Interesting name, Xavier. You see, in Spanish (ok, in Mexican Spanish, you pedants), you can say “Xavier” or “Javier” and it will sound the same; the difference is now mostly aesthetic than phonetic. I make this simple but useful note as you’ll need it to understand where this fusion band, called Xavier, is shooting from in their new album, Mudanza, a 6 song loveletter to life, memories and solitude.
A Mexican supergroup of sorts, the band is a Gestalt entity made up from several bands, including (but not limited to) URSS Bajo el árbol, The Jonathan Arellano Project, Eric el Niño and Yokozuna. Similarly to the now defunct Legend of Seven Black Tentacles, the band deftly mixes Rap, Jazz and a bit of danzón in an intricate pattern that both soothe and conflagrates the deepest recesses of your soul.
But let’s go back and navelgaze about the “X” in their name. I might be overanalysing, but in this case, it feels it represents the juxtaposition between female vocals (courtesy of Citlalli Toledo) that delivers lines full of longing, while Eric El Niño‘s rap has a pent-up anger fuelled by equal parts frustration and desperation. Between this vocal tug-of-war, there lies a beautiful instrumental base layered carefully by a band of passionate musicians that just want to tell a story.
What’s this story about? I’d venture to say it’s not a happy one but not an overtly sad one either. Indeed, it feels more about a slice of life situation; the sweet and the bitter (see Vanilla Sky.) ‘Soy yo’ (it’s me) works as an introduction to the band, letting each member speak on their own terms. ‘Todo arde’ feels like a sexy, seedy night out on the streets of cualquier lado, where the alcoholic stupor seems to be dissipating slowly and you’re left with a stir of thoughts misguiding you through the dark night.
‘Incomprendido’ is what we call “the hit.” The slow, thoughtful beginning, the remorseful lyrics and the ever-evolving nature of the track make it a beast of a song. This is the moment when Xavier gels together perfectly; every element cemented now and forever. Gotta love that ending (I smell a Yokozuna brother’s involvement.) ‘Mariposa’ brings out the cocktail class of ’76 with a beautiful Rhodes providing the soul for a sweet song.
Whereas ‘Incomprendido’ felt like the powerful call to arms, ‘Re2′ feels like a total surrender. It’s quite downbeat, even if the lyrics feel like an affirmation of the singers’ sense of self. When both Citlalli and Eric repeat “I am who I am / in this place / I am who I am / I will not escape“, you can feel that an identity crisis has been sorted and a new day is on the horizon. ‘Re2’ also finds the band embracing their most experimental side, with an instrumental interlude chockfull of atmospheres and drones.
We can’t end an EP like this with a downbeat note, so ‘Bailar Contigo’ is a happy invitation to shake your hips and let all worries sway away on the dancefloor. Sometimes, that’s the best antidepressant you can ingest. Experimental yet still quite palatable, this is who Xavier are and Mudanza is their calling card.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López