Sybarite: Cut Out Shape
Temporary Residence

Maybe every recording artist should follow Sybarite's lead and only issue a new album every four years or so, especially if the outcome is as carefully-crafted and focused as Cut Out Shap. That's how long it took Xian Hawkins to get his latest full-length in order but it wasn't because he was lazing idly by; instead, after his 4AD debut Nonument, he found himself fielding so many offers for film and television projects he could only manage a remix or compilation appearance here and there while tending to his other obligations. (Cut Out Shape also reunites Hawkins with Temporary Residence which issued musicforafilm and Placement Issues discs before Nonument .)

The foreboding title song immediately establishes the album's sophisticated character, with Sybarite carefully intertwining a slinking piano line with clanging punctuations and a funky shuffle. The best thing about it is that, even when the song modulates through quiet and loud passages, Hawkins calibrates the song's density perfectly by neither adding too much or too little. It doesn't hurt that friends like Galia Durant help out either, with the Psapp singer adding her evocative voice to the psychedelic samba “Runaway” (interestingly, the song more resembles a Dani Siciliano track than a Psapp song). At times Hawkins' music gravitates towards a specific genre (the noisy “Memory End” offers a shredded serving of guitar-drenched shoegaze while one could file “Dot the Lines” under orchestral post-rock); at other times, it conflates styles (the uptempo mix of six-string roar and country swing in “Kill the Moonshine”) or sidesteps categorization altogether, the propulsive haze of saxes, acoustic guitars, and vocal wheeze stoked in “Sanctuary” (previously issued on Idol Tryouts Two: Ghostly International Vol. Two) a case in point. A string-kissed hidden track “Knot in the Wheel” takes the album out on a cool and elegant note, much like the rest of Hawkins' polished album.

November 2006