Indicative of its cold, precision-tooled design, Sword, the second full-length from Xhin (pronounced “sheen”), would sound equally at home on Ostgut Ton as Stroboscopic Artefacts. Hailing from Singapore, the producer joined Lucy's Berlin-based label in 2009 after issuing his debut album, Greyscale, in 2008 on Meerestief Records, and now follows it with this ten-track exercise in sonic futurism and advanced sound design. Once of the first things one notices about the collection is its dualistic nature, as Xhin leavens the brutal techno that characterizes much of the album with a smaller number of well-timed ambient settings.
Xhin first lulls the listener into a state of contemplation with “The Secret Closet,” a beatless overture of shuddering chimes and frost-laden flickerings, before jolting him/her awake with the aggressive beat science and acid-flecked seizures of “Fox and Wolves,” the first of many ice-cold future-techno throwdowns. His relentless and uncompromising attack lends a track such as “Teeth” a pulverizing, indomitable thrust that gives it the character of an artful club banger; another hard-hitter is “You Against Yourself,” whose pounding beat throb Xhin drenches in acid fever and beseiges with off-beat percussive careen. A second beatless setting, “Insides,” allows the listener to catch his/her breath with a two-minute interlude of elecro-acoustic piano experimentation, as does the slightly more aggressive “Wood,” where glimmering piano patterns sparkle and billow for four radiant minutes.
While “Medium” works itself into an epileptic frenzy with a plethora of ultra-fidgety Autechrian rhythms and stutter-funk writhings, the industrial-strength “Vent,” one of the album's standout tracks, pumps for nine minutes with a locomotive house fury that's more in line with Lucy's own 2011 full-length, Wordplay for Working Bees. Xhin also demonstrates a good sense of sequence and pacing on this outing, something that comes into clear focus in his decision to end the album on a relatively soothing note with “This Is What You Drew While You Were Half Asleep.” One thus comes away from the album with one's nerves a little less frazzled and one's impression of the album enhanced.