Venezuelan New Yorker Ximena Borges has always been difficult to pin down stylistically. I first came across her music a few years ago with a multi-lingual vocal-only holiday album. Avant-Garde is Xi.Me.Na’s home but she seems to have settled on ambient electronica for her EP ‘Before You’. It is a very good choice for her beautiful soprano voice.
Across the EP there is a parallel to My Brightest Diamond both in vocal dexterity and occasionally in music production. This is most apparent in the beautiful title track. Xi.Me.Na uses her voice as both lead, backing and melody over a slow skipping percussive loop and gentle drone synth. It is electronic as her voice is manipulated for a bass line but the song also feels neoclassical.
The other three tracks are more synth fueled but each has a very distinct feel and vibe. ‘High Moments’ has beauty and elegance alongside its catchy chorus. ‘There’s Me’ takes the double bass and lots of splices of vocal work together to create a smooth alt-pop piece without ever feeling poppy at all. ‘Lion’ which closes the EP is a monstrous synth-rock track. The way the music explodes to the operatic tendencies of Xi.Me.Na is so satisfying. Operatic vocals used in other types of music can feel gimmicky or shrill but Xi.Me.Na feels authentic and unusual. I’ve not heard a song like this all year.
‘Before You’ is easily my favourite incarnation of Xi.Me.Na to date and I feel like she may well have found her voice in the world. She’s creating a new blend of music using electronica, neoclassical themes and experimental operatic vocals yet it just works. One of my favourite surprises of 2019.
Recommended track: Before You
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