- What's most striking about Xale—and this goes for its predecessor Mbeuguel Dafa Nekh as well—is the multi-faceted nature of Mark Ernestus' production. Had he released these companion plates a decade ago (back in the Rhythm & Sound days, let's say), they most definitely would have revolved around an interface between the African diaspora and infinitely deteriorating reverb—the latter de-molecularizing the former, of course.
But these days that's not the case. On the three tracks here, Ernestus channels a good portion of his creativity into playing the role of producer-as-documentarian, one concerned with capturing the warm acoustic tones and rich natural timbres unique to the musicians he's recording (Senegalese vocalist Mbene Diatta Seck and percussion corps Jeri-Jeri). Moreover, the style of dance music they're playing, an intricate and pointillist brand of trance-funk known as mbalax, is fairly orthodox sounding, lacking any explicit connection to techno.
Explicit is the key word, however. On the title track and "Xale Rhythm" in particular, the instrumentation is left more or less untreated, yet their frenetic polyrhthm takes on a combination mass, density and three-dimensionality that betrays Ernestus' other role as sonic architect (and with that, his roots in dub techno, a genre predicated on the very same traits). So while the music feels organic in so many ways, its grooves are enormous. And even though Ernestus and the ensemble aren't quite as aggressive, they share a lot of common ground with William Bennett's excellent Cut Hands project, a comparison that further speaks to the intensity of this 12-inch.
A2 Xale Rhythm