Intricate experiments in rhythm and bass.
"Mimetic," a track that previously appeared on W-I, Oli XL's now-retired label, captures his sound best. The production is squeaky clean with plenty of silence. There's a noticeable absence of reverb or any other sounds that would make the track sound like it's being performed in anything other than a digital space. This means that when depth is applied, like "Mimetic"'s addictive submarine noise or "Liquid Love"'s echoey pads, it really stands out. Oli XL's own rapped vocals are delivered with a calm, singsong disregard. Then there's the way his drums are programmed, full of reversed noises and glitches offset with teasing syncopation. It's a unique vibe.
Despite this exaggerated digital cleanliness and rhythmic experimentation, Rogue Intruder, Soul Enhancer manages to stay warm and personal. "Clumsy" is a shining example, with saccharine vocals, lush synths and a barely there breakbeat. You feel the pop influence at work during these gentler moments, like the short but sweet "Jet Generation," where Oli XL softly repeats the comically poppy tagline, "Can you be my ringtone? / I feel liquid love." There are flashes of humour, as on the ambient "DnL," which features a sampled voice repeating the words "Boring, lame." Moments like these give Oli XL's music personality and intimacy, but also place it in the present day, tapping into a uniquely internet-age mood of boredom, sarcasm and self-deprecation.
If Oli XL lacks anything, it's the adventurousness and self-confidence of artists like Varg. He's sometimes overly cautious in his delivery, and you sense there's space to push some of his ideas further. Experimental dance music producers have often used UK garage and other moments on the hardcore continuum to explore dark, moody alternatives to "clean"-sounding contemporary music. Oli XL leaves the vinyl crackle out, submitting to modern pop's smooth digital lines while retaining a sharp rhythmic edge. Restrained yet exciting, it's a surprisingly sensitive vision.