Rising: Oli XL
“I want to make the kind of music where you have no idea how it was made, what it was made with, and if it’s even electronic. I hate synths. You know exactly what you’re getting. With samples, there will always be something extra lying beneath the surface.”
There’s an air of mystery surrounding every aspect of Oli XL. Last September, during a live performance, the Swedish producer placed a nine-year-old lookalike centre stage to tinker with a set of prop controllers as he hid out of sight, triggering a series of sonic arrangements backstage. It’s only very recently that we’ve come to learn more about the self-proclaimed recluse behind the sound design-y pop and club cuts that have landed on PAN, Posh Isolation and his now-defunct W-I label. Since laying the W-I imprint to rest, Oli XL has been crafting anew outlet that’s emerged as a sub-label of Stockholm-based operation YEAR0001. “It’s Bloom. It’s not a label,and it’s not a creative platform. Bloom is Bloom,” he insists.
Rogue Intruder, Soul Enhancer is Bloom’s first release, and above all, Oli XL’s debut album. Released in July, the 11-track record is a collection of nonsensical vocal samples that bend, creak and snap amid momentous melodies. “The entire album is 100 percent samples. I’ve been really into having the melodies feel as though they accidentally form via seemingly unrelated sounds,” he exclaims. Each track embraces a new sonic texture, darting between experimental interludes, bass-heavy rhythms and orchestrated jazz fusion phrases. Oli XL avoids intellectualising his discography, though it’s evident that his sound has evolved since his debut EP 005 / Wish We Could Zone. “I always knew exactly how I wanted my music to sound. It just took me some time to figure out how to get there. With this release, I finally arrived,” he expresses, reflecting on his ever-changing sonic footprint.
After spending years trying to imitate Actress’ productions, Oli XL found deeper connections with the output of M.E.S.H. and Flying Lotus, entranced by their approach to textural rhythms. While his debut album has been likened to UK garage and hardcore, Oli XL points past the frequently stated Basement Jaxx influence, citing jazz fusion and more notably the work of Herbie Hancock as some of the record’s main stylistic influences. “I don’t know if anyone else hears that,” he admits. “Listen closely, and you may just be able to identify the chopped up drumming phrases of a famous jazz percussionist who has a very distinct thrumming style.”
Since the release of his debut album, Oli XL has been focusing solely on Bloom’s growth: “I want to release work that explores the intersection of music and art, alongside projects that have nothing to do with sound.” When we chat, he can’t help but tease some ideas for a new show that have transpired since his involvement in Varg’s Nordic Flora programme at Berlin Atonal in 2017. “I think it would be fun to evolve my previous live concepts even further. Maybe add some professional-level group dance choreography. I like to stay in the back and control the music and let actual performers be in charge of the entertainment aspects of the show.”
Sounds like: Next gen, high concept club music
Soundtrack for: Late night drifting through uncanny valley
File next to: M.E.S.H., Laurel Halo
Our favourite song: Orchid Itch
Where to find him: @Oli_XL