Podcast 690: Xyla
Left-fields club rhythms from Leaving’s new signing.
Podcast 690: Xyla
Left-fields club rhythms from Leaving’s new signing.
When Xyla relocated to San Francisco in 2013, she had little-to-no knowledge of electronic music. Her move was motivated by the opportunity to continue her examination of the French horn at the city’s esteemed Conservatory of Music, but life in the city brought her closer to rave music and the emotions it could invoke in her. Inspired, she enrolled in an Ableton class through the conservatory’s newly founded Technology and Applied Composition program. Three years later, she released Ways, a patchwork quilt of sounds and genres, rich in IDM and footwork, on Matthewdavid‘s esteemed Leaving Records.
Despite its freewheeling rhythms, Ways was meticulously constructed. Growing up in Houston, Texas, Henderson circled hip-hop, R&B, and classical music, but little of what she listened to really made her move. As she became deeply immersed in dance music, she needed to discover what she was going to make. Towards the end of 2019, she visited Berlin, intent on digging deeper into dance; while there, she’d attend gigs and parties alone, only to explore genres, and she’d spend her time at home delving deep into her favorite labels’ back catalogs. All of this informed her own palette and she began to craft her first compositions. After returning to San Francisco, she delivered some sketches to Matthewdavid, who signed her up. Ways landed in October 2020.
Recorded in her home in San Francisco, Henderson’s XLR8R podcast is full of the beats and rhythms that have resonated with her during her time in club music. She leans heavily on music from friends, and each track triggers a specific memory of the dancefloor. Beyond a heady mix of left-field club rhythms, it exhibits the feel-good dance music that drew Xyla into the genre, and gives us an idea of what we can expect to hear from her soon.
01. What have you been up to recently?
This probably won’t be a shock, but I have been spending a lot of time at home due to the pandemic. I’m teaching and making music, working on various production projects, and going on walks.
02. How has the lockdown period been for you?
The pause in seemingly “normal” life has a blessing and a curse. There is momentum and stillness, high points and low points, laughter and sadness. I’m really just taking things day-by-day, but I am lucky to have a bad-ass circle of close friends out here to get through it.
03. What music have you been listening to?
I’ve been arranging my record collection and listening to a lot of my friends’ mixes, like Infinite Jess and Primo Pitino. They’re such talented local DJs and friends, so I love it when they hit me up with a mix to listen to! And I think my favorite record I always come back to when I’m going through my collection is “Alpanya” by Europa; I’ve actually included a track [from this record] on my mix! It’s such a beautiful and emotive lo-fi electronic record!
04. How did you find your way into electronic music?
For the longest time, my life circled around hip-hop, R&B, and classical music—genres I adore, listen to regularly, and have shaped me into the musician I am today. When I found myself at my first underground rave back in 2018, I was just floored by the variety of sounds that gave me the same emotions and even had similar elements to the music I was already listening to. I started going to parties alone, just to dance on my own and explore the genres. It was these environments that allowed me to learn about music in a way I had never experienced before. I mean, listening to music at a club is so different, environmentally speaking, to studying in a conservatory setting! But it was this difference that drew me in closer to electronic and specifically dance music.
05. When and where did you record this mix?
I recorded this mix over the last month. I think a lot of people assume that all producers can DJ and vice-versa, but I fall into the category of producers who haven’t Dj’d or performed my music live. After spending many years as an orchestral musician, performing began to feel like a chore, which is why I found solace in producing music for myself, alone in my room! So this mix is actually a first for me!
06. What can the listener expect?
Oh man, I have a lot of music in this mix from different friends in the Bay Area; it’s full of music that brings me back to specific places and conjures up great memories of getting down on a dancefloor. I cover a variety of genres including ambient, house, footwork, hip-hop, club, glitch, and more.
07. How did you go about choosing the tracks that you’ve included?
It wasn’t difficult because I focused on friends’ music and music I’ve enjoyed at various times in my life. Generally, I chose what fit my mood on the days I was working on the mix, which is why there is a change in overall vibe and speed throughout it.
08. What setup did you use to record it?
Since early 2020, I’ve been practising vinyl DJing, which I think has provided me with some ear-training skills needed for mixing. But for this mix, I decided to put my Ableton skills to the test and used a MIDI controller to execute EQ changes in between tracks. There is a ton of automation and other effects that I use as well. I think some believe that making a mix in Ableton isn’t creating a “true” DJ mix, and I agree to an extent, but it’s hard! Using Ableton just opens up a plethora of ways to get creative and surgical with your mixing, and sometimes it’s hard to have a streamlined process with so many choices!
09. What’s on your agenda for 2021?
Surviving is my priority right now. This last year has been so messed up in so many ways. I’m honestly proud of myself for just getting out of bed most days. Because of our society, we are expected to just keep grinding—keep working, keep producing, keep spending—through the death, poverty, brutality all around us. So, my primary goal in 2021 is to do whatever it takes to just live well. And if I can do that, any upcoming projects I have are just an added bonus!
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to hear the podcast offline you will need to subscribe to our Select channel to listen offline, or subscribe to XLR8R+ to download the file. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
Full XLR8R+ Members can download the podcast below. If you’re not an XLR8R+ member, you can read more about it and subscribe here.
01. Xyla “Higher” (Self-Released)
02. Europa “Pulsewave Dream” (Transatlantic)
03. Nailah Hunter “Ruins” (Leaving Records)
04. AshTreJinkins “GOOD 4 U” (Self-Released)
05. Rose Cherami “so far off” (Self-Released)
06. Quaid “Mirage” (Apron Records)
07. Loraine James “Hmm” (Self-Released)
08. Rental VHS “neva leave u” (Self-Released)
09. Sokro “Can’t Say” (Self-Released)
10. Ray Kandinski “Whatchu Want” (Self-Released)
11. Salush “pull up” (Self-Released)
12. STAY HIGH “LAST THING” (Self-Released)
13. Milky J “DROP IT” (Self-Released)
14. cakedog “CLIMB ON TOP” (Self-Released)
15. Osaya & Sketchy “Babygirl” (Self-Released)
16. INVT “ESPIRITU JUNGLE” (Self-Released)
17. Banal “Soko” (Visions for Artsakh)
18. BADSISTA “Erva Venensosa” (Rec Room)
19. SNVS “Deserve You” with Gianni (feat. JAY3M) (Self-Released)
20. 4D “You & I” (Self-Released)
21. devonwho “Alphaloop” (Leaving Records)
22. Count Bass D “Can We Hang Out Tonight?” (1320 Records)
23. Monica “So Gone” (J Records)