Orlando's XXYYXX is making waves in electronic music.
Orlando's XXYYXX is making waves in electronic music.
Photo by Marielle Tepper

XXYYXX Isn't Just Good for His Age — He's Just Good

Genre names in electronic music have lost their way. Meant to be a map through music’s winding progress, electronic genres are now an inside game, in which the young and hip toss out jargon to prove their up-to-date status on the latest SoundCloud movements. If someone corners you in a club and starts rattling off two-word descriptors and made-up adjectives to describe an album, it's not an indicator of that person's musical knowledge so much as an indicator that you should find someone else to talk to.

Luckily the both young and hip Marcell Everett, known onstage as XXYYXX, shares my old, ornery attitude. “Nowadays, there's a name for everything. In rock or jazz, you have specific instruments. In electronics, you can make literally any sound in the world. You can easily make a sound that's weird, or doesn't fit a mold. It’s so hard to pin down electronic music.”

Everett operates in the same arena as Jersey producer and A$AP extended family member Clams Casino. His tempos are slow-ish and his beats are simple, basking in morning light and wake-and-bake smoke. If molly is the stereotyped drug for much of Miami Music Week, an opiate-laced blunt would be more appropriate for the work of XXYYXX.

Released in 2012, XXYYXX’s self-titled debut is as notable for what’s there as what’s left out. Lifetimes go by between claps of the 808, leaving huge temporal swaths for Everett to build and break down his synthwork. He has a master arranger’s ear for patience, allowing simple rhythms to repeat enough to reach their full potential. Most of the record is set at a slow, shoulder-bob-behind-the-DJ-booth tempo, but Everett does have a few numbers for elaborate footwork. On “Good Enough,” a minimal dance cut gives way to a rippin’, sped-up sample of TLC’s “No Scrubs.” But even at full banger mode, Everett maintains simplicity and space, remarkable restraint for anyone, let alone a 16-year-old producer.
Everett’s age was the selling point for his early press. “It was cool, but it was also annoying,” he says. “I'd see people be like, '16-year-old blah blah blah.' I understand, but I didn't want that to be a thing. I just wanted to be considered good, not good for that reason. Do they think I'm good, or do they think I'm good for my age?’"

Still not old enough to drink at age 20, Everett has moved from his Orlando home to Los Angeles, putting school on pause while he focuses on music. After the initial cycle of hype, his audiences and approach to his work have grown considerably. On “Red,” his newest single, he takes a more bass-forward angle, with decaying voices swirling in the background. Everett considers the track a step forward, to a place where talent is funneled into a more exact procedure.

“It's more honest, in the sense that my other stuff before [was made by the process] of, 'Oh, this sounds cool,'” says Everett. “But on 'Red,' I was trying to express a feeling, and I got that more effectively. You cop the vibe and that was the vibe going through my head at the time, perfectly.”

Put simply, Everett has the broad appeal to become a major producer in coming years. Splitting the difference between a populist trap producer and the elegant layering of James Blake, he has the substance and style to charm the dancers and the nerds at home (for an analog career model, think of The XX, loved by everybody and their mother). Like a Michelin chef at the grill, he works with simplicity and a clear vision, letting each ingredient speak for itself.

XXYYXX with Telescope Thieves, Jim-E Stack, and JB-Z. 10 p.m. Thursday, March 17, at Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-576-5570; bardotmiami.com. Tickets cost $12 to $25 plus fees via showclix.com. Ages 21 and up.

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