Xosar – The Possessor Possesses Nothing

Xosar explores a weighty techno and industrial sound.

Xosar – The Possessor Possesses Nothing

Since emerging in the early ’10s on labels such as L.I.E.S. and Rush Hour, Sheela Rahman’s sound has undergone a significant shift. Her initial run of 12-inches as Xosar had a warm, subtly mystical appeal, rooted in melody and built around house structures. But a few years ago, her records went in a darker direction, first with 2014’s Psychick Justice, then again with Let Go, an album for Opal Tapes. The swooning chord sequences and hooky basslines of old were replaced by rumbling clouds of dense ambience and snarling gutter techno.

Since this change, Rahman has been largely self-reliant. The material she’s released through her Bandcamp and her label, Gyrocyre, implies a more serious approach than the playful house of “The Calling.” Rahman has described Psychick Justice as the soundtrack to an imagined ’80s B-movie, one in which the protagonist had undergone “a de-programming regime” to defeat a mind-control system “that suppressed authentic self-expression.” That also sounds like a bid for artistic freedom, which she continues to pursue on her latest album, The Possessor Posseses Nothing.

It feels apt that The Possessor Possesses Nothing opens with a track called “Transmogrification.” The strange alchemy of VHS synth dread and high-definition sound design forms a many-layered shroud that stretches across the rest of the album. At times it hovers in a stasis of sustained chords. Elsewhere, as on “A Heart Encircled By A Serpent,” it’s a trudge through murky synth atmospheres. When the fog clears a little on “Fantasmagoria,” an echo of Xosar’s past music surfaces in its melodic bassline. But the mood is less uplifting, more seductively bittersweet. “Heavens Gate” is similarly measured. Its trance-like throb foregoes saccharine leads in favour of subliminal immersion, recalling the genre’s early ’90s origins.

Rahman crafts a more visceral and nerve-shredding scene on “Pikachu Police State,” in which vast slabs of sonic concrete shift and interlock. The pummelling title track is both monolithic and propulsive. Even one of the LP’s sweetest melodies, on “The Video,” meets an undulating line of distortion and a deathly rhythmic clank. Between the veil of cyberpunk gloom and the richly rendered production, Rahman’s latest work is challenging yet far from obtuse. The boldly defined ideas on The Possessor Possesses Nothing suggest she’s winning her fight for musical liberation.

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