed. She is both producer and that which is produced, and is able to relive an image of glamour through playback of her televised self.
As interlopers between the world in front of and behind the camera, Liz and Sean both "perform," and perform the labor of producing their own image. What they find is that even this often-unseen mechanism of the studio (responsible for creating so many images while often only existing for the viewer in their collective imagination) can be nothing more than an image itself when actually made visible by its own lens.
The text cues are derived from the lyrics, but are used to evoke TV production cues. They are often timed a bit before their corresponding lyric as if to direct the next action on screen. These same flashes of text are often intentional "mishearings" of the lyrics, or puns which can be taken to signify a production move in the studio.
Topiary comes out June 3 on Ghostly International.