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Never Stale: X+X, September 26 at Lumpy’s PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Brad Vidmar   
Wednesday, 24 September 2008 02:24

X + XIf all else fails, with the help of his trusty loop pedal Marty Jones could have a promising future as a one-man band. As the founder, primary songwriter, and conductor - who also handles vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards, additional percussion, sampling, and programming duties - of Silvis' X+X (spoken as "X Add X"), Jones (a.k.a. Heat) seems more than happy to take anyone willing to jam with him along for the musical ride. But he's ready to do it alone, if necessary.

"Every band I've been in, I wrote everything and sang in everything, and pretty much carried the song in every band. It's not by choice. ... It's just the way it's been," said Jones in a phone interview. "I stick with whoever sticks around ... until they get pissed off" and leave the band.

Jones calls X+X more of a "collaboration" than a band because the group frequently performs with guest musicians. His current lineup - which formed in April and consists of guitarist Andy Nightingale, vocalist/junk-percussionist/keyboardist Alissa Hixson, and drummer/junk-percussionist/electronics-wizard Jason Whitmarsh - will be performing at Lumpy's in Davenport on Friday, September 26, with Shallow Grave Satanic Symphony, Dick Trickle & the Drips, and Lord Giver. The show will be the band's last performance with Hixson, who will be moving back to England next month.

The group's MySpace page ( describes its style as "minimalist," "tape music," and "collage music" and cites Frank Zappa, Mike Patton, Tom Waits, Skeleton Key, '60s/'70s progressive/psychedelic Australian rockers Gong, and avant-garde jazz composer John Zorn as some of their more prominent influences. Listening to the tracks available on the MySpace page, it's easy to get the impression that members of the group spent a little too much time getting stoned while listening to the Butthole Surfers' 1987 masterpiece Locust Abortion Technician and one day decided to start an electronic jam band.

"The band started as a solo thing using a loop pedal [which Jones refers to as the fifth member of the band], where I played minimal tracks and would stack them together on top of each other," said Jones in an e-mail, adding that the loops eventually start sounding "huge" and "busy."

Jones also wrote that the band plays "songs/soundscapes in a controlled improv style" using "an assortment of found objects and odd [junk/garbage] instruments." He said the band writes song outlines on index cards (explaining who plays what instrument, in what style and key, and when they jump in) for each song, and each song is led by Jones using hand and foot signals for "improv conducting."

X + X "We try to keep things changing ... to keep the song from getting stale," Jones wrote. "There's little parts of it [the songs] where each player can go off and do their own thing ... ."

The band doesn't sound like it's been together for only five months.

At an August 2 performance at Mixtapes in East Moline, the band (minus Whitmarsh) played a six-song, 30-minute set showcasing loose, psychedelic jams that included elements of prog rock and surf punk - at times sounding massive and hypnotic and somewhat reminiscent of post-metal acts such as Neurosis and Isis, minus the metal.

Nightingale's guitar work provided a solid wall of sound, while Hixson's feminine vocals blended well with Jones' singing style (which sounded something like a cross between Buzz Osborne of the Melvins and Gibby Haynes of Butthole Surfers).

And despite the improvised elements of the music, the band sounded as if it had been performing these songs for years.

Although he'll soon be losing a member, Jones sounds optimistic about the future of the band. Besides recording and playing more shows, X+X will include more guest performers, and Whitmarsh will shift from drums to performing with a simple electronics kit and pedals, with Jones handling a majority of the beats.

"I know I'm gonna be playing as X+X by myself or with whoever for quite some time," Jones said. "I like the joy and challenges of playing with different players. ... It is always different."


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