I bet these boys sound good on the dance floor. Klaxons (the name based on the French verb for “toot”) have been heralded as standard-bearers of “new rave” by NME, leading a revival of the neon-colored, glow-stick-suckling, MDMA-fueled rave-scene that adds live instruments to the air-horns and psychedelic keyboard knob-twiddling. With countless middling indie-rock bands mining the new-wave sounds of the ’80s, Klaxons suggest, why not dredge up the Dionysian fun and energy of the subsequent decade’s most vital dance music?
More a generous CD single than a true EP (three original songs and a cover of Kicks Like a Mule’s “The Bouncer” run a total of ten minutes; two remixes pad the disc’s length to double that), Xan Valleys marks Klaxons as a band to watch simply on the back of two outstanding singles, “Gravity’s Rainbow” and “Atlantis to Interzone.” The former is the more conventional track, with quickly peppered verses and self-assured falsettos choruses. With its prominent distorted bass line, up-tempo rhythms and staccato phrasing, “Gravity’s Rainbow” tucks an Arctic Monkeys strut in a less neurotic direction.
The second track, “Atlantis to Interzone” is the standout single from Xan Valley — and one of the best from 2006. Divided into two distinct, recurring segments, the song cycles through lickety-split changes in transit from Atlantis (that technologically sophisticated lost city under the sea) to Interzone (William Burroughs’ notion of non-space) and back again. A supernatural synth-siren wails, steadfastly remaining on the root note while thumping beats pound and a simple bass line outlines chord changes below.
Out of the blue, the song flips around itself, busting into a surf-guitar shuffle, with hoarse, shouted vocals and spastic drum turnarounds. It’s gutsy and distinctive, a catchy head-bobber with cyclical stop-on-dime transitions and tempo changes that are tightly wound enough to keep the dance party jumping despite the beat shifts — much less stuffy than this description makes it sound. “Atlantis to Interzone” may be high-minded, but your inner disco-tweaker will be grooving too hard to give a damn.
The remixes are adequate, and the other two originals feel somewhat tossed off. Enjoyment of the EP as a whole depends on one’s patience for siren keyboard lines that make you check your rearview mirror for an ambulance or police car close behind. Regardless, the upbeat attitude and innovative melange of rave, punk-disco and indie-synth pop in “Gravity’s Rainbow” and, especially, “Atlantis to Interzone” make Klaxons’ full-length debut Myths of the Near Future one to look out for on its release in early 2007.