From KCRW Volunteer Travis Holcombe:
Win Win is a trio consisting of Spank Rock co-founder/producer/DJ Alex “XXXChange” Epton, Chris Devlin (of the DJ duo Devlin & Darko and also Spank Rock) and video artist, Ghostdad. Their self-titled debut album features an impressive roster of guests including Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, Andrew W.K., Pixeltan and Spank Rock.
Recent history has shown that these producer + rotating vocalist albums are a lot harder to pull off in practice than in theory.
On paper, they always look amazing; the album itself is often a totally different story.
In the post-Handsome Boy Modeling School era, we’ve seen a slew of these producer-as-featured-artist albums from the likes of Danger Mouse, Mark Ronson, N.A.S.A., and Dave Sitek, among others. The best of these releases tend to have a firm vision that steers the project toward a particular direction or mood, while the ones that fail generally feel thematically scattershot and collapse under the weight of their own guestlist.
Win Win, in its own way, bucks this trend. XXXChange’s strength as a producer is his ability to bring together a diverse spectrum of sounds, so this format seems to suit his producing style well.
As the producer on Spank Rock’s 2006 release, “YoYoYoYoYo”, XXXchange stitched together elements of Miami Bass, Baltimore Club, 80’s Freestyle Electro, Funk and Houston Screw Music to create an album that even now, 5 years later, still feels ahead of its time.
Win Win follows a similar kitchen sink approach. While there are still shades of Baltimore Club (check the skittering drums on “ReleaseRPM” or “Not Too Late“), the groove du jour here is mostly devoid of anything you could classify as “hip-hop”, opting instead to draw more from a Rock (of all stripes from Psychedelic to Glam to “Indie”), Synth Pop, 90’s Breakbeat and Electro-House palette.
The track “Victim“, featuring M.I.A. compatriot, Blaqstarr, is the standout track of the album in my opinion. It’s like a triple shot of espresso for your ears. I’d be willing to bet a pair of squirrel underpants that you’ll be hearing its over-modulated fuzzed-out guitar sample on some car commercial before the end of the year (not that that’s such a bad thing…some of my favorite jams are car commercial jams).
The haunting and beautiful “ReleaseRPM” (the first official single) features Lizzie Bougatsos of Gang Gang Dance and sounds like a track that could have just as easily been released in 1988 or 1998 as today.
Word is, teenagers in the Midwest are dosing to “ReleaseRPM” and falling out left and right (that last sentence is totally not true…as far as I know…).
Elsewhere, Alexis Taylor sounds as wistful as ever “Interleave With You“. “The Nature Of Transcendent Forces” features the vocals of Douglas Armour over a psychedelic swirl reminiscent of TV On The Radio.
Win Win’s album, appropriately titled “Win Win”, is available now on Vice Records. Get it.
— Travis Holcombe