Xander AKA TheDarkhounds is a solo musician, producer actor and model who won a YouTube partnership based on his vocals, while obtaining a music degree at university. He has done professional modelling and appeared in the British newspaper “The Sun”. TheDarkhounds who has self-produced and published 3 albums so far, has also appeared on TV for ITVs ‘Dark Angel’, and BBCs ‘Poldark’ as well as in music videos and in film. The musical direction that TheDarkhounds pursues in his latest solo effort, “Cheltenham Calling”, should not be surprising to anyone who has long followed the development of bands like Depeche Mode, or Darkwave music in general. TheDarkhounds is somewhat more expansive creatively, and less mainstream, sonically. And can be a whole lot bolder when it comes to song titles. As is confirmed by the explicit album closer – “Anal is Not for the Faint Hearted”.
TheDarkhounds’ restlessness steers his music towards dark sounding themes, layered electro-synth instrumentation, and echoey vocal effects. The opening track “Cheltenham Calling”, plays off the multiple vocal layers, the angular synths, and the high-paced rattling drums which is buried under the busy mix.
The pounding “Failure of the Family” features eerie-sounding basslines and ear-catching circular strings, evoking, albeit from a distance, Gothic laments and sentiments. TheDarkhounds’ vocal sorcery again being the focal point of the arrangement.
This is followed by the simmering keyboard orchestration of “Dreaming Alone”, which is pushed forward by the insistent percussion and TheDarkhounds’ deeply reverberating delivery. The banging urban-like beat on “All Kindz”, comes as a surprise, and a refreshing one at that.
It forges a different sounding landscape to the previous tracks. Its sounds more urgent and edgy and fits the ominous, mesmerizing effect of the vocals. This may just be the best track of the bunch.
TheDarkhounds’ songs feature artsy elements but are emo-throttled at the core. The ambient tendencies in the synth patterns for “She Can’t Help It” create moving pictures anchored by heavily chained beats with sumptuous emo-driven sonic furls.
TheDarkhounds vocals dig in deeply while thronged by roguish electronica. “Let You Win” has smooth, fluid lines that are stacked by buzz-saw stylistics and Brit synth-wave laden electronica. Throughout the recording, TheDarkhounds’ voice moves between sultry vocal stroking and sticky barbing that is charming with its melodic flourishes.
Intensely busy, and dramatically pertinent, the pornographic theme of “Anal is Not for the Faint Hearted” will pluck at your sensibilities, but that’s exactly the intention – to see the dirt beneath our feet in this technologically inclined, modern society.
There is something incredibly raw and authentic this track. It’s a song that not many would be as daring to pull off, as TheDarkhounds flip the commercial music aesthetic on its head. TheDarkhounds’ developing sense of structure to music and lyrics show in his acute indie-rock songwriting sensibilities and willingness to take risks.
“Cheltenham Calling” is a recording that presents a melting-pot of raw talent and a fresher approach to making electronic music in the 21st century. Musically, and lyrically, TheDarkhounds has no fear of going to the edge of excess and then taking it just that little bit further. So it’s fair to say that on this album, he is carving out his own identity. Which in today’s climate, is indeed no easy task.