Agitated Atmosphere: Xander Harris – Urban Gothic

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Xander Harris.

The building is dark. Air is scarce. The hallway continues to narrow. All you hear are hurried footsteps and your rapid heartbeat. Such is the horrific world of Urban Gothic, a twisted blend of 80s horror soundtrack and stalker voyeurism concocted by the ebon imagination of Justin Sweatt, also known as by Xander Harris.

Combining the worlds of outlandish fantasy (Sweatt borrows his nom de plume from the “Buffy” television series) and classic horror, Urban Gothic (Sweatt’s full-length debut via Not Not Fun) is a Cronenberg masterstroke. The classically trained musician utilizes his learned skills in demonic ways, repurposing the synthesizer as it was initially used: to scare the hell out everyone. The back-to-the-future motif is not a trick but a genuine move to bridge the paranoia of modern life with the strange creepshows of the bygone VHS era. Every inch of Urban Gothic oozes fright; the minimal beats echoing the unstable heart as Sweatt’s careful key strokes ratchet up the tension. The mood shifts from over your shoulder glances, trying to see who or what is breathing down your neck, to violent chases where the attacker will ultimately claim its prize.

Urban Gothic is the sort of throbbing throwback that will entice horror geeks to investigate a music style once limited to forgotten media as new initiates are intrigued by the slight reinvention of the synth. Everything once old is new again and despite the stack of poorly copied 80s rip-offs that flooded the music marketplace during the past decade, Urban Gothic is a fresh interpretation of niche entertainment.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He also pens Deserted for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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