Xerxes is the ambient pop and downtempo beats project of Norwegian electronic composer Klaus Lunde...although he has only ever released one proper, cohesive full-length solo album, The Mirror Formula (2006) sets a standard that is dizzyingly high.

artist:
Xerxes

country of origin:
Norway

style(s):
Ambient pop, chillout, psyambient, cinematic

decades active:
00's - 10's

essential releases:

  • Xerxes live on DI.FM 07.06.2004 (2004, officially unreleased)
  • The Mirror Formula (2006, Xerxes-Music.com)
  • Let Silence Roam [with Phoenix] (2012, Xerxes-Music.com)

Reviewed by Mike G

Xerxes is the ambient pop and downtempo beats project of Norwegian electronic composer Klaus Lunde. During the 2000's his sparkling music was ubiquitous to listeners of the Chillout Channel on net radio station Digitally Imported (DI.FM)Although he has only ever released one proper, cohesive full-length solo album, The Mirror Formula (2006) sets a standard that is dizzyingly high.

The Mirror Formula is beautiful, sweet, dark, moody and warm, an impeccably crafted collection of seven instrumental grooves averaging 10 minutes in length. Xerxes strong melodies and crisp production give these tracks a certain pop appeal, but below the surface is a depth and subtlety that is exceptional. His synthetic sound pulses with a human touch that is difficult to describe; you just have to hear it. The tender elegy "Angelina" is meltingly beautiful and displays a breathtaking command of harmony. It starts with a sparse piano figure and slowly blossoms into a somber chord progression with sighing keys and angelic wordless vocals that ripple and shimmer. By contrast, both "Prologue" and the brooding, dark, cinematic title track are tantalizingly mysterious; one-chord masterpieces with an exquisite tension that's never quite resolved.

The spellbinding 54-minute Xerxes live on DI.FM 07.06.2004 was never officially released, but you will find MP3 rips (like this one) still floating around the internet. That's a good thing, because it stands proud alongside The Mirror Formula as another masterpiece of intelligent, melodic ambient pop. There is no crossover between the two tracklists and it's actually a more diverse showcase of his atmospheric, sometimes quirky style. There is only one vocal track among the instrumentals but it's a stunner: Tori Amos' "Me and A Gun". Xerxes samples an acapella performance of the song and builds a complete arrangement around it: stark, beautiful, haunting and cosmic. The uncleared Amos sample is probably the reason why this set remains unreleased.

The rest of Xerxes' discography is mostly e.p. releases and a series of patchy archival albums (Selected Works volumes 1-3). Most noteworthy is the excellent Let Silence Roam (2012), a semi-instrumental mini-album with German artist Marthe Borge-Lunde Pfirrmann aka Phoenix.  The three tracks with Phoenix's vocals are gorgeous examples of dream pop, her crystal clear voice sounding like a cross between Kate Bush, Tori Amos and the Cocteau Twins' Liz Frazer, while the two instrumentals have the trademark exotic textures and haunting beauty of Xerxes best work.

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