On their debut album International Waters [EVAR Records], French duo XL Order dive into an aquatic underworld of futuristic trance, brutal bass and tingling techno, exploring the paradoxes between dystopia and utopia. Feelings of melancholia and nostalgia ripple throughout, alongside dark and moody textures, reflecting their ability to conjure sinister soundscapes and hazy melodies.
Due to drop onNovember 10th, the album ebbs and flows between futuristic trance, brutal bass and tingling techno that pens a story of a new world, resulting in a paradox between dystopia and utopia. Feelings of melancholia and nostalgia ripple throughout the album alongside dark and moody textures, reflecting their ability to conjure sinister soundscapes in tandem with hazy melodies.
Drawing influence from the metaphysical painter Jean-Pierre Ugarte and the sci-fi film Blade Runner, as well as the aesthetic of Cyberpunk, XL Order produce sonic elements aligned with each multimedia source. Fusing themes of unity between the ecosystem and mankind, International Waters tells a tale of biodiversity and the perpetual renewal of nature, with or without humanity.
Chilling, cinematic and captivating, the album begins in a mirage of ambient tones, evolving into a trance and techno-flecked collection culminating in ten tracks. With a combination of chuggy rhythms, eerie sound FX and resounding kickdrums, an impression of a new world order gurgles beneath the surface while a shimmering utopia remains just beyond reach.
"Realm" opens the album on an angelic note with spine-tingling chords potent enough to make your eyes water before a flash of AI-like noise ends the track abruptly, catching us off guard. "Ode" follows suit with sombre pads and choppy breaks while a bewitching melody swirls in the atmosphere — a myriad of heart-melting frequencies.
On "Ava", XL Order collaborate with Paris-based vocalist Dovae, whose mechanized vocals simmer between rapid-fire hi-hats and breaksy-percussion. Layered between a succession of claps and alarm-like noise, Dovae’s lyrics hypnotize and haunt."Hybride" is a storm of staccato synth notes and metallic percussion, working in symbiosis to create an enticing patchwork of grooves, pulling us towards cyberland. It's a contrast to "Cleanse," which is a thunking trip of cow-bell noises and a doom-inducing bassline, whipping up a frenzy that's apt for peak-time raving.
The hint is in the name on "Clubbing Planet." A robotic vocal echoes in the soundscape as a wonky bassline punctuates the mood. Deconstructed breakbeats add a foreboding feel, alluding to the presence of AI. "Industrial Dance" switches pace to a frantic level as mutant kickdrums pulverize the vibe alongside a corrosive melody. Not for the faint of heart.
"Reef Breaks" takes us underwater with a beautiful trance-flavoured melody, coming up for air with a succession of siren-like notes. Pure, unadulterated euphoria bubbles on "Seamulation," evoking pleasure-filled chaos. It's a contemporary tune down to the last beat, with a confetti-cannon synthline and Eurodance melody.
Closing out on the album with "Digillusion", XL Order focus on natural themes, including the sky, clouds and thunder. They run their own vocals through a vocoder, amplifying the hands-in-the-air vibe that dominates. The idea of the final track is to reflect three emotions that they feel resonate with the vision of XL Order: happiness, melancholy and renewal. It couldn’t be more accurate.
XL Order display their idea of the future on International Waters — one that is equally intriguing and terrifying. Merging sci-fi-inspired breaks, AI-shaped techno and classic trance with a nu-skool twist, the pair know their sound and deliver it with panache.