The prototypical techno producer tends to present a stylistically broad set when the opportunity to issue his or her premiere ‘artist' album arrives, and in that regard Tim Xavier's debut full-length is no different. First up's the standard ambient overture, this one a soundscape of rather spooky character (“Ambient Duality”), before we get down to business and the rhythm tracks start rolling out. And that they do, beginning with “Sonic Duality,” a mid-tempo stepper that stirs see-sawing chords, hazy voice loops, and chugging beats into a heady swirl, and “Into the Light,” an equally tripped-out affair that counters bass-pumping swing with a kind of dazed delirium stoked by repetition.
But Viperfish shouldn't be dismissed simply because it conforms in design to other releases of its type, as it's certainly a quality enough collection when taken on its own terms. Xavier is as solid a craftsperson as they come and the man's got a good decade's worth of experience under his belt to help make it all sound easy. Over the years, he's released tracks during stays in Chicago and New York, and these days takes inspiration from his Berlin base. He's equally adept at cranking out a jacking track of acidic bent (“Sequence Madness”) as Minus-styled rumble (“Incarnation”) and a deep, clubby house cut (“Uplift the Ghetto”). Appropriately enough, the title track plunges into a deep dub-techno pool where rippling chords echo and ricochet, but the album's most earcatching moment comes when Xavier spins a singer's chopped voice into cartwheels alongside the jacking jaunt of “Urban Survival.”
If there's one thing that separates Viperfish from other techno artists' full-lengths, it's maybe its more fully developed textural dimension—perhaps the reason for the album's title. Xavier enriches the tracks with an ethereal array of sounds that gives the music an alternately alien and submersive character. While tight rhythm structures lay solid foundations, fluttering streams of smears, clicks, and chatter stretch across the percussive landscapes. That his music has bite also suggests a plausible reason for the title choice given that the Viperfish is, in fact, a real deep sea creature that boasts a large mouth and fang-like teeth, with some species having light-emitting organs on their bodies.